ESA invites you to bid to its latest activity on ‘safe rendezvous and proximity operations’. Its objective is to define requirements and guidelines for close-proximity orbital operations to ensure safe rendezvous and capture operations.

Increasing worldwide interest in the execution of rendezvous, proximity and capture operations for in-orbit servicing such as repair, refuelling, and tugging has highlighted the lack of clear and widely accepted technical and safety standards for uncrewed vehicles.

In recent years, ESA has funded several research activities to develop technologies for approaching, grasping, and manipulating spacecraft on orbit.

e.Deorbit is an ESA mission to remove a single large ESA-owned debris from orbit

e.Deorbit was an ESA mission’s concept aiming at removing a single large ESA-owned debris from orbit

These activities (e.g. e.Deorbit, Internal Working Group on Close Proximity Operations) have identified clear knowledge gaps of major importance for rendezvous and capture. These gaps mean that there is a particular lack of technical requirements and verification methods for ensuring that rendezvous and proximity operations are conducted in a sustainable manner.

The overall goal of this new  ‘Safe Rendezvous and Proximity Operations’ Technology Research Programme (TRP) activity is:

to take into account all aspects of the rendezvous and capture operations (including separation aspects e.g. trajectory types, capture equipment), derive requirements and guidelines to ensure sustainability of CPO (covering all relevant disciplines e.g. GNC, AOCS, Propulsion, Robotics, Operations, RAMS) including the methodology used in order to identify the requirements”.

The ESA technical officer of the activity, Adina Cotuna, Systems Enginer, highlights this study’s importance: “The activity is fundamental in actually setting up the ‘rules of the game’ in order to enhance the sustainability of performing rendezvous and capture operations and engage industry in order to set up the technical guidelines for it. The activity is expected to be started in Q4 of 2019 and we are aware of its value in supporting the industry, knowledge capturing, protection of the orbital environment and enabling international cooperation.”

Guidance, Navigation and Control are key elements for ensuring safe rendezvous and capture operations

Part of the contract is to organise a workshop to consolidate the requirements and guidelines with all European space actors. The winning company will organise the event most probably mid-2020. We advise you to keep an eye on this blog in order not to miss the announcement.


More information:

– Closing date: 13/08/2019

– Price range: 200-500 KEuro

– Find the Invitation to Tender on EMITS:

– How to do business with ESA:

– Learn about previous activities which led to the identification of the knowledge gaps:

        – The fight against space debris

        – A stepping stone towards enabling servicing missions

        – Active debris removal to enable space servicing vehicles

        – From active debris removal to in-orbit servicing: the legacy of e.deorbit