The chair provides the meeting of the different technologies that are being developed in a series of projects, which are closely related to each other; not so much for the similarity of their objectives, but for sharing the ultimate objective of researching and developing technologies for use in space that do not follow the patterns set by “classic space”. Classic space dictates that since space is an environment to develop and put into use, it is the result of enormous effort, once a technology has reached a stage of maturity and survival that is more than considerable in such a hostile environment. The fact of trying to change or update it meets with great opposition. Therefore, the possibilities in space quickly become obsolete, compared to the advances that can be used on Earth, both in terms of sensors, controllers, actuators …
The different projects are working on adapting more advanced technologies (both hardware and software) than the usual ones in space; the chair being the meeting point for software units, electronic units, validation techniques … and they are brought together by integrating them into the development of a satellite that makes use of them. The concept of “new space”, detailed below, is put into practice.
In each of these sections you can carry out your Final Degree Project or Master’s Thesis, or even the TFx can be about integration tasks of various hardware and software technologies, instead of participating in the development of any of them separately.
From the beginning, the work carried out around the UC3M-Sener chair revolved around the concept of “new space” … but what does it consist of?
The concept of “new space” refers to new uses and applications of technologies for use in space; applications where the extreme reliability of traditional systems is not absolutely necessary, due to the number of units per application is usually much higher. The failute of few units are not a major problem.
Also, as more demanding scenario, the market is demanding lower cost space platforms rated at same reliability. This only can be accomplished by achieving lower cost avionics and on board electronic solutions, maintaining the reliability and on space capable operation. These demanded features introduces a complex problem that present hard to develop solution.
Therefore, to meet the needs of the “new space” it is necessary to have a hardware and software ecosystem at lower costs and with easily reproducible systems. The following paragraphs summarize the characteristics of both “worlds”:
The operating environment of a space grade system is extreme and aggressive: Presence of Beta / Gamma radiation, high speed and high density particles, wide temperature range, great mechanical stress…
- Robust on design and manufacturing
- Relatively simple architectures
- Radiation is not a major problem until high accumulated doses
- Components designed to operate in a non air environment
- Fiability / Reliability is measured on demonstrated usage hours in space
- High computational systems are composed from simple systems; as a system of systems composition
- These system of systems originate high costs
- Manufactured under demand
- Each individual system contains its own program and data memory
- Hard to upgrade software
This image represents an example of a system for space, under a traditional paradigm. Each of the gray shaded items represents a separate computing device, with its own program and data memory separate from the others. The different systems are related through a communication medium or bus. Each of the systems independently is very reliable, presenting the final composite system with similar reliability, given that the relationship between the systems is only at the level of internal communications, not sharing any of their hardware or software at any time. In return, the communication between devices can reach a high degree of complexity.
Given the needs of lower costs and same reliability on the development of space platforms, typical space designed components could not be used.
- Designed to operate on Earth surface
- Radiation and wide temperature changes are a huge problem
- Complex computational devices, system of systems are generallized and available as a single component
- Designed to be ventilated by air
- There are low cost electronic components for specific tasks
- A single software for the entire system
- Not designed to operate in the space
- Survivability / Reliability of the components are not guaranteed
- Methodologies to mitigate radiation / temperature effects needs to incorporated externally to the design and manufacturing process
This image shows an example of a system of systems, it is very similar to the one exposed in the case of “traditional space”, with the difference that each of the devices is no longer an independent system, but can be understood as a task. more to be governed by a centralized processor, which can have multiple processors or threads of execution; In this paradigm, hardware resources such as program and data memory are shared, data transactions are streamlined since they are not based on a physical communication medium and an easier update of the software is allowed. On the other hand, there is no longer great reliability for each individual system, reliability now depends upon the complete system … therefore, new challenges are introduced when designing the structure of software and hardware that were not previously present. These challenges require close collaboration between multidisciplinary groups, as well groups that come from the private company world and groups related to research environments such the university. This scenenario is very well suited for the training of students in the subject of “New Space”.