Space software in spotlight at global workshop in Darmstadt
In May, experts will meet to review the latest trends and technologies in space software at the third European Ground System Architecture Workshop. Many of these applications use commercial-standard open-source licensing and are being adopted by industries far outside the specialised field of spacecraft operations.
When a new mission is developed, built and launched, a lot of attention usually falls on the hardware – including the main structures, thrusters, radio antenna, solar array and sophisticated instruments – that enable the spacecraft to gather vital data. But that’s only part of what’s needed to make the mission work.
Ground segment: enabling satellite contact with Earth
On Earth, engineers must also spend many months developing a complex ‘ground segment’, the computers and networks that enable mission controllers to operate the satellite, send commands and receive the scientific data as quickly as possible.
The ground segment requires very high-quality software databases, tools and applications to make everything work, ensuring that commands can be generated and issued quickly and correctly and that no precious data are lost.
40 years of ground segment development
Through more than four decades of ground segment development for more than 60 missions, experts at ESOC, ESA’s Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany, have developed some of the world’s best satellite control and operations software.
Today, in addition to powering dozens of ESA and partner agency missions, ESA’s ground segment tools and applications are being shared with European industry under innovative, royalty-free licensing schemes.
“This places ESA in the forefront of European development expertise. We are also making use of low-cost, high-quality off-the-shelf tools to continuously improve our family of software products,” says Nestor Peccia, responsible for ground segment software development and exploitation at ESOC.
On 10–11 May, ESOC will host the third European Ground System Architecture Workshop (3rd ESAW), with 200 delegates expected to discuss the latest research and development results, the newest software technologies, best practises and trends for the future.
Confirmed attendees include representatives from ESA, the French, Germany and Italian space agencies, NASA, Immarsat, Eutelsat and European and US industry including Aerospace Corp., SES Astra and EADS, some of the world’s top space engineering firms.
Improving ground data systems in Europe
“ESAW 2011 will also examine how we can improve ground data systems in Europe under a comprehensive vision for cooperation. We really want to take advantage of commonalities and discuss how all stakeholders can work toward a common vision,” says Peccia.
In recent years, software, data systems and tools originally developed by ESA for controlling missions in orbit have enjoyed increasing adoption by other industries, including airlines, telecom operators and other government agencies.
“For example, simulation tools and techniques first developed for space are now being used by pharmaceuticals, airlines and defence ministries,” Peccia adds.
The ESAW Workshop will cover all aspects of spacecraft ground systems with a special focus on collaboration and common solutions. Sessions will address architecture, methodologies, services, lessons learnt, business cases and advanced technologies including: software, security and automation.