EU launches three new space missions to test tech in orbit

9 Oct 2023

Image: © 1xpert/

Part of Horizon 2020, the three new space missions comprise the final step in innovation before European tech is placed on the market.

The European Union has launched three new space missions today (9 October) to perform in-orbit tests on technologies before commercialising them.

Three new in-orbit demonstration and validation missions, also called IOD or IOV missions, were launched onboard the Vega flight VV23 launcher from French Guiana, where the European Space Agency (ESA) has a spaceport.

These missions are part of the Horizon 2020 research programme and consist of a total of six satellites and nine experiments to test technologies with a wide variety of applications.

Supported by the ESA, the IOD or IOV programme allows for experiments to be performed in orbit to get what is known as ‘flight heritage’, or the validation of technologies in real space environments, for scientific and commercial purposes. It is the final step before these technologies are placed on the market.

“This launch will allow innovation and new technologies to be tested in orbit. It is demonstrating, once more, that the EU is playing an active role in space,” EU commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton said.

Through these missions, the EU aims to ‘close the gap’ between the development of a new technology and its commercialisation – enhancing Europe’s competitiveness in the space.

“This is a concrete example of how we are supporting innovation, scientific knowledge and the competitiveness of the European space industry and space start-ups,” Breton added.

Entities from six European countries will benefit from the three missions, namely Syndeo-1 and Syndeo-2, ESTCube-2 and ANSER.

Syndeo-1 and Syndeo-2 is an aggregated mission of seven experiments covering themes ranging from space science and technology to propulsion and space traffic management.

It is implemented by Dutch aerospace company ISISpace with support from universities and SMEs in Belgium, Spain, France and Czechia.

ESTCube-2, on the other hand, is a mission developed by a group of space students from University of Tartu in Estonia.

It consists of a cubesat (a class of standardised nanosatellites) to demonstrate deorbiting with plasma brake technology and qualify a deep-space nano-spacecraft platform for future missions that will use the electric solar wind sail.

ANSER has been developed by the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial in Spain. Its objective is to study and monitor the water quality of the reserves of the Iberian Peninsula by means of spectrometric techniques using a cluster of cubesats in low-earth orbit.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic