Earth System Science Pathfinder


The Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program is a science-driven Program designed to provide an innovative approach to Earth science research by providing periodic, competitively selected opportunities to accommodate new and emergent scientific priorities. ESSP Projects include developmental, high-return Earth Science missions including advanced remote sensing instrument approaches to achieve these priorities, and often involve partnerships with other U.S. agencies and/or with international science and space organizations. These Projects are capable of supporting a variety of scientific objectives related to Earth science, including the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, polar ice regions and solid earth. Projects include development and operation of space missions, space-based remote sensing instruments for missions of opportunity, and airborne science missions, and the conduct of science research utilizing data from these missions. ESSP missions encompass the entire Project life-cycle from definition, through design, development, integration and test, launch, operations, science data analysis, distribution and archival.

ESSP is home to NASA’s Earth Venture (EV) class of missions: a series of uncoupled, relatively low-to-moderate cost, small to medium-sized, competitively selected, full orbital missions (EVM), instruments for orbital missions of opportunity (EVI) and sub-orbital projects (EVS), legacy ESSP Projects: Projects selected under prior Announcements of Opportunity that are currently in operations, and non-competitive, directed Projects: projects that are designed to meet unique needs such as the replacement of a mission that did not fulfill its intended mission requirements.

The Principal Investigator for each competitively selected Project is responsible for the overall success of the Project, and is accountable to NASA for the success of the mission. Project teams may include university, industry, government, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers and international partners, as desired by the Principal Investigator.

The Science Mission Directorate (SMD), in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Engineer (OCE)/Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL), sponsors the Hands-On Project Experience (HOPE) projects through Training Opportunities (TO) to develop an in-house Project Team that will fly an Earth or space science and/or technology payload having a useful purpose to SMD on any suborbital-class platform including sounding rocket, balloon, aircraft (piloted, unmanned, or parabolic), CubeSat, or suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV). The SMD AA, in collaboration with OCE, has designated that the ESSP Program Office at the NASA Langley Research Center will provide the program and project management oversight responsibilities for HOPE project implementation, and serve as the principle interface with the selected Center project team(s) throughout the implementation phase.

Contact ESSP


EV Solicitation Schedule

Solicitation Release Fiscal Year
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
EVS-1 (none) EVM-1 EVI-1 EVS-2,
(none) EVM-2,
EVI-4 EVS-3 EVI-5 EVM-3,
(none) EVI-7

- EVS: Earth Venture Sub-Orbital solicitation
- EVM: Earth Venture Mission solicitation
- EVI: Earth Venture Instruments solicitation

Acquisition-specific information can be found on the Science Office for Mission Assessments website

ESSP Program Library and Information


ESSP Projects

Earth Aquarius June 10, 2011 Close Out
Earth CALIPSO April 28, 2006 Extended Operations
Earth CloudSat April 28, 2006 Extended Operations
Earth GRACE March 17, 2002 Extended Operations
Earth OCO-2 July 2, 2014 Operating
Earth OCO-3 TBD Formulation

Earth Venture Missions

Earth CYGNSS NET November 2016 Implementation

Earth Venture Instruments

Earth ECOSTRESS NLT March 21, 2018 Implementation
Earth GEDI NLT March 31, 2019 Formulation
Earth MAIA TBD Formulation
Earth TEMPO September 30, 2017 Implementation
Earth TROPICS TBD Formulation

 Earth Venture Sub-Orbital 1 Investigations

Earth AirMOSS November 19, 2010 – March 31, 2016
Earth ATTREX July 21, 2010 – July 20, 2016
Earth CARVE September 28, 2010 – March 31, 2016
Earth DISCOVER-AQ July 21, 2010 – September 30, 2015
Earth HS3 August 3, 2010 – August 3, 2016

 Earth Venture Sub-Orbital 2 Investigations

Earth ACT-America February 1, 2015 – January 31, 2020
Earth ATom April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2020
Earth CORAL August 12, 2015 – August 11, 2018
Earth NAAMES January 15, 2015 – January 14, 2020
Earth ORACLES February 1, 2015 – January 31, 2020
Earth OMG April 1, 2015 – December 31, 2020