Space project management

Space project management

Author: Elena Galletti

Space project management Branch describes the Key elements of project planning and implementation and identifies the top level requirement and products that together provide a coherent and integrated project planning across the tree ECSS branches.

The ECSS standards are a set of standards aimed at harmonising the methods used and the processes followed across all European activities in the space sector.

The initiative

ECSS stands for European Cooperation for Space Standardization, which is the initiative that is in charge of developing, implementing and maintaining the standards. ECSS is composed of several agencies and companies that supports it actively, namely the European Space Agency and a number of national space organizations (the Italian, French, German, UK, Dutch and Norwegian space agencies/offices).

The Canadian space agency is also an Associate Member of ECSS. On the industry side, the industry is represented by Eurospace, which is the trade association of the European Space Industry. Finally, there exist observers which provide recommendations and expertise feedback. Currently the entities that play the role of observers are the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Commission (EC), and the Europe Defense Agency (EDA) (ECSS Members, 2021).

The scope

The initiative was established in 1993 to address the increasing suffering of the European industry due to the multiplicity of standards and requirements across European space institutions, which was officially expressed from Eurospace to ESA and CNES in the form of a request to standardise the requirements with respect to product assurance (W. Kriedte, 1995).

Today, the scope and objectives of ECSS are defined by one of the policy standards (ECSS-P-00C, 2013)

The most relevant objectives encompass improving the competitiveness of the European space sector, making Space project management more cost effective, improving their quality and safety and facilitating communication within the sector. This is achieved by providing a set of documents and standards that reflect user needs and feedback as well as state-of-the-art technology and practices.

It is worth remarking that ECSS does not assess nor certify the compliance of a specific party to its standards, nor is any organization obliged to follow them. The way the initiative fosters the use of the ECSS system is by making the documents available worldwide, by promoting it at conferences and events, by liaising with standards development organizations and by providing trainings. It is up to the party that wants to apply them to include them in the contract or any other type of legally binding document to be able to ensure their use and application.

The classification

Space project management; the standards of the ECSS system cover four main topics and are therefore classified into four main groups, namely:

  • The Engineering standards (identified by the letter E)
  • The Management standards (identified by the letter M)
  • The Product Assurance standards (identified by the letter Q)
  • The Sustainability standards (identified by the letter U)

Within the ECSS document tree (ECSS Document Tree and Status, 2021), each of these groups represents a branch, and each branch is further divided into disciplines.

Each discipline is identified by a code composed of the branch’s letter and a two-digit number.

It should be said that the ECSS documentation does not only comprise standards (STs). In fact, there are other document types: handbooks (HBs), technical memoranda (TMs), adoption notices for standards (ASs) and adoption notices for handbooks (AHs). Knowledge of this is quite useful to correctly interpret which type of document and from which discipline we are dealing with from its document code, which has the following format:


Besides the four core branches mentioned above, the ECSS system includes:

  • ECSS General and System documents (identified by the letter S)
  • ECSS Policy documents (identified by the letter P)
  • ECSS Configuration and Information Management documents (identified by the letter D)

For such documents, the code format is simpler as it does not include the document type:

ECSS-P-00 and ECSS-D-00-.

For the full classification of the ECSS documents into branches and disciplines, the reader can refer to (ECSS Document Tree and Status, 2021).


  • ECSS Document Tree and Status. (2021). Retrieved from ECSS Official Website:
  • ECSS Members. (2021). Retrieved from ECSS Official Website:
  • ECSS-P-00C. (2013, 03 22). Retrieved from ECSS Official Website:
  • Kriedte, Y. E. (1995). A New Approach to European Standards. Retrieved from ESA Bulletin:
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