Cosmic Vision

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The Cosmic Vision is the paraphrasing name given to the roadmap for scientific space based missions of the European Space Agency (ESA) in the time frame between 2015 and 2025. There are currently four selected missions of the programme; Solar Orbiter, Euclid, JUICE and PLATO.

The initial call of ideas and concepts was launched in 2004 with a subsequent workshop held in Paris to define more fully the themes of the Vision under the broader headings of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Solar System Exploration and Fundamental Physics.

By early 2006 the formulation for a 10-year plan based around 4 key questions emerged:

  • What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life?
  • How does the Solar System work?
  • What are the fundamental physical laws of the Universe?
  • How did the Universe originate and what is it made of?

In March 2007 a call for mission ideas was formally released, which yielded in 19 astrophysics, 12 fundamental physics and 19 solar system mission proposals.

In March 2012 ESA announced it has began working on a series of small science missions. The first winning "S Class" idea is set to receive 50 million euros (£42m) and will be readied for launch in 2017.[1]

Large missions (L)[edit]

Originally it was intended that L-class projects were to be carried out in collaboration with other partners and should have an ESA cost not exceeding 900 million euros. However, in April 2011 it became clear that budget pressures in the US meant that an expected collaboration with NASA on the L1 mission would not be practical; so the down-selection was delayed and the missions re-scoped on the assumption of ESA lead with some limited international participation.[2]

The first large mission has been selected:[3]

  • L1, JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer), a selected mission to the Jupiter system (with heritage from Laplace); launch planned for 2022.

In the final round, JUICE had two competitors for L1, the gravitational wave observatory NGO (heritage from LISA) and the x-ray observatory ATHENA (heritage from IXO and XEUS).

Medium-size missions (M)[edit]

M-class projects will usually be relatively stand-alone ESA projects. The two first M-class missions, M1 and M2, were selected in October 2011:[4]

  • M1, Solar Orbiter, an adopted mission for close-up observations of the sun; launch planned in 2017.
  • M2, Euclid, a selected mission to study dark energy and dark matter; launch planned for 2020.[5]

The third M-class mission, M3, was selected on 19 February 2014:[6] Candidates included EChO, LOFT, MarcoPolo-R, PLATO, and STE-QUEST.[7]

Small missions (S)[edit]

S-class missions are intended to have a cost to ESA not exceeding 50 million euros. A first call for mission proposals was issued in March 2012.[8] Approximately 70 letters of Intent were received.[9] In October 2012 the first S-class mission was selected:

  • S1, CHEOPS, a mission to search for exoplanets by photometry; launch planned for 2017.[10]

Missions of Opportunity[edit]

Occasionally ESA makes contributions to space missions led by another space agency. There is currently one candidate for such a mission of opportunity within Cosmic Vision:


  1. ^ "Esa to start mini space mission series". BBC. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "New approach for L-class mission candidates". ESA. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "JUICE is Europe's next large science mission". ESA. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Dark and bright: ESA chooses next two science missions". ESA. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Mission status". ESA. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "ESA selects planet-hunting PLATO mission". ESA. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Call for a small mission opportunity in ESA's science programme for a launch in 2017". ESA. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "S-class mission letters of intent". ESA. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "ESA Science Programme’s new small satellite will study super-Earths". ESA. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "SPICA - A space infrared telescope for cosmology and astrophysics". ESA. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 

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