Join the Measurement Definition Team (MDT) for a Mars orbital imaging system



Organisation: ESA

In early 2024 ESA plans to begin a study on a Mars infrastructure mission concept, pending approval at the February 2024 Programme Board. It is planned to study a mission concept that comprises an electric propulsion transfer stage (or “EP Tug”) that will carry passenger spacecraft to Mars orbit. It is proposed that the initial passenger will carry a payload that will be capable of imaging Mars in high resolution in support for future landing site characterizations. In its final orbit the EP Tug acts as a data relay for the passenger spacecraft.


The objective of this ​​Call is to solicit participation of scientists and engineers to form a Measurement Definition Team (MDT) to provide input to ESA on the requirements for the payload of the passenger spacecraft and recommendations for its orbit and operation. The payload of the spacecraft shall be able to provide high-resolution (~25 cm/pixel TBC) images and associated context imaging (~6m/pixel TBC) for future landing site characterizations. These images are considered key for the exploration ambitions of ESA and falls in the exploration focused science category. Additional spectral bands and filtering may also be considered to increase science return.

The MDT shall:

  • Describe the measurement requirements for using the imaging payload for landing site characterization;
  • Describe options (e.g., wavelength, stereo imaging capabilities) for the imaging payload, the orbit and operations;
  • Describe high-value secondary imaging payload capabilities or payload elements that are synergistic with the imaging payload, thus maximising the mission’s return on investment within established mission boundary conditions.

The inputs provided by the MDT will allow ESA to generate an Exploration Science Requirements Document.

The MDT will be composed of external scientists and engineers. It is expected that most activities of the MDT will be completed within approximately 12 to 18 months. An in-person 3-day workshop is planned to take place 10, 11, and 12th of April 2024 at ESTEC. The travel & subsistence expenses of the MDT members for the in-person workshop will be reimbursed by the Agency.

The MDT will be selected through this open call, with review and selection conducted by an ESA internal review panel. At least the following expertise is required within the team:

  • Martian photogeology;
  • Landing site certification;
  • Optics;
  • Wavelength selection, detectors and focal plane design;
  • Attitude control for orbital remote sensing.

Participation in the MDT will not prejudice in any form later participation in any following calls concerning the mission.

The selection of the Members of the MDT is expected to take place by the middle of March 2024, with the Team’s activities starting shortly thereafter.


 The schedule for this Call is as follows:

  • Briefing Session 5 March: 15:00-16:00 (TBC)
  • Full proposal final submission date: 28 March 2024, 23.59 CEST
  • Review and approval process: Early April 2024
  • Selection Announcement:  Mid April 2024
  • Kick-off (virtual):   17th April 2024 15:00-17:00 CEST
  • In-person Workshop at ESTEC:  13, 14 and 15th of May 2024 (TBC)
  • Regular telecons: monthly or as applicable.


Each applicant must be located in one of the ESA member states or associated member states that contribute to ESA’s E3P programme: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. Scientists from other ESA Member States that do not contribute to the E3P Programme and scientists from other European countries having a cooperation agreement with ESA are encouraged to enquire with their national space organisation about the conditions for their participation in proposals to ESA.