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PRODEX activity selection and implementation

The PRODEX Programme is governed by the PRODEX Declaration and Implementing Rules, which are defined by the ESA Council (Agency internal documents).

The PRODEX Office can implement an activity only once it has been endorsed by the relevant Participating State Delegation, and subject to the availability of adequate PRODEX funds for the purpose of the activity. The Delegation endorsement is formally achieved by sending a Letter of Endorsement, by email, to the PRODEX Office (prodex-management@esa.int) in which the implementation boundary conditions are stated, such as lead institute, cost cap, schedule, or specific conditions on industrial involvement.  The Letter of Endorsement must be provided together with a Proposal (generally produced by the lead institute and approved by the Delegation) where the scope of work and the proposed implementation approach are detailed.  Generally, the lead institute carries out a number of preparation activities before reaching this point. The proposal implementation decision process is specific to each Participating State. During this phase, the PRODEX Office may advise the Delegation if requested to do so.

The nominal scheme is to have a lead institute in charge of implementing the experiment activities, by relying partly or fully on PRODEX funds, and with potential industrial involvement. The PRODEX contract with the lead institute is called the PRODEX Experiment Arrangement (PEA) and follows the ESA General Contract Conditions where applicable. Industrial contracts that are implemented by the PRODEX Office must follow ESA procurement rules and contract conditions. In some cases, a PRODEX Experiment can result in several ESA industrial contracts, under the general heading of the PEA with the lead institute.  

The PRODEX programme is treated in the industrial return statistics of the Agency as a programme with a guaranteed return, whatever the activities implemented. Therefore, as a general rule, all the activities of a PRODEX Experiment are implemented in the funding country. Also, as a general rule, 50% of the overall external expenditure of PRODEX for each Participating State (therefore considering all the PRODEX Experiments implemented in the Participating State) will be allocated to its own industry over the period of the financial commitment, which is five years.  

The responsibility of the lead institute is to implement the activity within the assigned programmatic boundaries, such as, overall costs. The PRODEX Office supports the management and financial aspects of the activity implementation, and the implementation and follow-up of industrial contracts where applicable (e.g. for instrument hardware developments). The PRODEX Office can also provide technical support to the institute on a best-effort basis, by relying on the Agency-wide technical expertise (e.g. by involving technical experts from the ESA Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality).

It is important to note that the PRODEX Office activities are funded by the contributions of the Participating States to the PRODEX programme. If the implementation risks are high, the Agency may decide to implement the activity in a stepped approach and in agreement with the Delegation, who can decide to cancel the implementation if the costs are exceeding the assigned cost cap.

Nature of PRODEX activities

PRODEX activities may cover any space science experiment or instrument, for example, in the fields of Space Science, Earth Observation, Exploration, and Microgravity. Subject to the Participating State endorsement, the activities may include (as illustrative examples): 

  • Experiment or instrument studies
  • Instrument hardware pre-developments, for example, in preparation of a future instrument contribution
  • Experiment developments, for ESA and non-ESA missions, such as, instrument flight hardware with relevant development models and ground support equipment; software developments; contribution to instrument verification and tests; etc.
  • Experiment software for the operation of a scientific mission or flight experiment
  • Data exploitation, activities of scientific nature


Last Update: 19 November 2017

For further information please contact: SciTech.editorial@esa.int