Cosmic Vision

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Banner for the Cosmic Vision programme.

Cosmic Vision (also known as Cosmic Vision 2015–2025) is a European Space Agency (ESA) long-term space science missions programme spanning between years 2015 and 2025, a successor to the Horizon 2000 long-term scientific programme.[1]


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 had begun working on a series of small class science missions. The first winning "S-Class" idea is set to receive 50 million euros (£42m) and will be readied for launch in 2017.[2]

Mission class[edit]

Small class[edit]

Small class missions (S-class) are intended to have a cost to ESA not exceeding 50 million euros. A first call for mission proposals was issued in March 2012.[3] Approximately 70 letters of Intent were received.[4] In October 2012 the first S-class mission was selected:

  • S1, CHEOPS, a mission to search for exoplanets by photometry; launch planned for the end of 2018.[5]
  • S2, SMILE, a joint mission between ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to study the interaction between Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind. Selected on 4 June 2015 from 13 competing proposals, its launch is planned for 2021.[6]

Medium class[edit]

The Medium Class (M-class) projects are relatively stand-alone projects and have a price cap of approximately 500 million euros. The first two M-class missions, M1 and M2, were selected in October 2011:[7]

  • M1, Solar Orbiter, an adopted mission for close-up observations of the Sun; launch planned for February 2019.[8]
  • M2, Euclid, a selected mission to study dark energy and dark matter; launch planned for 2020.[9]
  • M3, PLATO, a mission to search for exoplanets and measure stellar oscillations. Selected on 19 February 2014, its launch is planned for 2026.[10] Other competing concepts that were studied included the four candidate missions EChO, LOFT, MarcoPolo-R and STE-QUEST.[11]
  • M4 is still to be selected. Its launch is planned for 2025.[12] After a preliminary culling of proposals in March 2015, a short list of three mission proposals selected for further study was announced on 4 June 2015.[13][14][15] The final selection will take place in November 2017.[12] The shortlist consisted of the following proposals:
    • ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) which would observe nearby exoplanets to determine their chemical composition and physical conditions.[15]
    • THOR (Turbulence Heating ObserveR) which would address a fundamental problem in space plasma physics concerned with the heating of plasma and the subsequent dissipation of energy.[15]
    • XIPE (X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer) which would study X-ray emissions from high-energy sources such as supernovas, galaxy jets, black holes and neutron stars, to discover more about the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions.[15]
  • A call for M5 mission proposals was announced in April 2016. Select proposals will be chosen for further study by June 2017. The launch is tentatively scheduled for the 2029-2030 timeframe, though missions of reduced complexity could be launched at earlier dates.[16][17]

Large class[edit]

Originally it was intended that Large Class (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.[18]

Three large missions have been selected:

  • L1, JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer), a mission to the Jupiter system (with heritage from Laplace); launch planned for 2022.[19]
  • L2, ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics), an X-ray observatory with a launch planned for 2028.[20]
  • L3, LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), a space mission concept designed to detect and accurately measure gravitational waves at lower frequencies than Earth-bound detectors.[21] Its launch is planned for 2034.[10]

Missions of opportunity[edit]

Occasionally ESA makes contributions to space missions led by another space agency. A contribution to SPICA (Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics), a Japanese JAXA mission was evaluated as such a mission of opportunity within the Cosmic Vision, but is no longer considered within that framework.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ESA's 'Cosmic Vision'". ESA. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Esa to start mini space mission series". BBC. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "Call for a small mission opportunity in ESA's science programme for a launch in 2017". ESA. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "S-class mission letters of intent". ESA. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "ESA Science Programme's new small satellite will study super-Earths". ESA. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "ESA and Chinese Academy of Sciences to study SMILE as joint mission". ESA. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "Dark and bright: ESA chooses next two science missions". ESA. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Europe's Solar Orbiter on track for 2019 launch". Air & Cosmos. 28 August 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  9. ^ "Mission status". ESA. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Gravitational wave mission selected, planet-hunting mission moves forward". ESA. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  11. ^ "ESA selects planet-hunting PLATO mission". ESA. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "COSMIC VISION M4 CANDIDATE MISSIONS: PRESENTATION EVENT". ESA. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  13. ^ "Call for a Medium-size mission opportunity in ESA's Science Programme for a launch in 2025 (M4)". ESA. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Europe drops asteroid sample-return idea". BBC. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Three candidates for ESA's next medium-class science mission". ESA. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "Announcement of the plans for the issuing of a Call for a Medium-size mission for launch in 2029-2030 (M5)". ESA. 20 July 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  17. ^ "Call for a Medium-size mission opportunity in ESA's Science Programme (M5)". ESA. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  18. ^ "New approach for L-class mission candidates". ESA. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "JUICE is Europe's next large science mission". ESA. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "ESA Science & Technology: Athena to study the hot and energetic Universe". ESA. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  21. ^ Guido Mueller (22 August 2014). "Prospects for a space-based gravitational-wave observatory". SPIE. doi:10.1117/2.1201408.005573. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "SPICA - A space infrared telescope for cosmology and astrophysics". ESA. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 

External links[edit]