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CAD drawing of OPS-SAT
Enabling & Support

OPS-SAT – Evolving Software Technology for Spacecraft Operations

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Operations

This forum will review the important steps that have led to the current state of, and presents the future outlook for, OPS-SAT.


The primary application level interface we use for ground control is the PUS (Packet Utilisation Standard). It was written over 18 years ago and has served us well. In the meantime terrestrial software, especially on mobile devices, has changed beyond all recognition and different groups at ESOC have looked at how we might evolve our own ground-space interface. They have generated many new ideas resulting in ESA patents, new standards and innovative application software. However it is always very difficult to get these techniques adopted by new missions as no-one wants to take unnecessary risk in this critical area.

OPS-SAT is the first CubeSat designed by ESA and has been designed specifically to address this issue. It is essentially a flying experimental platform on which the on-board software segment of many of these new operational concepts can be run. The platform will allow ESOC experimenters to change every aspect of the on-board software in much the same way as one installs and changes operating systems and applications on a home PC. This means experiments that are not even imagined at launch can fly. The platform will allow normal terrestrial software (e.g. LINUX and Java) to be flown by using much more powerful processors than those presently flown.

To allow a fast and cost effective development cycle, OPS-SAT will be equipped primarily with commercial off-the-shelf components such as the 3 axis attitude control system, deployable fixed solar arrays, GPS receiver and UHF communication system. However it will also integrate state of the art components such as a fully CCSDS/PUS compliant S band chain with an uplink rate four times greater than any other ESA spacecraft and a miniaturised X-band providing up to 50 Mbps downlink. These rates are up to several hundreds times better than any other CubeSat flown before.

In the first two months of 2012 a multi disciplinary design team was charged with making a detailed design for OPS-SAT in the ESA concurrent design facility (CDF). The ESOC experimenters were tightly integrated in this design process. This was the first time that ESOC had been the customer of a CDF spacecraft design project and the new experience was appreciated by all involved. An important goal for the team was to provide a design that was robust and inherently safe. On February 9th they declared the project feasible and submitted a detailed design. They estimated that the project could be achieved in just 19 months and had the same or better chance of success as a standard ESA mission. OPS-SAT is now looking for funding and launch opportunities.


David Evans (HSO-OSA) and Mario Merri (HSO-GD)

Date, time, venue

HSO Exchange presentation

Friday, 23 March 2012, 11:00-12:00
ESA/ESOC Darmstadt, H-Bldg H-IV


Participation is open to anyone.

  1. Participants from within ESOC:
    No need to register - simply join us in H-IV.


  2. Participants from other sites:
    The presentation can be made available via VC. Please register with Marita Roth.



Marita Roth, HSO Exchange Coordinator
Tel: +49 (0)6151-90-2107

Editor's note

The 'HSO Exchange' series of events was previously called the 'OPS Forum.' But not any more.

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