Image: ESA – Jürgen Mai


The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun thinking and talking about PNT user needs, regardless of whether or not the signals come from space. This is a welcome development as GNSS providers are often the only government entities who think about PNT full time, its importance, and have expertise in the area. And it is always good to see engineers and government officials start thinking about protecting their populations in broader terms, rather than limiting their focus to stovepipe systems. This transformation may have been in progress for a while. It is certainly a logical follow-on to a memo issued by the European Commission last year saying that GNSS alone was not sufficient for many critical and fail-safe operations.

Evidence for this has appeared in several ways, including the MarRINav program we reported on earlier this month.

ESA have also issued a permanent Request for Proposals for PNT systems. From their website:

The goal is to maintain and improve the capability and competitiveness of the industry of the participating States in the global market for Satellite Navigation, and more broadly PNT technologies and services. In this context, the wider ambition towards the overall PNT sector is justified by the necessity to facilitate cross-fertilisation between space-based and terrestrial positioning technologies.

This programmatic action will ensure the readiness of the industry to effectively respond to emerging market opportunities by focusing its activities on products ready for the commercial or institutional market.

The development of ad hoc technologies and product development activities along the whole Satellite Navigation value chain and more broadly PNT products can be proposed by industry to develop products aligned with their plans for future exploitation.

Activities therefore shall have been identified by industry as having clear potential for being applied in the area of PNT. The activities may address completely new products of a disruptive nature, may be an upgrading or improvement of an existing product or may address a continuation of an activity funded in another framework within another European institutional programme, a national programme or an industrial/academic research programme. The activities shall aim at resulting in a product ready for commercial exploitation.

Implemented through a continuous open call capable of stimulating unsolicited proposals, the eligibility of which will be indicated by the relevant participating State (i.e. support letter). The pre-commercial nature of this programme element will call for a co-funding approach to be envisaged.

Proposals must be from companies in EU states and proposers must first establish a ESA-STAR/EMITS user name and password. More information can be found at