Stay up to date with all the incredible activities and opportunities driven by the TEC directorate
All news

Implemented OSIP ideas — June 2021

ESA's Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) seeks novel ideas for new space research activities. Campaigns and Channels invite solutions to specific problems or ideas on more general topics, with those run by Discovery & Preparation, including the Open Discovery Ideas Channel, specifically looking for ideas that could be implemented as system studies, early technology developments, or PhD or postdoc research co-funded by ESA and a university.

Open Discovery Ideas Channel

In June 2021, the following ideas were implemented through the Open Discovery Ideas Channel:

Satellite communications via space-based internet service providers

University of Luxembourg

Read about this public idea in OSIP 

Optimal control of solar sails


Like wind sails use wind to propel sailing boats through water, solar sails use sunlight to propel spacecraft through space. Solar sail-propelled spacecraft can reach speeds that would be practically impossible for chemical rockets to achieve, and can be placed in orbits that would otherwise be unstable. But just like wind sails, solar sails require careful control. This co-funded research project aims to improve the control of solar sails, in particular during multi-revolution Earth escape or de-orbiting trajectories.

Study on wireless onboard instrumentation of space transportation systems

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

As more of our domestic electronic devices become wireless, the same thing is happening in space. The latest satellites are designed to communicate and process data using wireless technologies. But there are no publicly available concepts for using this technology in space transportation vehicles. This study aims to develop this area further, in the hope of simplifying integration and testing; it will simplify design and reduce cost by focusing on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components.


Feel the Force

Going to space equals stress. As launcher propellant tanks are filled with fuel, or spacecraft structural panels experience the strain of orbital ascent, they undergo major force loading in multiple directions at once.

ESA’s new Bi-Axial Test Facility – installed at the Agency’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory at its ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands – replicates the bi-directional application of load, allowing higher-fidelity testing of candidate materials for space missions.

“This is a new add-on to our existing Instron hydraulic test system, which is able to apply up to 250 kilonewtons of force in a single direction,” explains ESA materials engineer Donato Girolamo, who commissioned the design of the new facility to fulfill space material testing requirements.

“This is a new add-on to our existing Instron hydraulic test system, which is able to apply up to 250 kilonewtons of force in a single direction,” explains ESA materials engineer Donato Girolamo, who commissioned the design of the new facility to fulfill space material testing requirements.

“This extra jig works somewhat like a car jack. It has four rotating arms connected to sliding clamps onto the sides of the test item. Then as the hydraulic load is applied these arms rotate and the clamps slide outwards, pulling the material out along all four directions, to apply loading in both the x and y axes.”

Such bi-axial testing is especially valuable for composite structures, widely used in space, which can possess differing material properties along different directions.


ESA Stimulates Sustainable Energy Research

Conscious of the potential environmental impacts of the non-renewable materials used to make renewable energy technologies, last December ESA set out to find ideas for more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable ways to produce energy. A total of 30 ideas were proposed, of which 17 have been selected to submit full research proposals.

The aim was to source ideas that would advance the technologies required for 'artificial photosynthesis ', in a step towards producing hydrogen efficiently and sustainably, as well as reducing carbon dioxide in the air.

"I was really impressed by the quality of the proposals, which addressed both hydrogen production and carbon dioxide reduction," explains ESA Engineer Jean-Christophe Berton, who led the hunt for ideas. "One idea matched what I had in mind, but others were very innovative, and really showcased the capability of European SMEs and universities to brainstorm on behalf of ESA.

Hydrogen production and carbon dioxide reduction have the potential to be used for a vast range of space and terrestrial applications. The proposed ideas were varied, covering applications such as terraforming Mars, living on the Moon and supporting astronauts onboard the ISS. One selected idea, for example, explores how photosynthesis works in microgravity to model the processes behind photochemical devices in the same situation.

Jean-Christophe works on ground segment systems at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), and notes: "A few of the ideas have the potential to make their way through ESA's investment channels to materialise in ground station use cases. For other applications, for example, providing energy on other planets, relevant ESA experts have commented on how the ideas nicely complement existing research."




Calling all researchers: carry out part of your projects in ESA labs


The Incredible Adventures of the Hera mission – The Missing Puzzle Piece


ESA accelerates the race towards clean energy from space