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IN-orbit Validation of European Space Technologies

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INVEST (IN-orbit Validation of European Space Technologies)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-06-30

The EC is continuously looking for opportunities to strengthen the competitiveness of the European industry. As part of this, the EC acknowledges the importance of supporting the space sector in developing new technologies and services, and to prepare them for commercialization in the global market. In the HORIZON 2020 (H2020) COMPET-5 call In-orbit demonstration/verification (IOD/IOV) is considered to be a ‘unique’ tool to address this questions by providing opportunities to build up flight heritage and to demonstrate technologies and services to potential commercial customers. In this frame, the INVEST-project (In-orbit Demonstration and Verification of European Space Technology-project), investigated opportunities to improve European IODs/IOVs and to prepare cases for the H2020 future call for IOD/IOV flights in 2018-2020. The vision is that a well-structured, integrated programme for IOD/IOV will allow for many IOD/IOV activities per year. The project investigates the whole scale of infrastructural elements (integrators, platforms and launchers) and (funding) programs.

The INVEST project considered technologies and experiments that are:
- Expected to be ready for an IOD/IOV in the time frame of 2018-2020. This means currently being developed close to or at TRL7 (ISO 16290:2013).
- Technologies and experiments should have a direct commercial interest, or
- Be a key enabler; COMPET-5 aims at technologies that strengthen a competitive space industry and non-dependence in space systems
In the study an assessment was made of the State of the Art of IOD/IOV flight opportunities in Europe to get an understanding of the match between current offer of IOD/IOV flight opportunities, and ongoing developments in need of an IODs/IOVs. Information was verified through interviews, surveys and desk research among the technology developer community and national agents.

From the assessment, it was concluded that the sector agrees that IOD/IOV is an important step in the development of space products. In line with that, many organizations indicated to be in need of an IOD/IOV opportunity. In total 50 experiments were proposed for IOD/IOV. Not all were considered to fit the focus of the project scope of readiness in time, commercial interesting, or being a key enabler. It is stated that the INVEST-database only captures a part of the existing opportunities. A cross-verification with ESA roadmaps and Eurospace high level information indicated that the number of experiments eligble for an IOD/IOV opportunity will be much higher.

INVEST proposed programmatic options to address the conclusions and improve the availability of IOD/IOV opportunities.
1. Increased use of hosted payloads: The proposal is to setup a similar framework as the US that works with framework agreements with operators and satellite primes to accommodate hosted payloads. For this the EC can search for cooperation with the ESA (e.g. ARTES -programme) and other EU-programmes. Standardization of the hosted payload interface will help to improve the efficiency.
2. Use of institutional flights for secondary payload flight opportunities: The EC, as the main customer and sponsor of the launch should be able to implement piggy back options. For instance the institutional programmes such as EUMETSAT’s MTG and Galileo can be used.
3. Providing launch slots to IOD/IOV projects: One of the main problems in the IOD/IOV mission is the acquisition of the launch slot. By letting the project arranging it all risks are put on the project. In some of the FP7 projects this risk was materialized, endangering the project continuation. The EC as sponsor of multiple IOD/IOV flights could provide these slots to the projects. Pre-booking a number of launch slots would allow for cost and risk reduction; The EU as a large organization is better able to and carry this risk.
4. Cooperation with ESA through PIONEER: EC can look for cooperation with the ESA Pioneer initiative. Providing frequent assured contract opportunities to the Service Access Provider (SAP) in parallel to ESA’s contracts will make the operations of the SAP easier commercially viable.
5. Intensify cooperation with ESA GSTP technology CubeSats programme: At the moment EC and ESA are already sharing the QB50 launch slot for their QB50 programme and some of the GSTP Technology CubeSat programmes respectively. It is a good example of a synergy to effectively address the need for launch capacity. Arguably, intensifying the cooperation between the EC programme and the ESA GSTP Technology CubeSat programme may lead to more synergies. For instance, the two parties may combine funds to develop CubeSat IODs/IOVs based on a shared roadmap.
6. Small Sat roadmap: At the moment all roadmaps are focused on developing technologies for the traditional satellite system. In order to support the trend of using Small Sats in various (commercial) space missions it will be recommendable to create an element focused on Small Sat technology developments.

In parallel, four technical solutions were investigated to serve the IOD/IOV need:
• Low cost technical solutions to send small satellites (CubeSats, carried in dispensers potentially fitted on rings). This solution focuses on an upgrade of a VESPA-like adapter to a full fledge testbed, on which experiments can be easily 'plugged'.
• Hosted Payload standardization for various orbits and payloads sizes. This solution extends the idea of the H2020 PLUGIN study to develop an interface standard for hosted payloads to other orbits such as LEO and MEO.
• Re-entry solutions, which are now completely inexistent (QARMAN). The re-entry vehicle addresses the niche to test experiments which are in need of re-entry circumstances.
• Sounding rocket, to test technologies for cheap, as a substitution or first step for IOD/IOV experiments interested in high accelerations and short micro-gravity tests.

Based in the inputs, four cases were proposed to the EC for the upcoming H2020 IOD/IOV programme:

1. Advanced EO 12U/16U CubeSat platform, focused on increasing reliability, such that it can be used for larger, more complex instruments. This case is driven by the trend to use Cubesats for commercial EO services; an Advanced
2. A 12U/16U CubeSat debris removal mission. Debris removal is a topic that continues to be investigated in the coming years. This mission is to be seen as a follow up mission of current on going developments to enhance debris removal capabilities on a smaller scale.
3. A Ka inter-satellite link mission.
4. A sounding rocket mission to test magnetomers, deployables, HDRM mechanisms and phase change materials.
The results of the INVEST-focus on the improving In Orbit Demonstration and In Orbit Verification opportunities to support the EU competitiveness of the space sector. Besides providing proposals for this the main challenge is to align the different programmes and entities involved. An increased responsiveness of the IOD/IOV opportunities induces faster time to market for new technology, at lower costs. Through this the EU can consolidate its leading position in the global (commercial) space market and foster knowledge industries and high tech production jobs throughout the European Union. The success of the propositions will dependent on the willingness of the EU industry to cooperate and to bundle resources to serve the IOD/IOV need.