Posted on November 13, 2019 by Sara Aparicio
Φ-sat-2 Challenge of ESA – Call for Proposals
As part of its initiative to promote the development of radically innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities onboard Earth Observation (EO) missions, the European Space Agency (ESA) announces an opportunity for the EO community to present cubesat-based ideas to be assessed for a potential Φ-sat-2 mission. This opportunity is open to “economic operators” – including, among others, industry, research institutes and academia – from the ESA Member States plus Canada and Slovenia participating in the FutureEO-1 Programme, which is tabled for subscription at ESA Ministerial Conference Space19+.
The Φ-sat-2 mission will be used to demonstrate the AI enabling capability for new useful innovative EO techniques of relevance to EO user communities. The overall objective is to address innovative mission concepts, fostering novel architectures or sensing that enable to meet user-driven science and/or applications by means of onboard processing. The latter will be based on state-of-the-art AI techniques and onboard AI-accelerator processors.
Building upon the experience from the development of Φ-sat-1 experiment, the Agency is soliciting ideas for missions to be implemented according to ECSS (European Cooperation for Space Standardization) standards and requirements tailored for cubesat missions .
Mission candidates will be selected by the Agency on the basis of their innovation and capability to demonstrate the disruptive potential of onboard AI for EO according to the criteria defined in this Call, as explained hereafter.
– Access Call for Proposals for all the information regarding the Call.
– Access AD and RD for Call for Proposals
– Proposal Submission: please register sending an email with your full name and company/institute details to PhiSAT2call@esa.int. You will receive credentials to access the portal in order to upload your proposal.
– Submission deadline: 31st January
For question or clarification please mail PhiSAT2call@esa.int
Q.1: What is the outcome of the 12-month phase? A satellite delivered to the launch site with a launch contract in place, operations or a satellite launched and operational on orbit?
A.: The second phase (Mission Development Phase) of the project does not last 12 months. As specified in the call:
“The second phase (Mission Development Phase), led by a mission integrator, will be dedicated to the design and development of the space and ground segments, launch, in-orbit operations, data exploitation and distribution”
“The schedule for the development of the mission shall last a maximum of 12 months from the start of the Mission Development Phase up to the satellite readiness for the delivery to the launch service provider. Nominal operations shall last a minimum of 12 months after satellite commissioning (including payload and AI application) and include data downlink, processing, storage and distribution.”
Hence, the second phase will last up to 12 months to the satellite readiness for delivery to the launch service provider
+ the launch window
+ 12 months of operations including data downlink processing, storage and distribution
Q.2: Is there a page and/or size limit to the proposal?
A.: There is no requirement regarding the length of the proposal. Nonetheless ESA expects a concise and effective proposal;
Q.3: Is there a limit to the number of partners in the consortium?
:A.: No there is no limit in the number of partners in the consortium. It can be one or more economic operators.
Q.4: Regarding the procurement of launch services, do I understand correctly that this is something we should procure ourselves, i.e. look for service providers ourselves, not just include the budget for the service?
A.: Correct. The launch service procurement is part of the project. ESA expects the consortium to come up with a suitable and complete solution, including the direct provision of the launch service for the PhiSAT 2 mission.
Q.5 Finally, we would just like confirmation that we understand correctly that the proposal must include both the Mission Concept as well as Mission Development phase, i.e. the consortium must propose a mission for a specific application and user, and the development of satellite platform, instruments including AI algorithms and corresponding HW, and ground segment for operations and data dissemination during minimum 12 months.
A.: Correct. The proposal shall be complete and include both phases the Mission concept phase and the Mission Development Phase, which as stated in the call include space and ground segment development, launch, satellite commissioning (including payload and AI application) and a minimum of 12 months of mission operation, payload data download elaboration and dissemination.
Q.6:We have some questions regarding the call for proposals, as it is not clear to us;
What is expected in terms of the length of the proposal?
The funding rate is not stated anywhere. Will this be 100% funded?
Do you prefer cross boarder consortia or could a single country consortium apply?
A. There is no requirement regarding the length of the proposal. Nonetheless ESA expect a concise and effective proposal.
We confirm that the funding source is the FutureEO programme and the project will be 100% funded.
There is no requirement related to cross-border consortia (therefore a consortium from a single country participating in the programme is admissible).
Q.7: We are considering submitting a proposal for the Phi-Sat-2 mission. Currently we are looking for partners in order to make the consortium. We would like to know what are exactly the ESA Member States that are part of the FutureEO-1 Programme.
Is the FutureEO-1 Programme subscribed by all countries or just some countries?
For example, can we make the consortium with one company from the UK?
A. As stated in the Φ-sat-2 Challenge of ESA, this opportunity is open to “economic operators” – including, among others, industry, research institutes and academia – from the ESA Member States plus Canada and Slovenia participating in the FutureEO-1 Programme.
Please find hereafter the list of those Member States which subscribed to FutureEO-1.
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Canada.
Please do not hesitate to contact us in case of need of further clarification.
Q.8: ECSS compliance seems to be a must, which may be an overhead for cubesat development, that should follow a lightweight development (cheaper and faster). Two platform suppliers which we spoke to about this call for proposals tell us that ECSS compliance is the big show-stopper for them, which makes it difficult for us to set up a good consortium. Can you clarify is it really a must and if it is, which ECSSes should be followed? Are IOD CubeSat ECSS the same as standards tailored for CubeSat missions?
A. The Applicable standard to the call are mandatory. The requested ECSS standards are based on the tailoring and experience acquired by the “Cubesats Systems Unit in the Technical Directorate, D/TEC, at ESTEC”
Q.9: Is it necessary PSS forms and signatures from high-ranking legal representatives now (e.g. University sector, DLR administration) or is this supposed to happen only with RFQ? Submission include budgets and ususally budgets require signatures from high-ranking officers.
A.: No, it is not necessary to submit PSS forms at this stage. As specified by the call under point 9, ESA expects “Detailed costs for all phases”, meaning that the detailed costs shall be reflected in the proposal to this call, but no necessarity with the granularity of PSS forms. Following the ranking of the proposals, ESA will issue a Request for Quotation (RFQ) to the consortium whose proposal has been ranked as the best. That RFQ will provide detailed Instructions, and will include the request for PSS forms.
Q.10: We need to get the contract forms in order to provide them to our admin services. We would need to provide those documents before starting our proposal. Therefore, we will appreciate if you could retrieve them to us.
A.: As specified in the call “The ideas submitted in reply to the Call will be reviewed and ranked by ESA (…). The Agency will then release a Request for Quotation (RFQ) to the consortium whose proposal has been ranked as the best“. Therefore, a first draft of Contratual matters, including clauses and conditions, is not provided in this Call, but it will be part of the RFQ instructions at a later stage.
Q.11: The budget is low to gather a typical 5 or 6 partners consortium within the Mission concept phase (equivalent to the first months and 240kE max). In our case most of the partners would not be involved in the main instrument development, but rather in other support areas. Can we progressively add more partners only for the Mission development phase (2.5 ME)?
A.: As specified in the Call, the activity will be implemented through a two-phase contract. In their proposals, the bidders shall provide a complete description of the consortium that would perform the activity. It shall be indicated for each company whether they would participate to both mission concept phase and mission development phase or only to on of the two phases. For each company, complete work packages, cost breakdown and description of the background and experience of companies and key personnel shall be provided. Although this is not a strict requirement, it is recommended to involve all members of the consortium already in he mission concept phase in order to ensure and end-to-end perspective and to allow a smooth transition to the subsequent mission development phase.