Series 9 – Episode 7 – Software systems in the space sector
Paige West spoke with Miha Vitorovic, Head of Space and Harshraj Raiji (Raj), Project Manager for Space at Cosylab about software systems in the space sector.
Cosylab is a high-tech company that started working in the field of large scientific experiments. It started with a team of student physicists working on control systems for particle accelerators. From there, it has grown to a company of over 300 people. It now works with world’s most precise, complex, and unique systems – for example, quantum systems for particle accelerators.
Software is one of the core systems any space mission needs to succeed. “What we’re seeing [from the space sector] is a push in the space software development to adopt more modern software development paradigms, and also to focus on standardisation and reusability,” said Vitorovic. “In addition to this, we see a desire to use the same software solution in all different phase from the development and assembly integration and testing all the way to the post-launch phase.”
In March 2022, Cosylab organised the conference discussion “Enabling reliable infrastructure for laser communications between space and ground” at the Paris Space Week 2022. During this conference, Cosylab tried to shed some light on what free space optical communications or laser communication is specifically. “We focused on communicating directly from the ground to orbit – what we can expect from these communications and what are its limitation,” said Vitorovic.
One of the questions that arose from this discussion was, why use laser communications in space? As Raiji explains: “Compared to radio frequency communication, laser communication packs data onto carrier waves which are the upper end of the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
“What this means is much shorter wavelengths. Shorter wavelengths mean higher bandwidth, allowing for more data to be transmitted over a single pass or single link. A smaller wavelength also means a very narrow beam divergence, this reduced beam spread means an increase in the intensity of the received power of the beam.”
Vitorovic and Raiji go on to speak about Optical Ground Stations and their engineering challenges as well as what demands they predict will come from the space sector in the next five to 10 years.