Opportunity: Towards Standardised Inter-Satellite Link Solutions (ARTES FPE 1A.116)


There has been a steady growth  in the number of new satcom systems announcing plans to make use of RF Inter-Satellite Link technology. In addition to reducing the complexity and cost of the associated terrestrial infrastructure, ISL technology can enable additional networking functionality, increase service area provision, enhance data security, and increase congestion load balancing capabilities. With this growth comes a transformation of ISL-related systems and equipment, from bespoke, project-specific hardware to a more productised offering and associated value chain.   

The ARTES 4.0 industrial base has a long track record of research and development in this field and has therefore gained significant expertise in RF ISL technologies.  As demand for this expertise grows, bringing the different contributors together with a clear, harmonised system approach would enable it to leverage its advanced position. 

This activity will explore the viability of establishing commonality in the physical and digital interfaces of the various ISL components and look at defining a set of consolidated RF ISL system architectures.  

The aim is to propose a technology standard which enables organisations from across the ISL value chain to design against a common set of requirements, whilst retaining a degree of flexibility for individual manufacturers and system integrators to continue to innovate.

Such an approach should yield significant advantages in terms of cost, production time, and reduction in installation and integration complexity for system integrators, as well as help increase the utilisation of ISL components, creating increased opportunities for member state industry.  

The creation of such an ecosystem could also generate increased opportunity for cross-application collaboration, i.e. with the Navigation, Earth Observation, and Science fields, as well as help promote competition in order to stimulate further innovation.  This activity therefore seeks to promote interchangeability at several different levels: 

  • Satellite Manufacturer Interchangeability: the same equipment can be fitted to satellites built by different manufacturers. 
  • Satellite Type Interchangeability: the same equipment can be installed and operated on different types of satellites (i.e., LEO, MEO, or GEO platforms) 
  • Equipment Manufacturer Interchangeability: equipment and elements from different manufacturers can be combined to effect a range of performance and functional requirements. 
  • Frequency Band Interchangeability: the same satellite provisions can be used for different band equipment (e.g., S-Band, Ku-Band, or Ka-Band etc.). 
  • Satellite Sub-System Interchangeability: the same subsystems can be used to support different satellite payload systems, i.e., ISL elements could be common to different types of payloads, such as Ku-Band communications or EO missions. 

The starting point for this activity will be to research the wide range of ISL requirements, design principles, and products, both currently employed and planned, culminating in an initial proposal for an appropriate standardisation framework and its possible governance.  This activity would therefore assist Participating-State Industry to capitalise on its existing expertise and industrial capabilities and position itself to capture the anticipated future mass market demand for ISL technology.

Objectives of the Activity

The main objectives of the study are to:

  • Explore the definition of a set of consolidated RF ISL system architectures that are applicable for a range of mission scenarios, taking into account various system topologies, design principles and qualification requirements
  • Define baseline system, sub-system, and equipment specification envelopes based on size, weight, power and minimum performance requirements applicable to the most common mission scenarios
  • Explore the limits of establishing commonality in the physical and digital interfaces of the various system elements and seek to promote design reusability throughout the value chain
  • Propose a baseline Standardised RF ISL System Framework clearly identifying its scope, objectives, and contents to enable system designers and equipment manufacturers to specify and design against a common set of system, sub-system, and equipment requirements
  • Define a governance structure to ensure the Framework is manageable, stays relevant, and delivers its intended objectives, and to encourage and facilitate continuous improvement
  • Propose an implementation plan for the Framework and recommend follow on activities


We are looking for experts in in the following fields:
a) RF Inter-Satellite Link Systems
b) End-to-End Satellite Communication Systems design and analysis


The Invitation to Tender (ITT) is open from 19/07/2022 for a period of 10 weeks.

Proposals can be submitted via esa-star (please find link below) until 26/09/2022 13:00:00 (Amsterdam Time Zone)



ARTES FP is a key programme element, in the beginning of the ARTES ‘progression chain’ that offers the possibility to acquire knowledge on future satcom market perspectives, investigate future system concepts and prepare initial ‘dossiers’ on strategic initiatives; that cannot usually be developed at every Member State’s level. It is based on the concept of a European common effort to produce quality results to set the future of satcom.

You can find more information in the link below:

Published 21 July 2022
Last updated at 21 July 2022 - 11:00