Announcement of the plans for the issuing of a Call for a Medium-size mission for launch in 2029-2030 (M5)
20 July 2015The Director of Science and Robotic Exploration of the European Space Agency plans to release, in late 2015 or early 2016, a Call for the M5 "Medium-size mission" with a planned launch date of 2029-2030 ("M5 Call" in the following).
The purpose of the present announcement is to inform the scientific community about the current planning, and to offer the scientific community the possibility of consulting the ESA Executive about their possible plans to submit proposals in response to the M5 Call.
The present announcement solicits non-binding Statements of Interest (SoI) from potential proposers. These Statements will allow the Executive to gauge the interest from the scientific community in the Call and to size the process accordingly. Submission of a SoI is not a pre-requisite for the eventual submission of a proposal in response to the actual M5 Call.
The content of the present announcement is non-binding, and does not commit ESA to release the M5 Call on any specific schedule. Also, the content and condition of the M5 Call, when finally released, may vary from the approach currently planned and described here. Thus, any information given here has to be considered as tentative and potentially subject to evolution, also as a function of the interaction between the Executive and the scientific community following the present announcement.
Contents of this page
|Scope of the M5 Call|
|Interaction with the scientific community|
|Requirements and selection approach|
|Tentative schedule for the M5 Call|
|Statements of Interest (SoI)|
Scope of the M5 Call
The current planning foresees the release of the M5 Call around the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. The Call is foreseen to solicit proposals for a mission with a cap to the ESA Cost at Completion of 550 M€. However, proposals with a cost below the above cap would be considered with no prejudice, both for stand-alone missions as for contributions to partner-led missions. Proposals whose cost to ESA would exceed the cap would be considered as non-feasible.
For mission in the Science Programme, the payload (scientific instruments) is customarily provided by scientific institutions, with funding from Member State agencies. ESA-provided elements in this scheme include the spacecraft, the launch services and the operations. This is foreseen to also be the baseline arrangement for the M5 Call, although different funding schemes can be considered, in particular concerning the funding of the payload.
The planned launch date for the M5 mission is 2029-2030. The actual launch date of the mission is likely to be driven by the mission's complexity and development schedule, rather than by the budget profile. In particular, missions of lower complexity (and thus likely of lower cost) might have a faster development schedule and thus an earlier launch date. The actual launch date for missions with enabling international participation (i.e., missions for which the implementation schedule depends on significant contributions from a partner) or for contributions to partner-led missions is likely to be driven in large part by the partner's technical schedule, and not necessarily by the ESA budget profile.
In preparation for the M5 Call the Executive would like to solicit the interest of the broad scientific community, encouraging the exploration of ideas covering all possible domains of science that can make use of a space platform, including disciplines that thus far have not considered this possibility. Such proposals would be welcome and considered with interest.
Scientists from disciplines that have not traditionally to date benefited from the use of space platforms are thus welcome to indicate their potential interest to apply for the M5 Call through the submission of a SoI. The Executive will be available to discuss such ideas with interested scientists (see below).
The use of the International Space Station (ISS) for scientific experiments falls under the responsibility of the HSO Directorate in ESA; therefore proposals for such experiments will not be solicited in the context of the M5 Call.
Interaction with the scientific community
The Executive will be available to interact with scientists potentially interested in submitting a proposal in response to the M5 Call to advise on the technical and programmatic feasibility of their ideas, regardless of the discipline and of the maturity of their ideas. Scientists interested in such interaction have to state their request in the SoI (see below).
In response to such requests, the Executive will be available to clarify to interested scientists the boundary conditions and the technical and programmatic requirements for the proposals, including indications about the typical process from proposal to the actual mission and the required technology readiness level at the different stages (TRL).
On a best-effort basis and strictly in a non-binding, non-committal way, the Executive will also be available, in a limited number of cases, to consult with interested scientists about the scoping of their mission concept, i.e., to advise about the likelihood that a given mission scheme would encounter difficulties, once proposed, concerning its technical and programmatic feasibility.
The resources available to provide the support to the scientific community described in the present section are limited, and therefore the support in question will be provided on a "best effort" basis, and subject to an evaluation by the Executive of the received SoI, with no guarantee to be able to satisfy in detail all the requests received.
The scientific advisory structure to ESA's Science Programme will be kept informed of the support given to potential proposers in this context.
Medium-size missions are a key vehicle for international cooperation in the Science Programme of ESA. As such, proposals in response to the M5 Call in cooperation with other partners will be welcome.
International cooperation can be characterized into three categories, i.e., 1) small, non-enabling contributions from international partners to an ESA mission, 2) enabling contribution from international partners to an ESA-led mission and 3) ESA contributions to a partner-led mission.
