Callout: Space-based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Grant

 Callout: Space-based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Grant

In our ‘callout’ series we highlight specific open funding calls that are part of our Open Calls Network initiative, in collaboration with the Netherlands Space Office. In this edition we look back on our recent webinar on ‘Space for Security and Defence’, where we looked at several grant opportunities by the European Defence Fund (EDF). It is known in our Open Calls database under number EDF-2022-DA-SPACE-ISR, with the title ‘Innovative multi-sensor space-based Earth observation capabilities towards persistent and reactive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)’

Open Calls Network webinar - safety & defence

Objective of this call

Space-based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities are core enablers for Defence and Security missions.

Today, several European Member States own or are developing sovereign high-end space-based optical, SAR and SIGINT assets and associated capabilities allowing them to understand crises and complex situations outside Europe and at its boundaries. Those assets, necessary to monitor and react effectively to different threats and events related to national and international security and safety, are currently being developed nationally with different degrees of governmental and industrial collaboration in accordance with the different national and international policies and priorities.

However, these highly performing assets allow only limited revisit over an area of interest. They do not permit either a quick and smart reaction to an event detected on-board or a very quick satellite tasking and data reception upon a decision taken on the ground. Besides, some imagery applications of high interest for defence (such as optical video, low light, infrared or hyperspectral imagery and on-board processing for faster and more efficient transmission) remain insufficiently covered.

General objective

This topic aims at developing an affordable constellation of small satellites, including its ground segments able to handle various types of sensor payloads (e.g., optical video, low light, infrared, hyperspectral, RADAR, SIGINT) for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) applications. Such a constellation would complement high-end existing military capabilities while allowing responsive and smart tasking and data collection for near real-time tactical use.

This topic may also pave the way towards a collective and concerted approach regarding a future operational European Earth observation capability for ISR applications.

Space for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (image: EDA)

Specific objective

The specific objective of this topic is to define the overall architecture of the constellation, with particular attention to miniaturization, responsiveness, affordability, and complementarity with on-going EU and national projects, and to develop the associated components (sensors, platforms, ground segments and other key sub-systems), providing global and reactive coverage to address Member States, associated countries and EU needs in terms of innovative ISR capabilities and near real time intelligence.

One of the challenges is to achieve high performance payloads compatible with small satellites, in order to procure an affordable constellation that can federate European Member States and Norway around a shared capability. In this context, industry will have to propose a development that leads to an affordable solution in terms of non-recurring and recurring costs. Indeed, high revisit capability and need for variety of sensors inherently requires deploying a constellation(s) of assets: the proposed development must therefore particularly look into miniaturised, mutual and/or standard components for the satellite platforms and payloads in order to reduce the costs, and into solutions for high data rate transmission and processing.

The topic will also have to address the challenge of ensuring that the proposed solution can be adapted to various forms of cooperation (at transnational and/or multi-agency level) to build, following the EDF project, a full-fledge multi-user and multi-sensor constellation, be its components and/or the full constellation jointly or nationally procured.


Project proposals must address the development of a European space-based Earth observation multi-sensor constellation of small satellites for ISR applications. It must include the definition of the concept of operations (CONOPS) for such capability, its overall architecture including system level activities (e.g., choice of orbits, inter-satellite links (ISL), data relay satellites, ground stations, raw data management and processing and ISR post-processing analysis) and the definition of each component of the end-to-end system, composed of the satellite platform, the ISR payloads and the ground segment(s).

Project proposals must consider various options for each component of the system based on existing solutions, adapted solutions and/or new developments. Different development stages can be considered for the project, depending on the current maturity level for each component or ISR payload. Synergies with industrial technology roadmaps and with national, multinational and EU programmes, studies and projects (e.g., EDIDP, EDA, EU space programme/secure connectivity) are also encouraged.

Project proposals must not duplicate the work requested in 2020 in the call topic EDIDP-MSC-MFC-2020 Multifunctional capabilities, including space based surveillance and tracking, able to enhance the maritime awareness (discover, locate, identify, classify and counteract the threats).

More information about this grant opportunity

  • The indicative budget for this call is 40 million euro
  • Opening date: 21 June 2022
  • Deadline for submissions: 24 November 2022

All information can be found on our Open Call page for this call here.

Click the image to download the factsheet for this call (pdf)

Remco Timmermans

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