News, Announcements & Press Releases

3. July 2014 09:00

Forecasting the development of breakthrough technologies to enable novel space missions

A new report, Technological Breakthroughs for Scientific Progress (TECHBREAK), has been published today by the European Science Foundation.

The European Science Foundation (ESF) was contacted at the end of 2009 to conduct a foresight activity for the European Space Agency (ESA), addressing the matter of technological breakthroughs for space originating in the non-space sector. A “Forward Look” project jointly funded by ESA and ESF and called ‘TECHBREAK’ was initiated as a result. Its goals were to forecast the development of such breakthrough technologies to enable novel space missions in the 2030-2050 timeframe and to identify related partnerships through synergies with non-space specialists.

The result of this exercise is a report to ESA’s Director General and High-level Science Policy Advisory Committee (HISPAC). It was published today and is available at the bottom of this page.

The report was not prepared to serve as a definitive guide for very specific technologies to be developed for future space missions but rather to inform on, and flag up, the main developments in various technological and scientific areas outside space that may hold promise for use in the space domain. The report does this by identifying the current status of research for each domain, asserting the development horizon for each technology and providing entry points, in the form of key European experts and institutions with knowledge of the domain. The European Union’s concept of Key Enabling Technologies (KETs – see URL) was chosen as a guide through this technological search.

The identification of problems and solutions specific to the space area led to focus the discussion around the concept of five “Overwhelming Drivers” for space research and exploration, i.e. long-term goals that can be transposed into technological development goals. The five Overwhelming Drivers identified in this exercise are (1) Reduce mass, maintain stiffness; (2) Build a spacecraft and missions that can last 50 years; (3) Deploy a 30m+ telescope into space; (4) Enable humans to stay in space for more than 2 years; (5) Autonomous geophysical survey of planets. These Overwhelming Drivers are a main focus of the TECHBREAK activity and report. There is the firm hope that they will be used throughout ESA’s Directorates as a novel categorisation of programme concepts and useful red thread to guide the reflexion about future missions and related technological maturation.

The report Technological Breakthroughs for Scientific Progress (TECHBREAK) is available online at



Note to Editors

For more information, please contact Dr Emmanouil Detsis

+33 (0) 3 88 76 71 54


About The European Science Foundation

The European Science Foundation (ESF) was established in 1974 to provide a common platform for its Member Organisations – the main research funding and research performing organisations in Europe – to advance European research collaboration and explore new directions for research. ESF provides valuable services to the scientific and academic communities – such as peer review, evaluation, career tracking, conferences, implementation of new research support mechanisms and the hosting of high-level expert boards and committees – with the aim of supporting and driving the future of a globally competitive European Research Area. ESF currently has 66 member organisations in 29 countries.

ESF Forward Looks

ESF Forward Looks enable Europe’s scientific community, in interaction with policy makers, to develop medium to long-term views and analyses of future research developments with the aim of defining research agendas at national and European level.  Forward Looks are driven by ESF’s Member Organisations and, by extension, the European research community. Quality assurance mechanisms, based on peer review where appropriate, are applied at every stage of the development and delivery of a Forward Look to ensure its quality and impact. ESF has supported 24 Forward Looks since 2002. In the context of the current re-organisation of ESF and hand-over of science policy activities to Science Europe, there will be no new Forward Look calls launched in the future.

techbreak.pdf4.6 M