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: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Related Stories

Roar of China's 'Great Cannon' heard across the internet

Apr 15, 2015

China has once again surprised researchers by unleashing what has been dubbed its "Great Cannon" – a cyber weapon that has in recent weeks brought down several websites including the Github software code repository and GreatFire, an activist group working against censorship in China ...

Plucky Roku updates streaming gadgets in battle with big boys

Apr 14, 2015

You just have to cheer for a company like Roku. The plucky Saratoga, Calif., electronics company is going up against some of the biggest tech companies in the world. In the market for streaming media players, the small, inexpensive ...

Recommended for you

Can sound help us detect 'earthquakes' on Venus?

Apr 23, 2015

Detecting an "earthquake" on Venus would seem to be an impossible task. The planet's surface is a hostile zone of crushing pressure and scorching temperatures—about 874 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead—that ...

Titan's atmosphere useful in study of hazy exoplanets

Apr 23, 2015

With more than a thousand confirmed planets outside of our solar system, astronomers are attempting to identify the atmospheres of these distant bodies to determine if they could possibly host life.

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.