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Specific challenge: The challenge is to enable major advances in space robotic technologies for future on-orbit satellite servicing (robotics and rendezvous), and the exploration of the surfaces of the other bodies in our solar system. The objective is to propose a Programme Support Activity (PSA) for the future implementation of a Strategic Research Cluster (SRC) in Horizon 2020. The overall budget for such an SRC could be in the range of several tens of millions of euros and should achieve an in-orbit demonstration at a significant scale of an autonomous system with key elements for the future sector of on-orbit satellite servicing. This demonstration will be achieved not later than 2023. Further information on the concept of a Strategic research cluster is available from</p>

Scope: Driven by the objective of exploring different strategic directions in the European Space Robotics landscape, and having the chance to present different proposals for different scopes for a Robotics SRCs, with different budgetary conditions, the final target of this topic is to increase the competitiveness of the European Space Industry in sectors demanding robotics solutions. This will be done for the benefit of European robotics and clearly defining the spinning-off and spill over effects to other areas of robotic activity on Earth (such as automobile or underwater). In particular, the topic is centred on-orbit satellite servicing (robotics and rendezvous) and planetary surface exploration. The benefit of investing in space robotics technologies for future on-orbit satellite servicing and planetary surface exploration should also be of benefit in sectors as human-robotic partnership, orbital debris removal but would also spin-off in all terrestrial activities where human intervention is impossible or too hazardous (submarine environments; nuclear, biological and chemical industries crisis management, etc.). Therefore, synergies with the current industrial robotics shall be fostered. Spinning-in, i.e., bringing into space innovations originated in other domains, will be also considered, 

At a first stage, the SRC led by this PSA is expected to address robotics issues at two levels: (1) design and manufacturing of reliable and high performance novel robotic building blocks for operation in space environments, and (2) developing really innovative advanced robotic concepts and functions.

The robotic building blocks (1) will likely involve: sensors and actuators, materials and structures, manipulators and tools, hardware and control of robotic systems, processing algorithms; sensor fusion and perception; communications and energy systems.

The robotic concepts and functions (2) are expected to involve several of the following areas: mobility, manipulation, and vision; interoperability with other robots; human-machine co-operation; teleoperations for near Earth locations; partly and highly autonomous operations (in very remote locations that have high Earth communication latencies).

In a second stage, the SRC led by this PSA must have the objective of achieving higher performance and/or lower cost and/or less risk at demonstration level..

As most of the space robotics technologies required are mature enough (with the exception of the autonomous operations that require demonstration and/or validation), particular effort must be made to achieve an effective application of technology, i.e. rigorous systems engineering and system performance analysis, rather than an approach based on pure technology development. To validate the performance of integrated servicing systems three different levels of demonstration can be foreseen: Earth analogues; ISS infrastructure and in-orbit demonstration.

In any case, the final stage of the SRC must involve a space demonstration. However, a validation at the level of a qualification flight for a future mission is not required.

The Commission considers that one proposal requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 4 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: The initial expected life of the PSA action is 5 years. In this time, the consortium should have delivered: 

·         Identification and definition of all the activities required by 2023 to address the challenge of this topic. The contents of the activities must be in agreement with the objectives and boundaries defined in the scope.

·         A fully detailed master plan to coordinate all the activities for the whole duration of the SRC.

·         A plan for the analysis and evaluation of the results during the execution of the activities within the SRC.

·         A plan for the specific exploitation and potential use of the SRC expected outputs.

·         A risk assessment and contingency analysis for the SRC.

·         The execution of the SRC during a first period of 5 years will assure an advance in European robotics technologies for space: consolidation of building blocks, development of advanced concepts and functions. This will be done with the aim of paving the way for the European activity in areas were robotics are key enabling technologies, such as for example on-orbit servicing, orbital debris removal, autonomous operations in planetary surfaces.

The SRC designed and developed by the PSA is expected to deliver its final results at the end of the H2020 cycle (2023-2024). During its lifetime:

·         The SRC shall exploit the potential to generate intense public interest by demonstrating an application (such as satellite repair, refuelling or “cleaning space”, etc.), which citizens can easily relate to.

·         Some or all the entities involved in the operational projects of the SRC should be in a privileged position to explore the for-profit viability of some or all the solutions and technologies developed within the SRC.

Type of action: Coordination and support action


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