samedi 20 mai 2017

EPFL software at the command of satellites

EPFL - École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne logo.

May 20, 2017

Around thirty CubeSats were deployed this week from the ISS - International Space Station. Eight of them are equipped with the software developed at EPFL as part of the Swisscube project. (EPFL = École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne).

Image above: The SwissCube, a satellite designed and made by students, was sent to space seven years ago. Image Credit: EPFL.

Code name: QB50. This European research program, launched in early 2016, aimed at deploying 50 miniaturized satellites - the CubeSats - into the Earth's orbit. Their mission is to observe and measure the "thermosphere", between 100 and 600 km above the earth's surface.

Research institutes from as many as 23 countries are participating in it, and since Monday, the International Space Station (ISS) has expelled the results of their work, the Federal Polytechnic said in a statement.

The controls

Seven years ago, EPFL itself sent SwissCube, the first Swiss satellite, designed and produced by students. If the school is not on the trip this time, it is, in a way, in command of eight of the 28 satellites that have joined the orbit this week.

"We have developed a control software - simply called Satellite Control System (SCS) - particularly lightweight and robust," says Muriel Richard, EPFL's Space Engineering Center (eSpace).

Computer code

This software allows you to encode the instructions you want to send to the satellite, to broadcast them when the satellite is flying over a base station, and then to receive feedback in a safe and automated way.

Image above: A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth's limb in the background, moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory module on Wednesday, May 16, 2017. The tiny shoebox-sized satellites will orbit Earth observing the Earth’s upper atmosphere and interstellar radiation left over from the Big Bang. Over a dozen CubeSats were ejected into Earth orbit this week outside the Kibo module to study Earth and space phenomena for the next one to two years. Image Credit: NASA.

Eight organizations from seven countries (Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Spain, Ukraine and China) have trusted the work of Swiss developers. They adapted according to their needs the computer code created at the EPFL and distributed in the open source mode.


"It's extremely positive and stimulating for our work," says Muriel Richard. The scientist points out that the software can also be used to control larger satellites.

It will be used in particular in the framework of the CleanSpace One project, a satellite that will have the task of de-orbiting Swisscube so that it does not become an additional "space debris". As for the deployment next year of the first two prototypes of a constellation of 60 nanosatellites, organized by ELSE, an EPFL start-up.

Related articles:

CubeSats Deployed Outside Station's Kibo Lab Module & Researches aboard the Station

Cleaning up Earth's orbit: A Swiss satellite tackles space debris

For more information about EPFL - Swiss Space Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ATS/EPFL/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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