Space age engineers to verify control software for future robotic interplanetary missions

Aug 20, 2008
Artist's view of a future Mars Sample Return ascent module lifting off from Mars' surface with the Martian soil samples. Picture courtesy of ESA

An international team of engineers is to develop mission-critical control software for future European robotic space missions, it has been announced.

Dr. Declan Bates, a senior lecturer in the University of Leicester Department of Engineering, is part of an international consortium that has won €250K from the European Space Agency to develop new verification and validation techniques for next-generation satellite systems.

Dr. Bates will lead a team of researchers from the Control and Instrumentation Research Group on a two year project which aims to radically improve the reliability of the mission-critical control software required for the successful rendezvous of groups of satellites. The other members of the consortium are the Spanish advanced technology company GMV, the Canadian company NGC Aerospace, and the University of Oxford.

Dr. Bates said: "Leicester's involvement in this major research project is a direct result of our international reputation for research on the analysis of safety-critical control software.

"Future ESA missions, like the autonomous robotic satellites which will collect and return samples from the surface of Mars, require control systems involving complex requirements, system architectures, software algorithms and hardware implementations. A typical example is the design of a collision avoidance mode requiring a minimum separation distance between 'chaser' and 'target' satellites.

"Key elements for the development of such autonomous rendezvous control systems are the availability of reliable analysis tools for the verification and validation of complex system behaviour. It is essential to show that the control system is sufficiently robust to ensure the desired safety levels under a large number of adverse and unforeseen conditions.

"In this new project, we will develop and test control system analysis techniques to improve the reliability and efficiency of this verification and validation process."

Dr Bates added:

"This latest project is the third major research contract we have recently been awarded by ESA, and confirms that the Leicester Control Group is now at the forefront of European research on Space Control Systems."

Source: University of Leicester

Explore further: Spacewalking astronauts finish extensive, tricky cable job

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Radar sensors support parking management

Feb 26, 2015

Siemens is researching the use of sensor networks in an advanced parking management solution that will hopefully counter the increasing parking space crisis in cities. The online magazine Pictures of the ...

Scientific spring in isolated Antarctica

Feb 24, 2015

In Antarctica, the crew of the French–Italian Concordia research station are preparing for the winter. They have to survive six months of complete isolation – four in darkness because the Sun never rises ...

Recommended for you

NASA spacecraft nears historic dwarf planet arrival

5 hours ago

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters ...

Why we see familiar-looking objects in Mars topology

11 hours ago

What is up with the fossils on Mars? Found – a dinosaur skull on Mars? Discovered – a rat, squirrel or gerbil on Mars? In background of images from Curiosity, vertebrae from some extinct Martian species? ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.