A wealth of new mission concepts were submitted by the European scientific community on 29 June, following the ESA Call for Proposals issued in March this year.
These 50 proposals represent more than a 50 percent increase in response by the science community, compared to the previous ESA Call in October 1999. The proposed missions cover a wide variety of scientific objectives, spanning from the search for extrasolar planets, to the study of Jupiter and its icy satellite Europa, testing the laws of gravity, and more.
The missions' objectives fit well with the founding pillars of ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan, which cover four major themes:
Out of these 50 concepts, three medium-class missions (with costs to ESA not exceeding 300 million euros) and three large-class missions (with costs to ESA not exceeding 650 million euros) will be selected for assessment (or feasibility) studies starting in October this year.
The selection will follow a careful evaluation process, taking into account the scientific value and novelty of the proposal as main criteria, together with its technological maturity and its estimated cost.
At the end of the full assessment cycle in 2011, one medium- and one large-class mission will be adopted for implementation by ESA's Science Programme Committee. Their launches are currently foreseen for 2017 and 2018 respectively.