ESA can contribute to the process of (co)financing the development of technology, products and applications. There is a difference between developments in the context of ESA missions and developments of activities that bear no relationship to a specific ESA mission. Funding proceeds through various ESA programmes. With the exception of the scientific programme, member states are free to decide whether or not they will register for one of the programmes.
The budget of an optional ESA programme is determined by member state registration. The potential for activities in a member state is a direct consequence of the scope of the registration in a programme. The scope of the optional programmes thereby often reflects the priority assigned to these programmes by member states.
Optional programmes consist of two categories. Firstly, programmes where ESA is completely in charge of the details. Secondly, programmes where industry initiative determines the details or where ESA proposes general topics.
Below, an (alphabetic) overview of the programmes where the industry determines the details or where ESA proposes topics. Characteristic of these programmes is that the national representative must approve the allocation of the registration with a “letter of support”
ARTES - innovation and development of Satcom technology and stimulation of space infrastructure usage.
GSTP – innovation and development of (non-Satcom) space technology
InCubed – innovation and development of earth observation instruments and systems
Navisp – innovation and development of GNSS technology and systems
Prodex – development of scientific space instruments
There are two ways for the industry to detail the programme. ARTES, GSTP and Navisp work with annual plans that include activities set to be performed in a competitive context. ESA uses the ITTs (invitation to Tender) to this end. An overview of all pending and scheduled ITTs, including mission-specific ones, can be found in EMITS (ESA Mail Invitation to Tender System). Subjects for the activities for the work plan an be submitted through the ESA “Call for Ideas”.
All aforementioned programmes offer the industry, knowledge institutions and universities the opportunity to define, describe and elaborate their own activity. Proposals for such self-defined activities are submitted to ESA through an “Open Call”. For the aforementioned programmes, EMITS contains one or several “Open Calls”.