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SRC - In-space electrical propulsion and station keeping - Incremental technologies


Incremental Technologies are those currently considered mature enough to allow incremental steps enabling new capabilities required by a number of applications.

Proposals should, therefore, enable incremental advances in the already mature technologies for Electric Propulsion Systems[[Electric Propulsion System components are: thruster, fluid management system and the power components only. The mechanisms, deployment and tanks are excluded, as indicated in the EPIC Roadmap and guidelines (available on the Funding & Tenders Portal).]] based on:

1. Hall Effect Thrusters (HET)

2. Gridded Ion Engines (GIE)

3. High Efficiency Multistage Plasma Thrusters (HEMPT).

The advantage of having several mature technologies in the portfolio is a particular strength of the European EP scene. The three Incremental Technologies have individual strengths and weaknesses, which make them more competitive for certain applications and less competitive for others.

The EPIC roadmap developed by the EPIC PSA addresses all three technologies in the Incremental Technology line. The COMPET-3-2016-a Call allowed the three Electric Propulsion Systems based on these technologies, to be developed to higher TRL levels on a first stage (2016-2020), while complying with certain requirements and TRL objectives to address the needs of a number of applications.

Regarding new markets and applications, as constellations in the Low power range, and dual mode features for Electric Orbit Raising (EOR) and Station Keeping (SK) in the Medium power range, it is not possible to tell at the time being, which Incremental Technology would be the best suited for the market at the end of the SRC (2023/2024).This approach guarantees a high flexibility to react to possible changes of the satellite market needs and unforeseen developments of the launcher market, giving to the European stakeholders a strategic and flexible position, clearly demanded by Satellite Operators and Large System Integrators.

Proposals shall address further development of the most promising Incremental Technologies which have a TRL not lower than the expected target from the COMPET-3-2016-a Call, up to design, industrialisation and qualification level of the overall Electric Propulsion System, in order to guarantee the current leadership through competitiveness of European electric propulsion.

Actions should focus on design, industrialisation and qualification to allow flight readiness of the overall Electric Propulsion System in the required SRC timeframe, by means of an advanced Engineering Model (EM) built on the results obtained from the bread board model developed in the COMPET-3-2016-a Call, to be followed by a Qualification Model (QM). Proposals should seek to cover incremental developments up to the specified TRL level.

Proposals should enable incremental advances on the already mature technologies for Electric Propulsion Systems, with the focus on product development for the most promising applications and future expected markets in line with the market studies: Telecom applications, Constellation, Navigation, LEO applications, Exploration and Space transportation.

The retained application domains are identified for the call into 3 power range classes: Low power (i.e. for constellations and LEO applications) from 200 W to 700 W; Medium power dual mode i.e. for Telecom and Navigation applications > 3.0 kW for SK and > 5.0 kW for EOR, and High power (i.e. for Exploration and Space transportation) > 20.0 kW.

Proposals should provide for each product the attainable objectives at the end of the phase 2 in terms of performance (thrust, specific impulse (ISP), power), of costs (recurring costs) and achieved TRL. A detailed description of the above Incremental Technologies and the most promising applications is included in the corresponding guidelines available on the Funding & Tenders Portal.

Proposals on Incremental Technologies should demonstrate the readiness and interest to carry the developments further on for a possible future in-orbit demonstration (IOD) and a business plan on how to access the current or future expected markets.

The Commission considers that proposals for the Incremental Technologies requesting contributions in the following amounts would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately.

Proposals are invited for the following three sub-topics:

a) Low power electric propulsion

  • A total of EUR 12 million will be granted to Low power Electric Propulsion Systems (i.e. for Constellations and LEO applications) from 200 W to 700 W. The maximum requested EU funding per proposal is EUR 4 million. The target TRL at the end of the project should be at least [6/7].
    • At least one proposal will be selected for line 1/HET.
    • At least one proposal will be selected for line 2/GIE.
    • At least one proposal will be selected for line 3/HEMPT.

b) Medium power electric propulsion

  • A total of EUR 9 million will be granted to Medium power dual mode (i.e. for Telecom and Navigation applications) > 3.0 kW for SK and > 5.0 kW for EOR. The maximum requested EU funding per proposal is EUR 4.5 million. The target TRL at the end of the project should be at least [6/7].
    • At least two proposals will be selected, each one of a different technology from the three Incremental Technologies (HET, GIE, HEMPT).

c) High power electric propulsion

  • A total of EUR 3 million will be granted to a High power (i.e. for Exploration and Space transportation) > 20.0 kW. The maximum requested EU funding per proposal is EUR 3 million. The target TRL at the end of the project is [5/6].
    • At least one proposal will be selected from the three Incremental Technologies (HET, GIE, HEMPT).

Grants awarded under this topic will be complementary to each other and complementary to grants awarded under other previous SRC Calls topics: COMPET-3-2016-a, COMPET-3-2016-b, SPACE-13-TEC-2019 (""complementary grants""). In order to ensure a smooth and successful implementation of this Strategic Research Cluster (SRC), the beneficiaries of complementary grants (""complementary beneficiaries"") shall conclude a written ""collaboration agreement"".

Proposals under this topic may be subject to security scrutiny if they could potentially lead to security-sensitive results that should be classified (see guide for classification available at the Funding & Tenders Portal).

The challenge of this strategic research cluster (SRC) is to enable major advances in Electric Propulsion (EP) for in-space operations and transportation, in order to contribute to the European leadership through competitiveness and non-dependence in electric propulsion at world level within the 2020-2030 timeframe, always in coherence and non- duplication with the existing and planned developments at national, commercial, EU and ESA level.

  • To develop, in the mid-term, the European capacity to compete in the worldwide arena of electric propulsion satellites and missions and be in time to market.
  • To substantially increase medium and long term competitiveness of existing Electric Propulsion System technologies with a technology and application-driven approach.
  • To pursue developments which shall be mainly market-oriented, beneficial at system level and with a strategic view to long term needs.
  • To enable medium and longer term applications: Telecom, Space Transportation, LEO, MEO, Exploration or Science.
  • To anticipate ambitious long-term market evolution and strategic opportunities, so that the developed Electric Propulsion Systems could create new markets and shape existing ones.
  • To develop the Incremental Technology Electric Propulsion System up to system demonstration in a space environment and ready for its qualification.