The first category does not require any commitment from the potential international partners at the time of the proposal, as (given the non-enabling nature of their contribution) the actual engagement of the potential partners will not influence the assessment of the proposal's feasibility.
The situation is different for the two other categories: for these cases the feasibility of the proposal for the Science Programme is strictly dependent on the willingness of the potential partner to engage in the proposed collaboration. While contacts among interested scientists are of course a conditio sine qua non for the start of a partnership, verification of the scope of the potential partnership requires inter-agency discussions.
Therefore, scientists who are considering the possibility of proposing a mission with an enabling participation from a partner agency or ESA contributions to a partner-led mission in response to the M5 Call are invited to indicate this clearly in their SoI, describing the schemes being considered. The Executive will then discuss with the interested scientists on a case-by-case basis, with the aim of engaging the potential partner agencies in a dialogue over the feasibility of the collaborative approach. This would entail discussions between the ESA Executive and its counterparts in the different partner agencies, and may extend, in a very limited number of specific cases (subject to the actual interest of the partner, an assessment of the feasibility of the proposed scheme, and to availability of resources) to an evaluation of the technical and programmatic scope of the possible collaboration. The scientific advisory structure to ESA's Science Programme will be kept informed of the support given to potential proposers in this context.
Requirements and selection approach
It is foreseen that the proposals submitted in response to the M5 Call will be subject to an initial strict technical and programmatic screening, with proposals assessed as not feasible within the boundary conditions of the M5 Call being eliminated from further evaluation. Proposals that pass the technical and programmatic screening would be subject to a scientific peer-review evaluation, resulting in the selection of a small number of mission concepts (typically no more than three) for a study phase.
It is also foreseen that Letters of Endorsement from Member State funding agencies and from International partners would be required together with the proposals submitted in response to the M5 Call. Such Letters of Endorsement would form a key element in the assessment of the programmatic feasibility of the mission proposals.
Tentative schedule for the M5 Call
The current tentative schedule is offered for planning purposes, and it's liable to evolve, also based on the responses received in the form of SoI.
|M5 Call release||December 2015|
|Letters of Intent due||January 2016|
|Proposals due||April 2016|
|Evaluation process||May–June 2016|
|Selection of proposals for study phase||June 2016|
|Phase 0+A completion||June 2018|
|Down-selection to one mission||November 2018|
|Phase B1 completion||June 2020|
|Mission Adoption Reviews||September 2020|
|Mission adoption||November 2020|
|Launch (for an ESA-only mission)||Mid–2029 to mid–2030|
Statements of Interest (SoI)
Members of the scientific community considering the possibility of submitting a proposal in response to the M5 Call for Proposal, when it will be issued, are invited to submit, by 25 September 2015, a non-binding SoI. The purpose of the SoI is to allow the Executive to gauge the interest toward the release of the M5 Call, as well as to size the following steps. Submission of a SoI by the deadline is also the sole mean to request an interaction with the Executive concerning the feasibility of potential international cooperation schemes and of the mission's scoping. Statements of support from the funding agencies in ESA Member States or from international partners are not requested with the SoI. Lists of supporters are neither requested as part of SoI, nor are they useful at this stage.
Submission of a SoI is not binding, i.e., it does not commit the signatories to submit a proposal in response to the Call when it's released. On the other hand, submission of a SoI is not a pre-requisite for the eventual submission of a proposal in response to the actual M5 Call.
The Executive may share the received SoI with potential international partners as well as with Member State delegations, with the intent of establishing the feasibility of the ideas being considered, and to properly scope the Call. SoI will therefore be assumed not to contain any confidential material.
Statements of Interest must be limited to 4 A4-size pages. Mandatory elements of a SoI are:
- Name and contact details of author, who will be the sole contact point with the Executive;
- A description of the scientific goals of the potential proposal;
- A summary description of the possible space mission that the authors would consider submitting in response to the M5 Call;
- A description of the funding scheme (in particular for the payload) foreseen for the mission to be proposed, insofar as known.
Optionally, SoI can also include (if applicable/relevant):
- A description of an enabling international partnership scheme the authors are considering;
- The request to interact with the Executive about the feasibility of the international partnership scheme being considered;
- The request to interact with the Executive concerning the technical feasibility and scope of the space mission being considered.
Statements of Interest must not exceed 5 MByte in size, and must be submitted exclusively by email, to the address M5-Callcosmos.esa.int by the deadline of 25 September 2015 at 14:00 CEST (12:00 GMT).
Queries related to this announcement should be addressed to:
Head of the Coordination Office for the Scientific Programme
P.O. Box 299
2200 AG Noordwijk