Hunt launched for ideas to use space to tackle climate challenges

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a hunt for businesses whose ideas can use space to boost Europe’s efforts to deliver a greener future.

Firms have been invited to submit their idea in the next two week to be in line for part of a round of funding under the Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) for ideas which will aid the drive to net zero.

Successful ideas will be implemented either under the Discovery programme of ESA’s Basic Activities, or under ESA’s GSTP, InCubed, ARTES or NAVISP programmes.

The ESA said: “The climate crisis is the most urgent challenge faced by humanity. In its 2021 ‘code red’ report, the IPCC stated that humanity can no longer escape from anthropogenic climate change. Yet fast action could help us avoid the worst damage.

“Space is uniquely positioned to make a difference in tackling the climate crisis; satellites watch over Earth continuously and the space sector has plenty of experience in developing technologies that are adapted to challenging environments – think highly insulating materials, non-carbon power systems and regenerative life support systems for astronauts, for example.”

Last week government ministers in charge of space activities in ESA’s Member States met at an Intermediate Ministerial Meeting in Matosinhos, Portugal. The Council of Ministers adopted a resolution to accelerate the use of space in Europe (the ‘Matosinhos manifesto’) to tackle the “urgent and unprecedented” societal, economic and security challenges faced by Europe and its citizens.

“Space offers a vast untapped potential to ramp up the fight for a green future and tackle global climate change,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. “It is now time to translate great ideas into concrete actions and leverage their economic potential.”

As a first priority, the ESA said it will work towards enabling people to better understand the current state of the planet and to develop scenarios and solutions for sustainable life on Earth.

“One way to achieve this is through a digital twin of our planet, the ‘Digital Twin Earth’ will be able to monitor the health of the planet, perform simulations of Earth’s interconnected system with human behaviour, and help support European environmental policies,” It added. “This OSIP call for ideas aims to provide a significant contribution to ESA’s plans for a greener Europe as well as to one of the five goals of ESA Agenda 2025 – boosting commercialisation in Europe’s space sector for a green and digital Europe.”

The organisation added there are myriad ways that space is already helping tackle climate change. For example, ESA’s Space and Energy initiative aims to strengthen technological synergies with the terrestrial energy sector, recognising that the space sector has decades of experience in non-carbon power systems, energy storage and efficient thermal control. Furthermore, satellites can assist with the effective running of renewable energy infrastructure by monitoring wind and sunshine.

“ESA’s research into non-carbon energy supplies has also supported the construction sector,” it added. “The need for eco-friendly housing solutions is growing, and homes could make use of solar cells and batteries developed for space. Strong-but-lightweight materials and high-end manufacturing techniques developed for space are already being used for terrestrial construction – one example is 3D printing using carbon fibre reinforced plastic.

“In the transport sector, satellite-enabled smart traffic management solutions for planes, ships, lorries and cars will help to save energy and cut carbon emissions.

“But we believe that there are many more unexplored ways that space technologies, applications and services could support a greener future. Your ideas could make a difference to our planet.”

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