PATHFINDER CHALLENGE Strengthening the sustainability and resilience of EU space infrastructure – online info session on March 20th 2024

The European Innovation Council will hold an Info Session on this Pathfinder Challenge call on March 20, 2024, between 09:00 and 13:00 CET. Participants can access the meeting as guests at challenges-2024-03-20.

The ever-growing orbital population of satellites and space debris poses increasing challenges to space infrastructure. The density of space objects amplifies the risk of orbital collisions, unexpected fragmentation events and re-entries that may result in the degradation of space assets, hindering the services they deliver and, thus making Earth orbits unusable.

Debris growth is escalating with more than 2,500 non-operational satellites, 36,500 space debris pieces bigger than 10 cm and 1 million pieces of debris between 1-10 cm in Earth’s orbits. Collision avoidance manoeuvres for satellite owners has doubled and is expected to grow. Continuous trajectory changes of spacecraft will result in insufficient fuel for deorbiting, critical end of life spacecraft manoeuvres and any other remediation or in-space mobility activities. In-space recycling of dysfunctional orbital assets will provide an opportunity for space assets re-utilisation and in-space refuelling.

This challenge addresses the long-term emerging need for green, compact and affordable de-orbiting solutions and in-space recycling of space debris.

Through the challenge, EIC will support:

  • Technologies for space debris mitigation and remediation using very little propellant, that could be self-standing, in combination or in complementarity to other technologies to protect EU Space infrastructure.
  • In-space Recycling & Re-use of orbital assets could research techniques or processes to generate basic materials and re-use components for structures and assets, thereby supporting the in-space assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) domain. This may lead to the development of innovative in-space services based on reusing of parts of orbital assets.
  • Game- changing innovations and innovative space applications may result in, among others: 1) collision avoidance concepts providing accurate and timeliness detection and tracking of orbiting space objects, 2) innovations for space situational awareness (SSA), 3) development of algorithms and simulation tools for re-entry, close proximity operations, fragmentation and 4) innovative concepts for in-orbit spacecraft recognition and space debris detection.

You can download the complete challenge guide here: