Pushing the boundaries of exploration in space is not just about inspiration and scientific discovery — it also comes with significant commercial possibilities.
Seizing these is a key aspect of the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P) which encompasses ESA’s exploration activities in Low Earth Orbit and beyond.
Existing assets such as the International Space Station (ISS) offer significant capabilities to established space industry players plus a much wider array of companies — for example those working in drug research, personalised medicine and in-orbit manufacturing.
There are three platforms available to enterprises that want to take advantage of the world’s must unique laboratory and work place. The ICE Cubes service provides a fast, simple and cost-effective way to get an experiment or technology onboard the ISS plus constant monitoring while in orbit. The Bioreactor Express service gives access to miniaturized “bioreactors” dedicated to biological, biotechnological and biochemical experiments. And the Bartolomeo platform, which is attached to the European Colombus module, enables external payloads to be hosted in low-Earth orbit. Application areas include Earth observation, robotics, material science and astrophysics. The platform also offers the only unobstructed view both towards Earth and into outer space from the ISS. Currently in development, is the Lunar Pathfinder Mission which aims to provide the first communication service to the Moon.
Space exploration also opens up the possibility of finding and extracting resources from celestial objects such us meteorites or other planets. The recently established European Space Resource Innovation Centre (ESRIC) marks an important first step to prepare for the extraction and processing of such resources — which could in future enable services and products for customers on Earth or operating in space.
The Business in Space Growth Network (BSGN) helps project businesses and others make use of the space environment to develop products and services with commercial value.