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, 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 related to challenges the solution of which will help to best respond to 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 represents a new and faster approach to achieve an Earth Explorer Mission.

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 technical and scientific maturity, or “readiness”. SRL of at least 4 (≥ 4) is necessary. This should be evidenced through the results of scientific investigations/ studies, published material in the peer-reviewed literature and any analysis software that may be available. This could also be the case for mission concepts where positive recommendations are available from the ESAC for further work, but which have so far not been retained for implementation. Hence, proposals sought through this Call should have a certain scientific as well as technological maturity and shall demonstrate the potential of new innovative Earth Observation techniques of relevance to both the scientific and the applications communities.

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 which must not exceed 120 M€ Cost at Completion (CaC) to ESA at 2016 economic conditions, covering all industrial development costs for the space segment and mission specific ground segment but excluding launcher, operations, generic ground segment, level 2 processor and ESA internal costs. With respect to the launcher, a mission fitting in a Vega dual-launch configuration should be the baseline unless a launch opportunity is offered in the case of an international collaboration. A single launch can be proposed if another way is found to reduce the 120M€ CaC to compensate for the difference between a dual and a single Vega launch, e.g. by partnership.

The use of recurrent hardware and software, of formation and constellations (possibly via national and/or international partnerships), of hosted payload and/or dual-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 TRL 5 minimum. If an international collaboration is proposed, the detailed schedule, the potential contributions, and the different programmatic/budgetary approval cycles should 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 23 November 2015
Deadline for receipt of Letters of Intent 1 February 2016
Proposers Workshop at ESTEC 8 March 2016
Deadline for the receipt of full Proposals 24 June 2016
Announcement of results of evaluation of Proposals December 2016