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Call for Mission Proposals for Flexi-missions (F2 and F3)

Call for Mission Proposals for Flexi-missions (F2 and F3)

1 IntroductionFlexi-missions were introduced into the Horizons 2000 implementation concept in 1997 with the purpose of increasing the flexibility of the programme, basically by splitting each Medium size mission (M-missions) of Horizons 2000 into two Flexi-missions (F-missions). This new concept as well as other contingent reasons make the present call quite different from the M-mission calls which have been previously issued by the Science Directorate of ESA, the last one being the M3 call of 26 November 1992, which eventually resulted in the selection of the COBRAS/SAMBA (Planck) mission.

2  Purpose and Schedule

2.1 Two missions, costs, launch dates

To guarantee balance, continuity and flexibility, the Director of the ESA Scientific Programme invites proposals for missions to be included into the new planning cycle, with the objective of eventually selecting at least two F-missions, for a maximum cost of 176 MEURO each, at 1999 economic conditions.

The launch(es) are possible in the 2007-2009 timeframe.

The earliest launch date can be brought forward if particularly cheap/simple missions are selected and/or more favourable financial scenarios mature for the Science Programme.

2.2 Letters of Intent

Proposers are invited to submit short (1-2 pages) letters of intent to the Executive by 22 October 1999, addressing all points indicated below (ANNEX 1).

2.3 Briefing meeting

On 28 October 1999 all proposers who have sent a Letter of Intent by the above deadline will be invited to a briefing.

The briefing will be given by the Executive with the intention of providing assistance and guidelines to the mission proposers, covering such topics as (i) optimal design of mission and instruments, (ii) new Science Programme management practices, (iii) advice regarding international co-operation, and technical maturity and realism of payload provision, from both a technical and financial point of view.

2.4 Mission Proposals

Following the briefing and taking account of the indications given thereby, the proposers will be asked to submit full mission proposals by the deadline of 31 January 2000.

2.5 Assessment Phase Selection

Three to four mission proposals will then be competitively selected via Peer Group reviews and in full consultation with the advisory structure of the Science Programme. The selected missions will undergo an assessment phase lasting from 1 March to end May 2000.

2.6 Selection of missions for Definition Phase

2.6.1 Peer Committee Review, Recommendations by the Advisory

Structure and selection

Following the assessment phase, the missions will be subjected to competitive selection, first of all by undergoing peer review (July 2000).

Subsequently, special SSAC and SPC meetings will be held in September 2000 to select three missions (including NGST if confirmed) for the ensuing "Definition Phase", roughly equivalent to the merging of "Phase-A and pre-Phase-B" of the traditional M-missions.

This means that an AO for the payload instrumentation of each selected mission except NGST (see section 2.6.2), will be issued during the Definition Phase and that the instruments, which will eventually be flown, will be selected before the end of the Definition Phase. Industry will thus be able to submit a firm price offer for the execution of the subsequent development phases of the project at the end of the Definition Phase

2.6.2 Astronomical Mission proposals

The scientific community should note that, in agreement with the Horizons 2000 priority list (ANNEX 2), much work has already been done on the NGST project, and a large community has contributed to it, which places NGST as an obvious front runner in the competition for one of the slots. A proposal for a European contribution to NGST is already being prepared by the existing ESA interim NGST Science Team in response to the present call. Thus, separate proposals for NGST instrumentation, other NGST-related components or for membership of the ESA NGST Science Team are NOT solicited by this Call for Ideas (see below under ANNEX 3).

This however should not prevent the astronomical community from responding to this call, by injecting into the system other ideas (not related to NGST), if they so wish.

2.6.3 Definition studies

Furthermore, and independently of whether NGST is selected or not at the end of the assessment phase, the Executive is prepared to carry out at least two definition phases on new missions. The studies are expected to start at the beginning of 2001.

2.7 Final Selection for F2 and F3

If NGST is selected after the assessment phase, it will automatically become one of the Science Programme F missions, as early as September 2000.

One of the remaining candidate missions will be selected as the other F project at the end of the definition phase, while the other mission will be kept as a back-up to be implemented if either of the selected F2 or F3 projects defaults for any reason, e.g. payload development problems or national funding deficits.

The back-up mission will be automatically injected into the next selection cycle at definition level, unless the proposing community will give different indications.

