Belgian National ISS Payloads

BELSPO, through the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P) from the European Space Agency (ESA), offers Belgian entities the opportunity to fly ‘Belgian National Payloads’ to the International Space Station in support to their research and technology development activities.

What may be considered as a National Payload?

All research and technology demonstration proposals that clearly benefit from the ISS environment (i.e. microgravity, space radiation…) and stemming from a Belgian entity or a consortium with a Belgian Prime will be considered. Direct product placement and marketing shall not be accepted. Sponsorship from a company to a research and/or technology demonstration activity is however allowed.

Timing: how long will it take to implement a Belgian National Payload?

The implementation of a National Payload depends on many factors (complexity and Technology Readiness Level of the flight hardware, schedule of the launch to the ISS, availability of the payload host at the ISS…). Therefore, one of the first steps to be taken after the selection of a National Payload project will be to assess, on a case-by-case basis, the most efficient option to fly the payload to the ISS while safeguarding to the maximum extent possible its scientific and technical requirements.

What kind of support does ESA/BELSPO provide?

Upon acceptance of the proposal, BELSPO will cover the upload of the hardware to the ISS as well as the astronaut crew time via the ESA Exploration Programme. Operations of the payload can be covered via ESA or via other options proposed by the consortium. The proposing consortium shall find other funding sources for the development, preparation of the safety data packages, and qualification of the flight hardware as well as the data exploitation. The consortium shall also deliver all necessary documentation and inputs to flight operations and crew training for safety certification by ESA.


  1. Send your proposal to
    • Describe the goal of the research/technology demonstration.
    • Explain why and how the ISS environment is necessary for your research/technology demonstration; indicate which ISS facility you intend to use.
    • List the funding sources available for the development of the experiment, and for the data exploitation after flight.
    • Indicate the present TRL level o of the flight hardware, and the TRL level aimed at after the flight. Describe what still needs to be done after the flight and whether funding is in place to cover the (further) development.
    • Describe the partners of the consortium and their tasks.
  2. Upon receiving the proposal, BELSPO will check whether the proposal fits the criteria of a ‘National Payload’.
  3. Upon acceptance of the proposal by BELSPO, the proposal will be presented to the ESA Utilisation and Implementation Board (UIB) by the consortium, further details (such as identifying the best flight opportunity, taking into account the desired timing, a feasibility assessment, etc) will be clarified by ESA with the national payload consortium on a case-by-case basis.
  4. With UIB approval and all parties deciding to continue and fly the proposed experiment/demonstrator to the ISS, a completed Activity Requirements Document needs to be developed and undergo an ESA-led review, after which the ARD will undergo UIB signature.
  5. Once accepted by the UIB the proposal will be implemented by ESA in continuous concertation with BELSPO and the proposing consortium.


Tom Verbeke
Space Research & Applications