Cross-Cutting Initiatives

The dynamic approach to innovation embodied in TEC’s technology programmes extends beyond them to ESA’s cross-cutting initiatives, first introduced in 2012

Each initiative is focused on a particular theme of interest for the future of the space industry, taking into account the needs of user programmes and industry as well as the potential of technology and R&D. 

Currently through the coordination of the TEC directorates, esa is implementing the following initiatives:

Clean Space

ESA’s Clean Space initiative focuses on securing the future of space activities by leaving the space environment in a better state for the next generations. 

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Advanced Manufacturing

ESA is identifying and spinning-in disruptive materials and manufacturing processes already available in non-space sectors to revitalise and consolidate European leadership in advanced manufacturing for space applications. This allows for faster development, shorter lead times for components, increased flexibility and associated cost benefits.

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Digital Design To Produce

Digital engineering is currently enabling a revolution in the way spacecraft are designed, developed, tested and operated. At the heart of the initiative is to design space systems towards manufacturability, integration and verification, with the end result being that development time is reduced and manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing is simplified. To achieve these goals, ESA is supporting the space industry to set up partnerships and pilot projects with specialised non-space actors.ESA will spin-in and demonstrate the core technologies to design space systems to be fully integrated into modern economies.

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Cyber Security

An increasingly hostile and aggressive cyber environment at a time when connectivity is ubiquitous raises the importance of cyber security. Spacecraft are becoming increasingly integrated within larger ground systems, opening up a new vulnerability to cyber-attacks. There is a need to address cyber security threats originating in space which endanger space assets and their Earth based supporting infrastructure. Many technology developments are required to tackle such threats, including those that can monitor cyber threats, detect and report threats, analyse incidents, and manage cyber defence. The importance of defending space assets and activities from cyber attacks will increase as space becomes more strongly integrated in other sectors. 

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Quantum Technologies

Quantum Technologies refer to technologies based on the principles of quantum physics, such as superposition, wave-particle duality, entanglement and the uncertainty principle. Breakthroughs in quantum technologies will impact space applications immensely, notably in high precision measurements (clocks and sensors), communication (cryptography and computing), earth observation gravimeter experiments (atom interferometers) as well as fundamental physics science experiments. ESA is identifying and supporting the strategic interests of its member states in this technology, in close cooperation with industry, academia and research institutions.

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Innovative Propulsion

The ability to manoeuvre and travel through space is a fundamental one for numerous space missions. ESA’s latest cross-cutting initiative, Innovative Propulsion, is looking into novel methods of achieving this.

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Real Innovation can be achieved by merging different disciplines and this is more true when concepts that needs are not covered by specific programmes and in fact their implementation bridges different approaches, disciplines and differing ESA programmes encouraging external partnerships where appropriate.