ESA title

Dark side of the Earth

  • Opportunity Call for Proposals (Competitive)
  • Activity Feasibility Study
  • Opening date 11-03-2024
  • Closing date 31-05-2024
  • WEBINAR 07 February 2024 - 11:00 CET Register

Funding opportunity

At any given moment, while one half of the Earth is illuminated by the Sun, the other half is shrouded in darkness. Earth is considerably more challenging to observe during the night. Most traditional remote sensing satellites are designed to function in daylight conditions, and, as a result of power and thermal constraints, those capable of night-time operation, such as Synthetic Aperture Radars, typically follow dawn-dusk orbits (i.e., with LTANs or LTDNs around 6 AM-6 PM). Consequently, despite the abundance of valuable information that the night-time presents, many nocturnal events and phenomena go unmonitored.

While night-time imaging is not a new concept, the availability of medium and high-resolution commercial datasets in both mid and thermal infrared is relatively recent. Previously, such data was either low resolution or confined to defence applications.outside the scope of commercial operations. High-resolution commercial operators in the infrared spectrum have only recently begun providing data to the general public.

The challenge

The scope of the proposed feasibility study activity is to assess the technical feasibility and commercial viability of innovative satellite-based downstream services and solutions leveraging on space-based night-time datasets for diverse vertical sectors.

Topics of relevance

The applications facilitated by the detection and monitoring of night-time events and phenomena span a wide range of sectors and cater to various user segments. Potential domains include but are not limited to:

  • maritime
  • environmental
  • forestry
  • natural resources management
  • smart cities
  • financial institutions, and the 
  • oil and gas industry

Value of space

Satellite night-time imagery must be used in all Feasibility Studies under this call. 

What we look for

The Open Competition call “The Dark Side of the Earth” promotes the development of new downstream applications that exploit existing and/or upcoming space assets during night-time, mainly through the use of visible, and infrared datasets. The objective of the call is to: 

  • develop new downstream applications based on events/phenomena that can only be observed at night-time;
  • develop new downstream applications based on events/phenomena that only occur at night-time;
  • enhance existing downstream applications with high temporal resolution requirements through the use of night-time observations;
  • consolidate the business plan for supporting an informed decision for investment in further activities and establish the roadmap for service implementation through a potential follow-on demonstration project.

What we offer

Up to 200.000 Euro (firm fixed-price), 80% funding of the total cost.

ESA tender information

Bidders shall submit their full proposals according to the procedure provided in ESA-STAR

How to apply

ESA-STAR Tendering

Authorisation of funding

All BASS member States


A webinar is scheduled for 07/02/2024. Please sign up using the link at the top of the page.

Webinar guest speaker: 

Alex Gow from SatelliteVu.