As part of its Earth Observation Envelope Programme, the European Space Agency (ESA) announces an opportunity for scientists from the Earth Observation communities in ESA Member States and Canada to make proposals for missions to be evaluated as next potential Earth Explorer Mission. These missions are intended to conduct research in the field of Earth Observation.

The Earth Observation Envelope Programme is a rolling programme designed to underpin European efforts in Earth Observation from space. The Earth Explorer element of the programme consists of a series of space missions addressing critical Earth science issues. In the past, eight missions have been selected for implementation under the previous Earth Explorer mission nomenclature, namely four Earth Explorer Core Missions:

  • GOCE - Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer
  • ADM-Aeolus - Doppler Wind Lidar
  • EarthCARE - Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer
  • Biomass - to take global measurements of forest biomass 

and four Earth Explorer Opportunity Missions:

  • CryoSat - Polar Ice Monitoring
  • SMOS - Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity
  • Swarm - Earth’s Magnetic Field and Environment Explorer
  • FLEX – Fluorescence Explorer 

The Agency aims to achieve a clear appreciation of the science community’s views on what mission concepts will give the highest scientific return and best response and solution to scientific challenges and issues facing society (Earth Observation Science Strategy for ESA: A New Era for Scientific Advances and Societal Benefits, ESA SP-1329/1 and ESA’s Living Planet Programme: Scientific Achievements and Future Challenges – Scientific Context of the Earth Observation Science Strategy for ESA, ESA SP-1329/2, European Space Agency, Noordwijk, the Netherlands, 2015).

This Call is open to all proposals that fit the criteria indicated in Chapter 6 of this document. The proposers are asked to consider mission concepts that exhibit a certain degree of maturity, or “readiness”, and that shall demonstrate the potential of new innovative Earth Observation techniques of relevance to both the scientific and the applications communities. A Scientific Readiness Level (SRL) between 4 and 6 is necessary. Evidence for the SRL shall be provided in the proposal in the form of results of scientific investigations/studies, published material in the peer-reviewed literature (with specific reference to the proposed mission concept) and any analysis software that may be available, in accordance with the SRL Handbook. Similarly, a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) equal to or exceeding 4 (≥ 4) is necessary for all critical technical elements of the space segment. Full evidence for the achieved TRL shall be provided in the proposal in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for the use of TRL’s in ESA programmes’.

Taking into account the experience from previous Calls, and in line with the spirit of the EOEP programme, the Agency is soliciting proposals for mission concepts for implementation as EE-9 that will not exceed a 260 M€ budget to ESA at 2016 economic conditions (e.c.), covering the whole development of the mission after selection up to the end of the commissioning phase once the satellite is in orbit (phase B1 to E1). This implies, for the proposers, that a strict target of 150 M€, e.c. 2016, has been set for all industrial development costs for the space segment, excluding launch services, operations, ground segment, level 2 processor and ESA internal costs. With respect to the launch, a mission fitting in a Vega-C dual-launch configuration should be the baseline. Any alternative option, e.g. a launch opportunity fully committed through an international collaborative partnership, shall not impact the overall budget. In case of in-kind contributions of the launch service, parts of the space segment such as the instrument or platform or sub-sets of either, the Level 2 processor, or other elements of the ground segment, the industrial development costs can be increased according to these in-kind contributions minus some adaptation costs that occur on the side of ESA to integrate them. The budget ceiling must, however, not be exceeded.

It should also be noted that the EE-9 mission concept does not necessarily have to be a single satellite but could be composed of a constellation of (smaller) satellites, if they allow to address the science challenges outlined in Section 2. The total cost of such a constellation including all cost elements mentioned above (launch services, ground segment, etc.) need to be strictly within the same budget ceiling.

The use of recurrent hardware and software, of formation and constellations (possibly via national and/or international partnerships), and launch opportunities is encouraged. National and/or international partnerships cooperation based on an instrument exchange shall be considered only when the full instrument to be exchanged is already developed at a TRL equal to or exceeding 5, in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for the use of TRL’s in ESA programmes’. If an international collaborative partnership is proposed, a letter from the prospective partner entity confirming their programmatic and financial commitment shall be included. In addition, the detailed schedule, the potential contributions, and the different programmatic/budgetary approval cycles shall be clearly detailed in the proposal in order to substantiate compliance to the programmatic/budgetary requirements of the Call.

A response to the Call may be made by ESA Member States’ or Canadian scientists, or teams of scientists, where proposing teams also may include scientists from non-ESA member states.


Overall schedule

Release of the Call 13 December 2016
Deadline for receipt of Letters of Intent 17 February 2017, 12:00 CET
Proposers Workshop 9 March 2017
Confirmation to submit a full proposal 24 March 2017
Deadline for the receipt of full Proposals 15 June 2017, 12:00 CEST
Announcement of results of evaluation of Proposals End November 2017