ESA title

Commercial Applications of Space-Enabled Robotics

  • ESA-STAR REFERENCE AO10494
  • Opportunity Call for Proposals (Non-Competitive)
  • Activity Feasibility Study, Demonstration Project
  • Opening date 01-03-2024
  • Closing date 01-12-2024
  • WEBINAR 21 February 2024 - 10:00 GMT Register
  1. Smart Cities and Infrastructure: 1st March 2024 – 1st May 2024

  2. Transportation and Logistics 1st April 2024 – 1st June 2024

  3. Energy and Utilities: 1st May 2024 – 1st July 2024 

  4. Health and Safety: 1st June 2024 – 1st September 2024

  5. Maritime: 1st September 2024 – 1st November 2024

  6. Agriculture: 1st October 2024 – 1st December 2024

Funding opportunity

There have been remarkable advances in robotics technology in recent years, pushing the boundaries of the possible. Breakthroughs in robotics have resulted in enhanced autonomy, dexterity, and interaction capabilities of robotic systems and have paved the way for significant growth of the robotics market over the past few decades. Today, robots are used across a range of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, critical infrastructure, agriculture, and logistics, among others. The impact of robotics technologies on society is significant, as it has the potential to transform the way we work, live, and interact with each other.  The parallel advancements  in the space sector mean that satellite technologies now have the capability to enable novel services utilising robotics on Earth and/or augment their capabilities. As such, the opportunity exists to incorporate robotics and satellite technology to create new commercial services and add value.

The challenge

Proposed services should aim to tackle general challenges faced by industry which could not otherwise be addressed effectively and which will improve industrial efficiency, productivity, operational safety, competitiveness. Where possible, services should also enable the creation of new markets and the establishment of new business models facilitated by this combination of space and robotic technologies in the chosen sectors.

For the purpose of this activity, robotics could include autonomous and semi-autonomous physical robots, drones, machines, or vehicles, and solutions that enable these (e.g. perception and positioning systems, or communications systems that extend their capabilties to remote regions and new use-cases).

Topics of relevance

This funding call consists of six sub-themes (detailed in the documentation attached below). The dates within which applications will be accepted are listed below:

  • Smart Cities and Infrastructure: Support for the construction and maintenance of physical infrastructure, smart city solutions such as waste collection, street cleaning, delivery services, entertainment, and tourism services
  • Energy and Utilities: Autonomous infrastructure inspection and maintenance, environmental monitoring, remote installation and energy infrastructure operations
  • Transportation and Logistics: Autonomous vehicles and precursor services, logistics automation solutions 
  • Health and Safety: Drone and robotics-based delivery of supplies, robotic guides for the visually impaired, search and rescue and disaster response 
  • Maritime: Autonomous surveys and mapping, maintenance of sea-based infrastructure and vessels, port operations automation and security, aquaculture farming, coastal monitoring
  • Agriculture: Precision farming, crop cultivation monitoring and optimisation.

Value of space

Satellite Positioning
Satellite positioning is able to provide coarse to high accuracy positioning information to robots, vehicles, machines and drones operating in outdoor spaces. This can be used for navigation, geo/time-stamping of collected data, time-synchronisation of networked machines, and/or the determination of speed and heading. Satellite positioning could be combined with non-space positioning techniques to support the navigation of robotics in broader environments such as indoor-outdoor, underwater, and beyond. The augmentation of Global Navigations Satellite System (GNSS) can offer higher positioning accuracies for certain use-cases via solutions such as Galileo HAS (High Accuracy Service), Differential GNSS, RTK (Real-Time Kinematic), and more, with the selection dependent on the service requirements. 

Satellite Communications
Satellite communications provide data, video and voice communications and may add value to applications which are implemented in the following service provision scenarios:

  • Environments that have inadequate, unreliable, compromised, or no mobile cellular connectivity
  • Mobile services that operate across regions with varying cellular connectivity quality (good in certain areas, poor in others…) and require continuous coverage and availability
  • Services that have high security, robustness and resilience requirements may benefit from satellite communications to counter redundancy in compromised or unforeseen circumstances

This may be pertinent for drone operations in rural areas, autonomous vehicles, or operations of robotics in various circumstances. Upcoming developments in satellite communications may also be investigated, such as satellite-5G, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Broadband satellite constellations and satellite direct-to-handheld communications, to enable certain services with stringent performance or cost constraints.

Satellite Earth Observation
It is expected that satellite earth observation could support robotics solutions at the service level i.e., providing complementary or enabling datasets which support the activities of the robots. This could be through the mapping of data to support the navigation of the robot, or the collection of datasets that complement those collected by the robot. Satellite earth observation data could cover any or all of the following:

  • Air quality measurements
  • Thermal heat signatures
  • Optical imagery
  • Radar data
  • Meteorology

Spaceflight Technology
Applications of robotics previously developed for use in space (and on the Moon or Mars) which also have commercial applications on Earth (Spaceflight Spin-Outs) are also considered eligible for this call. This could relate to: 

  • Manipulator robots (e.g. Canadarm developed for the International Space Station)
  • Rovers sent to the Moon or Mars tele-robotics and algorithms (perception, planning, control…) developed for (and spun out of) autonomy of space robotics

What we look for

We look for promising business ideas addressing topics of relevance or related areas that propose:

  • Attractive market opportunities, identified customer needs and customer engagement
  • Commercially-viable service concepts
  • Technically feasible solutions
  • Added value of space data or technology
  • Motivated teams with business, technical, and financial expertise

What we offer

We offer funding and support to companies, both for business case assessment and for the development of new, space-based services. Our offer includes:

  • Zero-equity funding* 
  • Technical and commercial guidance
  • Access to our network and partners
  • ESA brand credibility

*(50-80% depending on SME Status and Member State Approval)

ESA tender information

The initiative is open to the submission of proposals for Feasibility Studies and Demonstration Projects:

  • Feasibility Studies - which provide the preparatory framework to identify, analyse and define new potentially sustainable services
  • Demonstration Projects - dedicated to the implementation and demonstration of pre-operational services

How to apply

  1. Register your team on esa star Registration (https://esastar-emr.sso.esa.int) today. If your team is made up of more than one company or organisation, each entity will need to register.
  2. Scroll down to the ‘Downloads’ section of this webpage to download the official documents. Official documents include a document explaining the scope of this opportunity, tendering conditions, and other relevant supporting materials for the sub-themes.
  3. Download the Activity Pitch Questionnaire template and submit your pitch as instructed in the Activity Pitch Questionnaire guidelines, through the online form.
  4. ESA will evaluate your pitch. Teams whose pitches are positively evaluated will be invited to prepare an Outline Proposal and then a Full Proposal. Teams must obtain a Letter of Authorisation from their respective National Delegation before submitting a Full Proposal. Contact details of all National Delegates can be found here: National Delegation(s).

Authorisation of funding

This opportunity is open to companies that intend to develop space-enabled services and products related, but not restricted, to the topics of relevance outlined above. To be eligible for funding, your team must be based in one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and United Kingdom. Teams can involve non-European entities, but their contribution to the activity cannot be funded by ESA. Authorisation of Funding letters from the corresponding National Delegations are required as part of the application.

Webinar

A webinar is planned for 21 February 2024, 11:00 – 12:00 CET. Please use the button at the top of page to register.