Intelligent System Initiative: Advancing Space-Based Systems

The Intelligent System Initiative is a crosscutting initiative that aims to advance the autonomy of space-based systems in a disruptive way. The Initiative adopts a global system-of-system approach, exploiting synergies with application domains from a multitude of sectors. The Intelligent System Initiative works to a rapid timeframe, leveraging the most advanced processing techniques to increase system performance.   

In particular, the Initiative targets leapfrog advance systems autonomy, defines the architecture of an end-to-end (E2E) system, including space and ground segments, and demonstrates key technologies for a prototype autonomous satellite. Through a collaborative effort between industry, government and academia, this initiative offers several benefits in the sustainable use of space: 

  • More autonomous space-based systems will be able to operate for longer periods of time without human intervention, reducing costs and increasing reliability. 

  • Substantially more autonomous space-based systems will be able to perform complex tasks, paving the way for new missions and applications with time-critical functions. 

  • Autonomous space-based systems will be able to work together much more effectively, making them more efficient and powerful by making use of complex infrastructures and orchestrations. 


Future generations of satellites, and in particular constellations, will drastically increase autonomy to enable more complex operations, operative cost reduction, new services, including for instance resilient cyber-security applications as well as complex constellations and fleet management. 

The initiative targets an end-to-end architecture that makes use of one or more satellites and a ground segment.  Intelligence and the appropriate level of autonomy shall be distributed among individual space nodes, fleet or constellation and the ground segment. Multiple implementation solutions are possible, with the potential to feature master and slave nodes, thus allowing for autonomy and reliability requirements at system level. For reliability and security purposes, each node will have a local level of autonomy, a channel to feed the node health status to the higher parent group and the system, and a global system autonomy capability. The Intelligent System Initiative is complex and ambitious, with the potential to revolutionise the way we use space. By advancing the autonomy of space-based systems, it will enable new missions and applications that were not possible before. 

The Programme of work 

The roadmap includes a System Study under the ARTES Future Preparation programme, which will run throughout 2024, to identify the general architecture of the initiative key technology development requirements, and a first batch of basic building blocks. For these basic building blocks, ESA will open competition tenders under the ARTES Advanced Technology programme in 2024. More building blocks may stem from the System Study and will enable an In-orbit experiment (IOE) mission within the next years. The System Study encourages the use of industrial consultation, to broaden the high-level strategy beyond the specific consortium that will run the System Study itself. 

The Intelligent System is a collaborative effort that strives to create an opportunity for industries to work towards a new end-to-end architecture, that encompasses standard interfaces, that covers space and ground, that targets interoperability of different blocks, sufficient level of abstraction for a flexibly reconfigurable system. Besides the Agency-driven development listed below, we welcome further Industry-initiated co-funded activities, which can be submitted via the ARTES Competitiveness & Growth open call for proposal.

The following table will progressively cover the key activities in the Intelligent System Initiative roadmap; the first one is the System Study, and then priority technology blocks will follow, covering the new avionics elements to be started in 2024.  

By the beginning of 2025 the IOE procurement will be added, and during 2025, possible new blocks may be added (e.g. in the domain of payload).  Entries will be regularly updated as they become ready for publication in the esa-star Publication portal: 

Workplan Title Workplan Reference Number Further Details
Intelligent Platform for Constellations  1B.140 Intelligent Platform for Constellations System Study
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4A.099 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4G.047 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4G.044 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4F.169 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4F.095 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 3E.024 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4G.046 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 7B.079 Upcoming in esa-star
ARTES Advanced Technology Workplan 2024 4E.089 Upcoming in esa-star



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