2.8 Case of particularly cheap missions

The community is encouraged to propose particularly cheap missions, costing less than the allotted quota of 176 MEURO at 1999 ec. The number of selected missions might then increase accordingly and the launch date of one among them might be advanced.

This objective can be achieved by proposing:

  • Intrinsically smaller and faster missions
  • Missions using existing systems, subsystems and busses (in particular the Planck-bus for astronomy missions and the Rosetta/Mars Express bus for solar system missions)
  • Cooperative missions with an ESA share inferior to the ceiling indicated above

Advice on these subjects will be provided at the briefing on 28 October 1999.

2.9 Schedule

Call for Proposals

1 October 1999

Letters of Intent due

22 October 1999

Briefing to Proposers

28 October 1999

Mission Proposals due

31 January 2000

Peer Review selection of 3-4 missions

February 2000

Assessment phase

1 March - 31 May 2000

Peer group review

July 2000

Recommendation by SSAC

September 2000

Selection by SPC

September 2000

Start of definition phases

Early 2001

Possible launch date for particularly cheap missions

Late 2005

F2 launch date


Full-size F3 launch date


3  Guidelines

3.1 Scientific Areas

The proposals should be made in the fields of space science covered by Horizons 2000 and should be based on facilities in principle to be provided through the Science Programme.

ANNEX 1 lists the priorities indicated by the Survey Committee for Horizon 2000 Plus in 1994.

3.2 Approved Cornerstones

Approved Cornerstones or elements of already approved Cornerstones are NOT invited to participate in the present selection cycle, as they have already been selected.

3.3 Space Station related proposals

Proposals based on the utilisation of Columbus and Space Station elements (e.g. precursor flights, external viewing platform, etc.) are also invited in the context of the present call. For this special case, while normal payloads are expected to be supported by national funding agencies, the Science Programme could fund the provision of facilities.

4  Scientific Operations and Archiving

4.1 Operations

Proposers should outline in their proposal how scientific operations would be carried out and how these operations should be funded.

4.2 Data Archives

Furthermore, as decided by the SPC on 13-14 May 1992, data from science programme missions must be archived and provision for archiving must be made from the earliest stages of mission planning, on a case by case basis. If it is proposed that the Science Programme should support the archives, the expenditure will have to be included in the cost at completion of the mission. Alternatively, a credible plan for securing a mission archive with public access should be given with an indication of the expected source of resources.

5  Communication - Outreach

Proposers are invited to remember that the European public at large, which ultimately pays for the scientific missions of ESA, must have a return from their investment. Therefore the mission must be explained to the laymen, advertised, and the results popularised.

6  Selection criteria

The F2 and F3 missions will be selected through a competitive process.

The following primary criteria will be adopted:

  • Scientific value
  • Programmatic validity, i.e. conformity with the priorities established by Horizons 2000 (ANNEX 2), and possibility of contributing to a balanced and continuous science return;
  • High "science for money" rating
  • Communication potential
  • Technical feasibility
  • Cost to Member States (including payload, data processing and distribution, archives etc.)

7  Deadlines and format for the Replies


  • Letters of Intent (LOI) to reach ESA HQ by 22 October 1999
  • Proposals to reach ESA HQ by 31 January 2000


  • Letters of Intent should not exceed two pages in length and should briefly address the topics listed below
  • Proposals should not exceed 30 (thirty) pages in length and should address the same topics more in depth, plus any other topics as suggested by the Executive at the 28 October 1999 briefing. A one page executive summary will be required.
  • Both Letters of Intent and Proposals should be written in English

Annex 1: Topics to be addressed

Scientific Objectives
The missions proposed should be described and discussed in relation to current scientific knowledge and technological challenges. Their timeliness as well as the relationship to other existing or planned missions in the same discipline should also be examined.

International Partners
If international partners are needed, they must be identified already at the level of the Letter of Intent.

It will be expected that the interest of international partners in the proposed mission be demonstrated at the time of proposal submission, albeit in a preliminary way. At the ESTEC briefing advice will be provided regarding this issue.

Payload Concept
An example of an instrument complement meeting the scientific objectives should be given. Indication of instrument performance, basic technical parameters (mass, dimensions, power, data rate) and special requirements (such as viewing conditions, pointing requirements and electromagnetic cleanliness) should be provided.

Guidelines on optimal and cost-effective experiment design, as well as indications about the realism of the funding expectations from Member States will be provided by the Executive at the ESTEC briefing.

