Fostering new terrestrial markets for application-driven research in Low-Earth Orbit

The European Space Agency (ESA) is supporting industry-driven business opportunities for commercial multi-user facilities operating on-board the International Space Station (ISS) or on future commercial stations, as well as on autonomous LEO free-flyers with return capability.



Through this Call for Proposals (CfP) activity, ESA invites European entities to submit proposals for industry-led service offers that enable the commercial utilisation of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) on existing or future space platforms. The purpose of this call is to ultimately accelerate the development of terrestrial markets enabled by space exploration infrastructures. Relevant terrestrial markets with growth potential include, for example, the human health sector, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, agriculture, food production, and advanced materials. By issuing this call, the Agency aims to increase the existing portfolio of ESA-supported commercial multi-user facilities currently operated on the ISS, which are accessible to commercial (non-space) customers: ICE Cubes Service, Bartolomeo Service, Bioreactor Express Service.



The proposals shall provide commercially viable service offers in the context of European-led space exploration activities that involve the exploitation of the unique LEO microgravity environment. The proposals shall address the step-wise development leading to the in-space demonstration of services that enable commercially-driven science, applied research and in-space manufacturing (of terrestrial products). The market opportunity shall stem from non-ESA commercial utilisation and not rely on any Agency utilisation interest or ESA anchor customer role.

The proposed service capability shall be based on:

  1. Dedicated LEO multi-user facilities operating on-board ISS or future commercial stations: establishment of new services enabled by using human infrastructures (ISS, future CLDs) in LEO, or
  2. Autonomous LEO multi-user facilities with return capability: establishment of new services leveraging existing or future LEO free-flyer robotic platforms (e.g. Space Rider).


The LEO multi-user facility shall provide customised environments to host utilisation payloads. Related facilities typically provide access to specific instrumentation (sensors, optics, sample handling), temperature control, as well as consumables (e.g. power, oxygen, nitrogen, venting) including a concept for payload integration and operations.

Important: Not in scope with regard to this CfP activity are LEO applications outside the context of space exploration such as, but not limited to, satellite servicing (e.g., repair, orbit changes, in-orbit rendezvous & docking, and refuelling), space-based solar power, space debris removal, Earth observation, communication and navigation.


The Call activity covers a number of so-called “Pilot Phases”, during which the selected Contractor(s) will mature their proposed service in terms of technical feasibility and business viability, market potential, third-party funding, and customer utilisation interest. Towards the end of the Pilot Phase, the Contractor(s) shall prepare an implementation plan towards a LEO demonstration mission to implement the end-to-end service with the selected commercial customer(s).

The Pilot Phase duration is typically 3 months.

During the Pilot Phase, selected entities will receive a small co-funded contract. The Pilot Phases will prepare mature service offers to receive implementation support through applicable ESA programmes. Follow-on ESA support opportunities are subject to the Contractor being selected in future ESA tender actions.


Published Call for Proposals

This Call for Proposals is published in open competition on the Agency’s online tendering portal esa-star. The deadline for submitting proposals is 08 August 2024.

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