Airbus Defence and Space Challenge


Global economies are at the onset of a fourth industrial revolution. Fuelled by digitalisation and characterised by the convergence of virtual and real worlds into the internet of things they are faced with the disruption of traditional value chains. This development, mostly called Industry 4.0, has the potential to revolutionise all industrial segments including Aerospace. With aerospace systems influencing current trends through the provision of required connectivity and services, the aerospace industry itself is also being affected by products that involve intensive development and manufacturing efforts. Here, new technologies and processes represent opportunities to achieve a better market position or create all-new markets by presenting users with additional offerings.

This progress has led to highly dynamic growth: A global start-up scene with roots in Silicon Valley’s “new space” movement has since formed, with firms from other sectors now also taking an interest in aerospace applications. Meanwhile, new sources of capital beyond institutional budgets have quickly multiplied the number of stakeholders in this field. As diverse as the underlying technologies, applications, and business models at hand may seem, they all share a dedicated focus on providing value to the customer.

Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s largest aerospace company and a leading provider of related systems, is meeting these challenges head-on through its own innovations and collaborative efforts with innovative partners. Their goal? To improve established value chains while incorporating new services and applications.

innospacemasters_icon-challengeThe Challenge

Parallel to the growing need to concentrate on real customer utility and specific use cases, the demand for versatile satellite platforms and constellations capable of adapting to special payload and mission requirements is also increasing. This demand can be met either through support for a large number of adaptive options throughout a system’s lifespan (based on flexible and software-programmable digital payloads and mission parameters, for example) or by leveraging smaller, low-cost, purpose-optimised platforms.

Airbus Defence and Space has begun a committed effort to respond to these needs by realigning its entire value chain, from orbital transport to the provision of data products and services.

  • In OneWeb, the development of a cost-effective new platform is under way that will not only provide worldwide broadband connectivity, but also support other applications, including in Earth observation.
  • Bartolomeo is a new external platform for the ISS that provides simple, fast, low-cost access for payloads and the demonstration/validation of aerospace systems.
  • New platform concepts (such as FLP, a joint effort involving Airbus and the University of Stuttgart) are to support flexible configurations and various payloads based on their use of standard interfaces and digital production technologies, including ALM and 3D printing.

Airbus Defence and Space was looking to add further cooperative engagements to its existing network of subcontractors, suppliers, and other partners in order to continue advancing these platforms and leverage their benefits together. In the context of its competition challenge, the company was particularly interested in innovative ideas all along the value chains pertaining to payloads, satellites, and space transport. This included everything from new applications and their definition, design, production, assembly, integration, and testing to launch and operations, evaluation, and data handling.


The following examples were meant to offer a brief overview of potential ideas for optimising value chains in connection with payloads, satellites, and space transport.

  • New standards for industrial components and interfaces to subsystems (drive systems, avionics, energy storage, etc.) could enhance performance while reducing costs through competition and economies of scale.
  • New services could meet the need for delta qualifications, including through in-orbit demonstration/validation.
  • New sensors and payload packages could facilitate new missions related to climate research, disaster management, maritime applications, and more.
  • New application-oriented payload developers and operators are using standardised interfaces between satellite platforms and payloads and benefiting from the online control and connectivity a standardised ground segment can provide.
  • Flexible and/or programmable payloads could enable new, budget-minded users to enter this field with new business models and minimal capital resources.
  • Automation and autonomy in satellite manufacturing reduce the amount of cost-intensive manual activities involved.
  • New processes allow new supplier relations including onsite services, e.g. through local 3D manufacturing or integration & test support
  • New drive system technologies and so-called “piggyback” – services (shared payload) are making it easier to take innovations into orbit and beyond.

innospacemasters_icon-chooseprizeThe Prize

The winning proposal will be awarded with a support package tailored to the requirements of its realisation. The package comprises one or more of the following benefits:

  • Direct access to Airbus Defence and Space in-house expertise and expert networks
  • Support for the application for the Airbus BizLab Accelerator
  • Support for the application for the Airbus Venture Capital Fund
  • The opportunity to become an Airbus Defence and Space partner and supplier
  • Entrants who submit payload and subsystem proposals for one of Airbus Defence and Space’s platform concepts will also have the chance to take part in an analytical accommodation study.* (Please see graphic)

* The goal of the accommodation study is to submit a joint application for the public funding needed to prepare detailed designs and tests for an eventual mission.