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Competitiveness in Earth observation mission technologies


The aim of this topic is to demonstrate, in a relevant environment, technologies, systems and sub-systems for Earth observation. Proposals should address and demonstrate significant improvements in such areas as miniaturisation, power reduction, efficiency, versatility, and/or increased functionality and should demonstrate complementarity to activities already funded by Member States and the European Space Agency.

Proposals that develop technologies targeting TRL 6, or lower TRLs, are welcome.

Proposals are sought with relevance in the domain of technology development for space in the fields of:

  • Optical technologies for high precision sensing, including high stability structures, stable and lightweight mirrors, large focal planes, adaptive optics and wave front error (WFE) control techniques.
  • Detector technology and complete detection chain enhancement in the domains of CMOS and Infrared for Earth observations in orbit aiming at higher spatial or spectral resolution and performance.
  • Sensors and mission concepts delivering high accuracy parameters for emission measurements, particularly of climate change determining Greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. High performance miniaturised optical and SAR sensors for Earth observation in support of the hydrological cycle modelling and prediction, and accurate weather forecast.
  • Active antennas for radar - exploring lower (P and S) and higher (X and Ka) frequency ranges - Transmit/Receive Modules (TRMs), digital beam-forming and waveform generation, large deployable reflectors.
  • Sensors, actuators and control technologies for high precision Attitude and Orbital Control Systems (AOCS), in particular for small satellites, and Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC).
  • Technologies to advance in fractionated systems and formation flying for Earth Observation.

In projects to be funded under this topic participation of industry, in particular SMEs, is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 to 3 million would allow this specific topic to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

European industrial competitiveness in Earth observation depends on the availability of demonstrated/validated systems and sub-systems for operational and advanced missions in the commercial and institutional domain, but also on the readiness in the emerging market for innovative missions relying on small and very small systems (constellation, formation flying and fractionated instruments).

The specific challenge, for the mid-term is to bring the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) forward for a number of Earth observation technologies and to ensure the readiness of European solutions to propose and support new mission concepts taking advantage of nano-, micro- and mini-satellites.

In recent years small satellites have become more attractive due to lower development costs and shorter lead times. There is a natural trade-off to be made between spacecraft size and functionality, but advances in both miniaturization and integration technologies have diminished the scope of that trade-off.

Moreover, within the context of preparatory work for the next generation of the Copernicus space component, mission concepts will be developed by European industry based on mature Earth observation technologies and solutions.

  • The proposals must describe how the proposed developments will contribute to strengthening Europe's position in industrial competitiveness in technologies for Earth observation payloads and mission, despite the target platform size and scalability.
  • The technologies to be addressed in the proposals should represent significant improvements compared to existing Earth observation missions in terms of capability, precision, efficiency or other characteristics, opening new avenues for future space systems.
  • Substantially improved in-depth state-of-the-art technologies in key areas such as optical and radar systems, sounders, lidars and detectors for Earth observation.
  • Greater industrial relevance of research actions and output as demonstrated by deeper involvement of industry, including SMEs, and stronger take-up of research results.
  • Fostering links between academia and industry, accelerating and broadening technology transfer.