Earth Explorers are "science missions", proposed and selected by the scientific community and implemented by ESA. So what does it take to get selected and launched in orbit?
Here are the next steps: there is work for everybody, in particular the science community - maybe you who are reading this - will be involved in Step 3: the "UCM".
Selection will be based on the following criteria,
- Relevance to the ESA research objectives for Earth Observation - as defined in the documents ‘Earth Observation Science Strategy for ESA’ - A New Era for Scientific Advances and Societal Benefits and ‘ESA’s Living Planet Programme: Scientific Achievements and Future Challenges’ – Scientific Context of the Earth Observation Science Strategy for ESA(ESA SP-1329/1+2, 2015). Here account shall be taken of how scientific advances anticipated from the mission contribute to addressing major societal issues.
- Need, usefulness and excellence - this must take account not only of scientific requirements and/or the importance of a mission viewed as a precursor but also the extent to which the requirements, including those of space/time sampling, can be met by the proposed mission.
- Uniqueness and complementarity - this must take account of other (i.e. not space) means of addressing the mission requirements as well as the activities and plans of other national and international bodies for space missions.
- Degree of innovation and contribution to the advancement of European Earth Observation capabilities - this relates to technical/industrial aspects as well as to user interests.
- Feasibility and level of maturity - this encompasses the technical constraints with a particular emphasis on the technology readiness, and the scientific readiness, as well as the status of the associated user community within ESA member states and the maturity of its requirements.
- Timeliness - this must take account not only of the timeliness of a mission from the point of view of user needs but also with regard to implementation constraints.
- Programmatics - in addition to the considerations of development schedule, cost, risk, etc. (set within the overall Earth Explorer Programme), this addresses the implications of possible cooperation with other bodies, including synergies with other national and international developments, and taking account of the planned availability of relevant data from other observing systems.
So how is SKIM doing on these?
Well, clearly the science teams and industry and ESA are very focused on demonstrating the "feasibility and maturity", because 1) the bar keeps rising as we go from the proposal stage, to the end of phase A, and 2) our work directly increases or technological readiness level and scientific readiness level.
The other aspects are also associated with specific actions and documenting how SKIM fits in the general Earth observing systems, and cntributing to the goals of various projects. In particular if you have a research question for which SKIM could give answers, let us know and maybe we should include it in "Need, usefulness and excellence"