The European Commission plans to award a total of 8 million euros ($10.5 million) in 2011 to consortia formed by universities, companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations to develop and demonstrate affordable launch options for cubesats and other small satellites. The initiative, which is part of the Seventh Framework Program for Research and Technological Development, the European Union’s primary instrument for research funding, seeks to identify ways to integrate many small satellites on one launch vehicle in an effort to lower the cost and improve access to space for scientific research projects.

To be eligible to receive the European Commission research funding, each cubesat consortium must include at least three independent European organizations from at least three of the European Union’s member states or associated states in addition to international partners who contribute to “the scientific and technological excellence of the project and/or lead to an increased impact of the project’s results,” according to a solicitation issued July 20. Those international partners will be eligible for funding, the solicitation added.

Proposals are due Nov. 25, and winning teams are likely to be notified whether they passed their evaluation by late February or early March, according to Peter Breger, policy officer for space research and development in the European Commission’s Directorate for Enterprise and Industry in Brussels, Belgium. “The award notification then takes longer as that is dependent on the specific selection decision and negotiation progress,” he wrote in a July 28 e-mail to Space News.

In addition to identifying low-cost, multiple payload launch options, proposals should include space-based research experiments, such as environmental and climate change monitoring, materials testing, validation of spacecraft components, biological research or microgravity research, according to the solicitation.

The cubesat initiative is part of a broad European Commission space research plan that includes 99 million euros for a variety of projects. The European Commission pays approximately 75 percent of the cost for projects conducted by nonprofits and public agencies and 50 percent of the project cost for other organizations and industry, Breger said July 21 during a conference at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.