Since 1975, TDE has been one of ESA’s Basic Activities. It's just one of the many activities and programmes that work together to help ESA prepare for the future but it is the only one that supports ESA across the entire spectrum of technical disciplines. Unlike the optional missions and programmes, it is funded on a mandatory basis.
The Technology Development Element (TDE) is responsible for early development stages across all service and technology domains. It tests the suitability of cutting edge ideas for space applications, keeping a central role in scientific activities.
In the frame of this programme, ESA's Technology Strategy is implemented on a regularly updated 2-year rolling work plan.
Programme in numbers and Key facts
HOW IT WORKS
To support ESA’s technology targets, from 2021-2022 TDE will focus investments on digital engineering and COTS components development.
Projects are undertaken by European Academia and industry under ESA supervision. Recent examples include a 30% efficient spacecraft solar cell, an air-breathing engine for low-flying satellites, parachute designs for Mars and a laser tuner for advanced instruments.
Some TDE projects are undertaken specifically to meet the needs of missions to come, called a ‘technology pull’. Others take place as part of ESA’s cross-cutting initiatives focused on Advanced Manufacturing, for novel materials and production processes, Design 2 Produce for digitalisation of manufacturing, Clean Space to safeguard the orbital and Earth environments and Cyber Security for secure space systems.