Next Step is a General Studies Programme (GSP) activity involving the definition of models and research studies of relevance to Human Spaceflight projects in LEO and beyond, in the 2025-2030 time-frame.

Next Step has several complementary goals:

  • Investigating the scientific questions that are linked to space travel beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), especially those that can give Europe a head-start in research areas (beyond ESA current programmes) that require long lead times, to provide timely technological solutions.
  • Investing in research now also can help to build up competence on topics that are relevant to exploration but also to ground applications: recycling of resources, environmental control, biological radiation hazards etc.
  • Scientific knowledge and models e.g. on the interplanetary environment can also help make early design phases more efficient, saving time and resources by making well-informed decisions.

Among the questions that are being addressed are the following:

  • How does the environment in interplanetary space influence the spacecraft design and how does it change while moving in the interplanetary medium?
  • What Life Support System technology is suitable for a certain mission duration and crew size and what are the physical aspects driving the decision?
  • How do orbital design and propulsion choices affect the spacecraft capability of reaching destinations in Near-Earth interplanetary space?

Next Step comprises a number of individual GSP studies and also workshops and focus groups, as part of the GSP biannual work plan, with preparatory phases in 2011-2012 (including e.g. the NEMS CDF internal study and the 15th October 2012 Next Step workshop) and implementation in 2013-2014 (industrial studies).

Summary of Next-Step