ESA Sentinel Small Sat (S^3) Challenge


A large number of private companies started to develop and deploy constellations with hundreds of satellites providing new infrastructure with innovative Telecommunication and Earth Observation (EO) capabilities. These new systems are designed to leverage the latest technological advancements and evolve quickly over time and, hence, are likely to impact existing and planned traditional space infrastructure. Traditional development approaches have proven successful in generating high quality and highly reliable products. Nevertheless, innovative satellite design, development and operations approaches may facilitate the exploitation of the technological advancements achieved by the earthbound consumer IT industry. Promoting the adoption of innovative approaches could foster growth and boost competitiveness of the European aerospace industry. The ESA Sentinel Small Sat (S^3) Challenge goal is to stimulate ground-breaking satellite design, testing and manufacturing solutions leading to small missions complementary, or providing added value to current Sentinel family missions.

Download the ESA requirements for this Challenge.

Download helpful documents:

ESA Space Debris Mitigation Compliance Verification Guidelines

Tailored ECSS Engineering Standards for In-Orbit Demonstration CubeSat Projects

Product and Quality Assurance Requirements for In-Orbit Demonstration CubeSat Projects

Small Spacecraft Mission Service


PRIZE 2017

  • EUR 1 Mio for design & development of the mission plus launch service free of charge
  • EUR 10,000 cash prize
  • Access to the Copernicus Accelerator programme (if eligible)
  • Ticket to the next satellite launch in Kourou

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  • Benefit index: How will the Sentinel missions benefit from the proposed spacecraft?
  • Innovation index: How innovative is the mission (design, production, data, etc.)?
  • Technology and Planning index: To which extent is the mission technologically feasible (including procurement plan)?
  • Copernicus index: How significant is the mission to the Copernicus space component?
  • Financial index: How solid is the financial plan of the proposed mission, in terms of the implementation of the project within the allocated budget?
  • Legal and Contractual index: Are there any legal aspects and risks involved in this mission? The contract to be signed with ESA shall be based on ESA’s General Clauses and Conditions for Contracts.


The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. To contribute to the success of Copernicus ESA is exploiting its 35 years of expertise in space programme development and management. While the Copernicus programme is politically led by the European Union (EU), ESA is the overall coordinator of the Copernicus Space Component and will, inter alia, ensure the uninterrupted delivery of data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites and from an important number of Copernicus Contributing Missions at national, European and international level. Following the launch of Sentinel-1A on 4 April 2014 the Copernicus programme has entered its operational phase, serving users with an ever increasing mix of satellite imagery and other data.