ESA title


  • Activity Feasibility Study, Demonstration Project
  • Opening date 03-03-2022
  • Closing date 31-12-2025


Worldwide, transport demand is growing at unprecedented rates. In parallel, CO2 emissions, climate change, and security of energy supply are some of the major challenges to be addressed at European and global scale in the years to come. The railway sector can play a pivotal role in addressing the increased demand of transport, whilst concurrently tackling the above mentioned challenges. Indeed, rail travel has all of the characteristics and potential to become Europe’s most sustainable, cost-efficient, high-performing and customer-centric form of transport. Digitalisation in railways is instrumental in achieving this. Because of its intrinsic nature, rail has a hugely expensive infrastructure; therefore it is necessary to get the most performance and capacity out of what is already available without incurring further large investments. In this respect, the use of space assets can support innovation in rail, introducing the adoption of new technologies that embed interoperability and continuity of service by default.

ESA open call "Space4Rail Downstream Applications in ARTES 4.0" aims to support the exploitation of space-based assets (satellite navigation, satellite communications and/or Earth observation) in innovative and sustainable applications/services:

1. Related to future control, command and signalling applications of the European Rail system;
2. Improving the performance and attractiveness of the railway, both for railway undertakings and end users.

Key Thematic Areas Of Interest

The Open Call is structured in three key thematic areas. Companies are invited to propose activities (Feasibility Studies or Demonstration Projects) to at least one theme. Applications for each theme shall be addressed separately.


This thematic domain focuses on activities that exploit space-based assets to improve the business case of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) through increased operational performance and/or reduction of the cost of ERTMS.

This includes support for the potential ERTMS ‘game changers’ identified by industry stakeholders, including satellite positioning, next generation communication systems(s), Level 3 of the European Train Control System (ETCS) and Automatic Train Operations (ATO).


Improving performance in the railway is particularly topical as it may enable safer and more efficient rail operations and infrastructure management, leading also to a reduction in life cycle costs.

The objective of this domain is to develop innovative railway applications and services that improve the performance, efficiency, safety and security of the railway infrastructure and assets.


In the era of digitalisation, new services and applications to improve the user experience for passengers, the development of Smart Stations, and the implementation of new services for freight users, could be investigated and developed making use of at least one space asset.

The objective of this thematic domain is to develop innovative and sustainable applications / services that improve the attractiveness of the railway for end users.

Value Of Space To The Railway Sector

Space technologies, such as satellite navigation, satellite communication and Earth observation, can help the railway sector in many ways.


Satellite navigation enables global positioning functions which, in turn, supports many applications such as enhanced train localisation, interactive indoor and outdoor mapping of train stations and predictive maintenance. Furthermore, the use of sensors with satellite navigation may improve the position and velocity performances (relative and absolute).  


Satellite communication inherently provides ubiquitous coverage, enabling an extension of reliable and secure connectivity to complement terrestrial communications. This, for example, can play a supportive role within the 5G ecosystem (particularly in areas underserved by terrestrial networks), that is key to the Future Railway Mobile Communication System, superseding the current GSM-R infrastructure. Additional applications may include satellite-based Internet of things for rail freight and cargo monitoring, and satellite broadband for enhanced on-board and in-station connectivity.


Satellite-based Earth observation data has a diverse set of characteristics depending on the type of data (e.g. optical or radar) and resolution (e.g. spatial, spectral or temporal), which, in turn, provides an effective and frequent way to monitor land and resources, and can also facilitate change detection. For example, this may facilitate applications related to the monitoring of railway assets, infrastructure and surrounding areas, or augmented reality applications enhancing the user experience.

What We Look For

Feasibility Studies, which provide the preparatory framework to identify, analyse and define new potentially sustainable applications and services in the railway domain, compliant with the following requirements: they are user/customer driven, they benefit from the integrated use of at least one space asset (e.g. satellite communications, satellite navigation, Earth observation), and they aim to evolve the targeted applications and services to marketability and operational roll-out, potentially through a Demonstration Project after successful completion of the Feasibility Study.

