DASA Space to Innovate Campaign - Charlie Drop

This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition seeks proposals for novel and innovative future space science and technologies.

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Up to £500,000 per projet depending on duration.



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The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Space Systems Programme is seeking proposals that can aid UK Defence and Security to develop future space science and technologies. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) Space to Innovate Campaign was established in 2019 as an overarching space themed DASA competition. Progressing from the prior Space to Innovate Phase 1 and International Space Pitch Day competitions, the Space to Innovate Campaign’s two previous challenge drops, Alpha Drop and Bravo Drop, have furthered DASA’s space focus. Charlie Drop follows on from this and offers a range of broader challenges to explore a greater range of novel science and technologies.

What innovations are we looking for?

  • Novel ways to achieve fine resolution collection for intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR)
  • Technologies and techniques to alert, protect and defend satellites
  • Satellite and ground segment technologies for future Defence and Security operations

The total funding available for Charlie Drop is £1.5 million (excl VAT). We expect to fund between 3 and 12 proposals, ranging from up to £125k for 6 month contracts to up to £500k for 24 month contracts.

  • DASA welcome proposals from across the full range of innovators including academia, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies, from both the UK and overseas. DASA also welcome joint bids which bring together the strength of different industrial or academic partners.

    The campaign is open to innovators from both the existing space sector and those who have not traditionally worked in this domain. Previous experience of Defence and Security work is not a requirement.

  • We want novel ideas to benefit users working in UK Defence and Security. Your proposal should include evidence of:

    • scientific and theoretical development, methodological advancement or proof of concept research which can demonstrate potential for translation to practical demonstration in later work
    • an innovative or a creative approach
    • a clear demonstration of how the proposed work applies to any Defence and Security context

    Projects are expected to reach TRL 3-6 at the end of the contract. This depends on the starting TRL and level and duration of investment.

    The objective of this campaign is to fund research into space science and technologies that may not otherwise be developed within the civil space industry and academia. This will address a set of specific problems in the space domain, as outlined in the campaign challenges. See details of these below.

  • We are interested in technologies and scientific techniques to achieve fine resolution imaging for space-based ISR / Earth Observation, especially from non-Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This includes in the following areas:

    • any part of the infra-red (IR) spectrum, from very near IR to long wave IR
    • synthetic aperture radar (SAR) – including achieving fine resolution with high signal to noise ratios (e.g. by achieving long dwell times, large antenna or high powers)
    • non-traditional parts of the electromagnetic spectrum (e.g. terahertz imaging)
    • novel solutions to achieving large optical apertures (or effective apertures); this includes innovative ways of deploying mirrors or antennae
  • We are interested in methods to provide warning of threats, and types of threats to critical Defence and Security assets in space, including:

    • techniques to quantify, characterise and / or maintain custody (i.e. maintain accurate object count and orbital parameters for each) of unresolved objects
    • technology and techniques to determine the functions and capabilities of potential threat systems
    • techniques to identify separating object events and payload deployments
    • techniques to qualitatively or quantitatively assess the ability of objects to perform manoeuvres
    • technologies to provide local situational awareness in the vicinity of key assets

    Furthermore we are interested in technology for protecting satellites and avoiding hazards and threats, such as:

    • approaches to detection and attribution of emissions across the electromagnetic spectrum from natural and artificial sources
    • hardening of electronic and radio frequency systems in stressed space environments
    • on-board defensive technologies
  • This challenge seeks to develop technologies for satellite platforms and ground segments of specific relevance to Defence and Security applications. We are interested in satellite technologies, and the development of the underpinning science required for both next generation, and generation-after-next Defence and Security applications, including:

    • science and technology to enable high-agility satellites and high positional self-knowledge, including pointing accuracy
    • integration of satellite functions (e.g. power and communications) to make platforms more resilient to disruption or degradation, including novel technological approaches to redundancy
    • technology approaches to providing high levels of assurance for LEO / Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellations. This includes protection of telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) systems and also novel fault and interference detection
    • technologies for high demand power systems – moving from a solar power paradigm to other methods of power generation

    Furthermore, the ground segment is a key enabler. We are interested in innovations relating to:

    • secure exploitation of commercial ground station services in the non-civilian domain
    • pre-processing technologies and services deployed on EDGE Processors that optimise data distribution across low bandwidth networks
    • novel autonomous algorithms, technologies and applications to enhance satellite monitoring and control (reducing operator burden)
    • developing and deploying custom waveforms for transmission security (TRANSEC)
  • This competition has three challenges. The following contracts are available across all challenges:

    • up to £125,000 (excl VAT) for 6 (six) months
    • up to £200,000 (excl VAT) for 12 (twelve) months
    • up to £400,000 (excl VAT) for 18 (eighteen) months
    • up to £500,000 (excl VAT) for 24 (twenty four) months
  • On Wednesday 25 May 2023, DASA hosted a webinar to provide further detail on Space to Innovate – Charlie Drop and its challenge areas. Watch the webinar on YouTube.

    If you would like help to find a collaboration partner, contact Innovate UK KTN’s Space and Geospatial team, or our Security and Defence team.


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