ESA Space Transportation Pitch Week: Innovation and Collaboration in European Space Logistics – ESA Commercialisation Gateway

ESA Space Transportation Pitch Week: Innovation and Collaboration in European Space Logistics - ESA Commercialisation Gateway

From 20 to 22 March 2024, ESA’s Future Space Transportation preparation programme (Future Launchers Preparatory Programme – FLPP) hosted the ESA Space Transportation Pitch Week: a series of virtual events exploring new technological concepts for space transportation.

In line with ESA and the Space Transportation directorate’s focus on transformation, the Pitch Week brought together key players in the space sector, fostering collaboration and exchanging ideas for the future of European space transportation. The events attracted players from across the space industry, such as space transportation service providers (primes), technology providers, investors, ESA experts and ESA Member State Delegates. 

Over the course of the week, four initiatives within FLPP took participants on a journey across the future of a European space transportation economy. In-Space Proof-of-Concepts explored ESA’s vision for future space logistics, with in-space transportation vehicles going the “last mile” in space to deliver payloads to precise orbits while also considering support functions such as de-orbit and refuelling.  

FIRST! Avionics & GNC highlighted disruptive technologies that can be applied to space transportation domains to, from and in space. THRUST! and BEST! examined methods of securing Europe’s independent access to space through reusable engines and first stages and boosters. 

Earlier this year, the four FLPP initiatives launched open consultations in various space transportation topics. During the Pitch Week, shortlisted companies presented their ideas to ESA, Member State Delegates, industry experts and primes. Attendees benefitted from presentations on ESA’s vision for future space transportation and discussions with primes on their technological needs.  

The event also served as a networking opportunity for space sector primes, technology providers, investors and ESA experts to exchange ideas and foster collaboration for the future of space transportation. 

In-Space Proof-of-Concepts 

The opening day of the Pitch Week delved into In-Space Proof-of-Concepts (InSPoC), a crucial initiative for building the foundation of a future end-to-end space transportation ecosystem. The InSPoC venture is fostering the development of a scalable and modular logistics network in orbit. 

Over 150 space industry stakeholders participated in the InSPoC Pitch Day, gaining insights into ESA’s vision for the ecosystem. Companies pitched their value propositions and partnership potential, outlining technological advancements for enabling a robust European space transportation future. 

The event also announced the launch of the preparatory phase for In-Space PoC-2 and the ideation phase for In-Space PoC-3.  

In-Space PoC-2 is focusing on the second foundational capability for the transformation of space transportation vehicles into reusable space tugs: in-space cryogenic propellant storage and in-orbit refilling. ESA will release an open contest for the In-Space PoC-2 Preparatory Phase in mid-April, in which teams will conduct studies analysing the in-orbit refilling ecosystem and design the concepts for In-Space PoC-2 in-orbit demonstrations.  

In-Space PoC-3 will leverage advanced on-board and shared intelligence for the future orbital economy, in which space tugs will remain and operate in space for several years. The Ideation Phase of In-Space PoC-3 will be launched in an open contest on esa-star in mid-May, eliciting studies to examine the challenges of the future ecosystem and perform forward-looking studies to determine the technology needed to achieve this vision. 

After completion of the InSPoC-2 and InSPoC-3 contests, an in-person award ceremony will take place to celebrate the awarded consortia. 

FIRST! Avionics & GNC 

he FIRST! (Future Innovation Research in Space Transportation) Avionics & GNC Pitch Day showcased ideas of key technologies for avionics and guidance, navigation and control systems for future space transportation. FIRST! puts the focus on the disruptive capability of the technologies to be de-risked, as well as on their commercial application. Roughly 150 participants from relevant areas of the space technology sector, including space launch service providers, technology innovators, Member State Delegates, investors and ESA representatives, attended the event. 

The first half of the event featured presentations from 11 leading European space transportation service providers, highlighting their visions and needs for disruptive avionics and GNC technologies. Following this, 22 selected technology providers then pitched their disruptive ideas on various avionic and GNC fields, including:  

  • New Architectures for Data Handling system (NADaH), 
  • Next Generation Power Sources (NeGePow),  
  • Low-Cost and Reliable Solutions for Autonomous Flight Termination System (LoCRAFTS),  
  • Innovative GNC algorithms and sensors (InnoGNC) 
  • Advanced RF-Based Technologies (AdRaFT). 

The selected technology providers showcased promising disruptive technological solutions, demonstrating a strong alignment between ESA’s priorities, industry needs and the presented ideas. This paves the way for five Invitation to Tenders (ITTs) to be launched in open competition on esa-star in April, focusing on the identified avionics and GNC key domains.  

After a rigorous evaluation process, an award ceremony will be held at ESA headquarters in Paris to recognise the top-ranked proposals. 


The third and final day centred on advancements tackling reusable high-thrust staged combustion engines (THRUST!) and reusable boosters or first stages (BEST!) for future launchers. These initiatives fall under the “Access to Space” branch of the broader “Space Logistics” strategy. 

  • THRUST!,the Technologies for High-Thrust Reusable Space Transportation initiative, aims to prototype and test key technologies for future reusable engines in two thrust categories: 500-1500 kN for first stages or boosters (engines for BEST!), and > 1500 kN for future heavy-lift launchers. 
  • BEST!,the Boosters for European Space Transportation initiative, targets early project phases for a liquid reusable booster or a reusable first stage system up to a Concept Review, with the objective of preparing the programmatic elements to propose a rapid flight demonstration at the next ESA ministerial conference in 2025. 

The THRUST! pitch event featured presentations from five engine primes outlining their staged combustion engine concepts and the technical challenges they wish to address. Six technology providers showcased groundbreaking solutions in areas such as 3D printed parts, oxygen-rich environments, pre-burners, turbines and turbopumps, testing capabilities, health monitoring and life tracking, motorised valves, design and modelling and innovative materials and processes. The event solidified the importance of the THRUST! initiative and identified potential applications for these future engines. 

During the BEST! pitch event, six primes presented their reusable vehicles and recovery concepts, highlighting their remaining technological needs. Six technology companies presented their design, production and testing capabilities alongside innovative solutions such as new thermal protections, mobile ground segments, propulsion and attitude control systems. Final stage and booster concepts will be defined by industry, an approach which will accelerate the demonstration of new reusable systems in Europe. 

A new addition to the THRUST! and BEST! pitch events involved dedicated breakout rooms for prime companies to connect and explore potential collaborations with other businesses. 

By the end of April, THRUST! and BEST! will issue open Invitation to Tenders (ITTs) on the procurement tool esa-star. After evaluation of the submitted proposals, an in-person award ceremony will take place at the end of June in ESA headquarters in Paris to celebrate the top-ranked proposals. The aim of ESA is to place multiple contracts for both BEST! And THRUST! 

What’s Next? 

The ESA Space Transportation Pitch Week was a resounding success, solidifying Europe’s commitment to innovation and collaboration in space transportation. Upcoming open competitions on the Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP), Invitations to Tenders (ITTs) on esa-star and award ceremonies will mark the next steps in propelling Europe’s space transportation future.

Discover more:

Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP)
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