Demonstration Projects, dedicated to the implementation and demonstration of pre-operational services in the railway domain, compliant with the following requirements: they are user/customer driven (including user involvement and contribution) and potential customer engagement, they benefit from the integrated use of at least one space asset (e.g. satellite communications, satellite navigation, Earth observation), and they will be validated in a pre-operational context through a pilot utilisation stage, with clear potential to become sustainable in the post project phase.

In addition to these requirements, activities addressing the theme “Future Control-Command and Signalling in the European Rail System” shall, within its application to ESA, demonstrate an assessment of the business opportunity (for Feasibility Studies) or the improvement of the business case (for Demonstration Projects) related to ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) and complementarity to other activities launched at European level (e.g. within Shift2Rail or Horizon 2020).

How To Apply 

There are three steps involved in applying to this call:

1. Activity Pitch Questionnaire (APQ): Before engaging in more detailed elaboration of a potential outline or full proposal, the APQ allows the Tenderer in a reduced, standardised pitch form to present their initial idea to ESA, and it allows ESA to quickly take an informed decision on the next steps pointing the Tenderer to the most appropriate activity stream and providing support on the further implementation steps. The APQ template can be downloaded from and shall be submitted as per the instructions within the questionnaire form.

2. Outline Proposal: Following the acceptance by ESA of the APQ and the indications provided by ESA concerning which eventual route to choose from (i.e. Feasibility Study or Demonstration Project), the second step requires the submission of an Outline Proposal, which will be evaluated by ESA, and feedback will be provided to the Tenderer in due time. The Outline Proposal template can be downloaded from and shall be submitted via the OSIP platform.

3. Full Proposal: Following notification by ESA on the acceptance of the Outline Proposal, the Tenderer may decide to prepare a Full Proposal according to ESA feedback and in accordance with Part 2 of Appendix 1 (Special Conditions of Tender).  Only Full Proposals supported with a “Letter(s) of Authorisation of Funding” (AOF) from National Delegations covering the Full Proposal will be admitted for evaluation. The Full Proposals shall be delivered via “esa-star”.

In accordance with step 3, to submit the Full Proposal on “esa-star”, the following steps are applicable:

1. Register by completing the online questionnaire on ESA-STAR Registration (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’)
2. Download the official tender documentation (Invitation to Tender) and create a ‘Bidder Restricted Area’ via ESA-STAR system from 3 March 2022.
3. Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if applicable (see Funding Scheme section below).
4. Submit your proposal via ESA-STAR Tendering by no later than 31 December 2025.

Funding Scheme

Funded participation is open to any company and/or organisation, be it as group of users, public body or non-governmental organisation, residing in any of the ESA Member States that are participating to the programme as specified in the Letter of Invitation in esa-star.

The applicable funding level of the individual prime- or subcontractors is subject to authorisation by the involved National Delegation(s). Therefore bidding teams are requested to obtain a Letter of Authorisation from all their national delegations before submitting a Full Proposal. 


The funding level is summarised in the Table below.


Feasibility Study

Demonstration Project

Activity Cost

max. 500’000 EUR
(limited to acceptable cost)

case by case assessment (limited to acceptable cost)

ESA Co-Funding



max. 50% of company’s cost

max. 50% of company’s cost

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises [1]

max. 80%[2] of enterprise’s cost

max. 80%[2]of enterprise’s cost

Universities and Research Institutes with no commercial interest in product/service

max. 100%[2] of institute’s cost


max. 30% of activity cost

max. 80%[2] of institute’s cost


max. 30% of activity cost


Industry Co-Funding

Remaining part of the cost to carry out the activity

[1]Enterprises fulfilling the criteria defined in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003 (2003/361/EC) or as updated.

[2]Depending on the funding level authorised by the related National Delegation(s). 

Please note that the IPR remains with the Tenderer.


Proposal-related Documents

Documents related to the preparation of the APQ and proposal for this call, can be found at