A €9.18 million space research project with both civilian and defence implications has been awarded co-funding under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). EDA actively supported the funding application for this project run by an Italian consortium and designed to develop a RAM-EP propulsion system (use of atmosphere gases as a propellant) expected to extend the operational lifetime of spacecraft in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) areas, i.e. below an altitude of 250 km.
The project, known as “CLOSE to Earth” (Constellation at very Low Earth Orbit based on RAM-EP Small SatellitEs), is to be implemented by a consortium which is led by the Italian Aerospace Technological Cluster (Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale - DTA) and also encompasses a number of other enterprises as well as universities and R&T organisations. Among the main challenges of this project are the development of an atmospheric gas collector and a Hall-effect engine capable of using the gases already present in the atmosphere as a propellant. The project also foresees the study of a new small space vehicle (under 500 kg) able to accommodate a RAM-EP propulsion system and operate at VLEO altitudes. Half of the project cost is covered by project holders, while ESIF will co-fund the remaining 50% (€ 4.59 million).
This successful ESIF-funding application supported by EDA is yet another example of how the Agency, with its expertise, can help defence-related R&T projects to access EU funding, even (or especially) if they involve small and medium-sized enterprises. It also demonstrates once again that Member States’ investments made through EDA have multiplier effects in terms of practical output. So far, EDA has a track record of ten such ESIF success stories in defence involving projects worth a total of about €26 million.
ESIF is open to defence projects and is expected to continue supporting them during the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.
To explore the wide range of European funding currently available to defence and dual-use projects and activities, see EDA’s European Funding Gateway for Defence.