European Space Agency call: dark side of the Earth

ESA seek feasibility studies using space-based night-time datasets to create services and solutions for a variety of sectors.

Opportunity Details


Registration Opens


Registration Closes



Up to €200k per study: this can cover up to 80% of the total cost.



Share this opportunity

Find out more and apply

At any given moment, while one half of the Earth is illuminated by the Sun, the other half is shrouded in darkness. Earth is considerably more challenging to observe during the night. Most traditional remote sensing satellites are designed to function in daylight conditions, and, as a result of power and thermal constraints, those capable of night-time operation, such as Synthetic Aperture Radars, typically follow dawn-dusk orbits (i.e., with LTANs or LTDNs around 6 AM-6 PM). Consequently, despite the abundance of valuable information that the night-time presents, many nocturnal events and phenomena go unmonitored.

While night-time imaging is not a new concept, the availability of medium and high-resolution commercial datasets in both mid and thermal infrared is relatively recent. Previously, such data was either low resolution or confined to defence applications.outside the scope of commercial operations. High-resolution commercial operators in the infrared spectrum have only recently begun providing data to the general public.

The scope of the proposed feasibility study activity is to assess the technical feasibility and commercial viability of innovative satellite-based downstream services and solutions leveraging on space-based night-time datasets for diverse vertical sectors.

The Open Competition call “The Dark Side of the Earth” promotes the development of new downstream applications that exploit existing and/or upcoming space assets during night-time, mainly through the use of visible, and infrared datasets. The objective of the call is to:

  • develop new downstream applications based on events/phenomena that can only be observed at night-time;
  • develop new downstream applications based on events/phenomena that only occur at night-time;
  • enhance existing downstream applications with high temporal resolution requirements through the use of night-time observations;
  • consolidate the business plan for supporting an informed decision for investment in further activities and establish the roadmap for service implementation through a potential follow-on demonstration project.

The applications facilitated by the detection and monitoring of night-time events and phenomena span a wide range of sectors and cater to various user segments. Potential domains include but are not limited to:

  • maritime
  • environmental
  • forestry
  • natural resources management
  • smart cities
  • financial institutions

Satellite night-time imagery must be used in all Feasibility Studies under this call.


Funded participation to ESA Space Solutions is open to any company and/or organisation, be it as group of users, public body or nongovernmental organisation, residing in the following Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.