Mission Requirements
The main requirements on mission design should be described, such as: preferred orbits and/or trajectories, operational mode, mission lifetime, particular communication requirements.

Science operations and Archiving
Expected volume and format of data, site of the active and historical archives, proposed funding source(s) (e.g., PI institutes, national funding agencies, ESA Science Programme).

Technological development requirements
The technological development requirements should be identified from the earliest planning stages of a mission. Management and Funding

Information regarding special capabilities and experience in scientific institutes, potential collaborative arrangements and any other relevant programmatic or financial information (e. g. payload, operations and archiving funding).

Communication and Outreach
The communication potential of the mission should be stressed, and the proposed communication-outreach activities, as well as the means to carry them out should be outlined.

Annex 2: Existing Priorities

While proposing missions for the future, the scientific community must be aware of the priorities which were set for the Science Programme at the time of the formulation of Horizons 2000, and were broadly endorsed by the European scientific community in the course of 1995. These are:

Cornerstone Missions

  • A Cornerstone level mission to Mercury, addressing both planetary and magnetospheric aspects
  • A cornerstone level programme in interferometry (aiming at astrometric observations at 10 microarcsec level; detection of planets around other stars)
  • A cornerstone level programme on the observation of gravitational waves in particular at low frequencies below 1 Hz

Other Missions

  • Participation at the level of a medium-size mission in opportunities that may arise in the international context of Mars exploration.
  • Participation in an international solar mission or taking advantage of opportunities provided by the Space Station or the small and medium class missions of Horizon 2000 Plus.
  • Continued participation in the HST programme and in possible successor programmes. The traditional procedures for medium-size missions might provide an adequate basis for this.
  • Analysis of a major high-energy astrophysics facility in the context of the space station. Access to small and medium-class missions should be fully exploited.

Technological Developments

  • Studies of lightweight, passively cooled, high-optical-quality mirrors for use in the 2-100 micron part of the spectrum; monitoring of the development of infrared detectors.
  • Studies aimed at the development of Cornerstone-level missions in X-ray, gamma-ray and infrared astronomy, soon after the conclusion of Horizon 2000 Plus.

Annex 3: Special Provisions for the Astronomical community

In line with this recommendation, a 'Partnership Concept' has been made with NASA, outlining the envisaged framework for future collaboration between NASA and ESA on both HST and NGST. Simply stated, the aim is to extend the highly successful HST collaboration directly to NGST, thereby securing equal and open access to the NGST observatory for all ESA Member State astronomers on similar terms as on HST i.e. to ensure a guaranteed 15% minimum share of the NGST observing time to Europe.

The definition of NGST, in particular the scientific instruments and other components has been the subject of detailed discussions between ESA and NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, together with the associated scientific teams, since late 1997.

The foreseen scenario for ESA's participation in NGST conforms closely to the HST model. In particular, Europe's participation in NGST will be sponsored exclusively by the ESA Scientific Programme, and it is anticipated that this will take the form of a key scientific instrument, augmented by contributions to the spacecraft and operations.

ESA has sponsored four on-going external studies of various NGST instrument concepts and payload and spacecraft components. These studies, which involve a large segment of the European astronomical community, have been carried out by European industry and scientific institutions and together spanned a full range of possible designs for NGST cameras and spectrographs encompassing the complete visible, near-IR and mid-IR spectral range foreseen for the observatory.

An interim NGST Study Science Team (SST) has been set up by ESA to provide scientific oversight of all of ESA's NGST activities and a large community has contributed to the wider formulation of the science case and definition of the NGST mission.

The findings of the ESA studies, together with the results from the corresponding NASA and CSA studies, provide the basis for arriving at the recommended payload complement to be flown on NGST. A procedure and schedule have been agreed upon with NASA and CSA, which should lead to the inter-Agency negotiations being completed by the late Spring of 2000 with launch of NGST anticipated in 2008.

The definition, procurement and commissioning of an ESA-supplied instrument (and any other components) will be ESA's responsibility, with the hardware procured through European industry via open competitive tender. An ESA NGST Science Team will replace the present interim study team prior to the start of the Definition Phase (second half of 2000) and, given the go-ahead for the mission, will see the project through to launch and in-orbit verification. Members of the ESA NGST Science Team will be selected competitively from the ESA community in a manner analogous to that used for selecting Mission Scientists on other ESA projects.

Last Update: 1 September 2019
28-Sep-2022 23:29 UT

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