Opportunity: Optical System Satellite-2 (OPS-SAT-2)


OPS-SATs are powerful, reconfigurable, flying labs for experiments that go beyond even technology demos! Our Thematic Call allows you to submit your idea for an OPS-SAT-2 mission dedicated to optical and quantum communications.

The thematic call for OPS-SAT-2 looks for ideas to be flown onboard a reconfigurable space laboratory, enabling experimentation in the optical and/or quantum communications arena. The lab has been designed to be safe enough for experiments to be carried out by a wide community of users, and reconfigurable enough to facilitate the widest possible range of experiments. Globally, significant funds are being invested into optical satellite constellations, for example in optical quantum services, high speed downlink services and distributed ground station networks. In addition to this, with its “High throughput optical Network - HydRON Project” ESA is even preparing industry to showcase a 3rd dimension of internet into space.

The rationale behind the OPS-SAT-2 Mission is based on the ever-increasing demand for fast communications across the world – with the aim now focused on Optical Communication solutions. With impacts far beyond the pure satcom market, optical technologies have the potential to meet the data demands of tomorrow, and this mission allows industry and researchers to test, validate and refine relevant technologies and operational strategies today.

As of today, specialised operational experience in two-way, optical communications is very limited in the environments in which constellation systems exists.
OPS-SAT-2 provides a unique opportunity to gain greater experience in this field, especially on operational aspects ( think for example of light-polluted global city centres with variable weather conditions, clouds, crowded airspaces and so on).

What are we looking for?

ESA is looking for ideas to exploit the OPS-SAT-2 Optical Lab concept to offer in-flight experimentation to:

  • Explore the challenges of two-way, space-ground optical communication e.g. implementing variable data rates to exploit low elevation/degraded communication opportunities
  • Experiment with different mission level operational challenges and opportunities that are raised by the switch to optical communications. For example, how to maximise communication times in a realistic, multi ground station, variable weather, urban heavy system; how to exploit the quantum aspect of optical communications to produce real added value and how to exploit AI solutions on-board to solve these complex, real-time problems.
  • Perform optical communication and quantum related experiments not dreamed of yet by exploiting the Optical Lab in Space concept.

Current plans

In 2021 ESA ran a feasibility study for an OPS-SAT Space Lab dedicated to optical and quantum communication in the Concurrent Design Facility at ESTEC. The report is available on the OPS-SAT Space Lab experimenter page.

The CDF team identified that a minimum form factor of 6U cubesat was required but recommended a 12U would be more suitable (OPS-SAT-1 has a 3U form factor). In this case it raises the possibility that significant on-board resources could be available for other payloads of opportunity that would benefit from the optical link.

The OPS-SAT-2 thematic call is open for all European and Canadian industry to submit their own ideas to boost their business ideas by exploiting the exciting new world of optical communications.

How to apply

Submit your proposal today! The thematic call is following the same structure as the ARTES 4.0 Open Call for Proposals.

In order to submit ideas, you are requested to submit your idea using the ARTES 4.0 Open Call for Proposals | ESA TIA for ScyLight.

The Call For Proposals (CFP) is the mechanism of the Advanced Research In Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme that allows gathering valuable input from our stakeholders. It aids ESA to establish relevant work plans that meet future satellite communication needs, as well as for activities such as this thematic call.

The Call for Ideas is continuously open. Guidelines for idea proposals are found here.

Submitted ideas will be assessed for:

  • innovation, credibility and feasibility,
  • commercial, strategic and technological relevance,
  • performance impacts at sub-system or system level
  • direct or indirect business opportunity for the ARTES Member States’ industry

For any further questions, please contact David.Evans@esa.int

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