The Future Missions Preparation Office (SRE-F) is responsible for the formal Agency studies, and for the technology preparation, of science missions that have been selected as candidates for the Cosmic Vision and Robotic Exploration Programmes.
Introduction to the Future Missions Preparation Office
The Office activity starts with the science mission concepts that are proposed by the science community (in response to a call from the Agency) and that are subsequently recommended for assessment by the Advisory Bodies supporting the Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration. The Office is in charge of the Assessment Phase (phase 0/A) for these missions, which includes the technical definition of the space and ground segments, the programmatic evaluation (including risk and technology readiness assessments), and the technology preparation. A down-selection process occurs at the end of the Assessment Phase, for selecting the missions that will proceed into the Definition Phase (phase A/B1).
This work is currently carried out within the Cosmic Vision Plan, where a number of science missions have been proposed by the European science community and are being assessed through dedicated studies. In parallel to these studies, a Technology Development Plan is elaborated and implemented with the purpose of reaching a satisfactory technology readiness level prior to the mission being adopted. The Cosmic Vision Plan is implemented under the general coordination of the Science Directorate Coordination Office (SRE-C).
Organisation of the Division
The Future Missions Preparation Office is composed of four sections:
Assessment studies are made in SRE-FP or SRE-FA depending on the mission theme. For each mission, the work is coordinated by a study core team composed of the study manager (from SRE-FP or SRE-FA), the study scientist (from the Research and Scientific Support Department, SRE-S) and the study payload manager (from SRE-F). The assessment studies are generally performed in three steps starting with the initial science mission proposal that is provided by the science community.
The first step consists of a phase 0 (or pre-phase A) mission study, including the consolidation of the science requirements, the payload preliminary definition and the definition of the space segment. The science aspects are monitored by the study scientist with the support of a Study Science Team which represents the specific science community involved in that particular mission. The phase 0 study is carried out in SRE-FP/SRE-FA and involves ESA internal experts: for example from ESOC for the Mission Analyses aspects or from the ESTEC Technical and Quality Management Directorate for the spacecraft design. Phase 0 studies often make use of the ESA Concurrent Design Facility (CDF).
The second step is a consolidation of the mission concept through dedicated industrial studies, mainly devoted to the space segment design and evaluation. In parallel, instrument studies are actively promoted in the Member States with the objective of better defining the science payloads and their interfaces to the spacecraft.
The last step is a synthesis of the mission concept including programmatic evaluation.
Technology preparation of the missions aims at minimising the development risks for the Agency and enabling mission adoption decisions. The activity is coordinated by SRE-FT and is achieved through a comprehensive technology development plan covering the critical elements of the spacecraft, including the science instruments. The plan is implemented in the European space industry and institutes, and is elaborated in cooperation with the Member States, who take charge of the technology development activities for the science instruments they would provide. The Agency is responsible for the technology development activities for all the other spacecraft elements. The technology plan is implemented in a timely manner and regularly updated to reflect the progress of the activities, the outcome of system studies and the evolution of the Science Programme. The technology activities that are the responsibility of the Agency are primarily funded by the Technology Research Programme (TRP) and by the Science Core Technology Programme (CTP).
Instrumentation activities under SRE-FI include the instrument system engineering work in support of the system studies made in SRE-FP or SRE-FA, and the implementation of instrument related technology activities. SRE-FI includes laboratory facilities which allow for specific instrument hardware characterisation, such as detector performance verifications in thermal vacuum or cryogenic environments. In addition to these activities SRE-FI provides specific support to research activities that are conducted in the Research and Scientific Support Department, by building dedicated instrumentation hardware, or by participating in measurement campaigns. The SRE-FI section also provides payload expertise to the whole Science Directorate: this includes technical support to projects under development for payload related issues or for technical reviews.