Space Engineering

Space is what really gets us fired up. We are passionate about the space industry and many year’s experience working in a number of different fields. This breadth allows us to tackle some fascinating R&D projects crossing software, hardware and other disciplines. Maybe it’s our academic background, but we believe that wide collaboration is not just exciting but essential for building better technologies and solutions. This has lead our staff to be involved in a number of international organisations in the space industry, promoting standards and interoperability.

Our experience, and interests, in the wider areas of space engineering (beyond software and hardware) include:

  • communications, to and from the spacecraft but especially onboard, between the various subsystems;
    more intelligent ways to build space systems quickly, including the application of ‘plug-and-play’ technologies to space;
  • model-based engineering, applied to largely to software, but also hardware and complete systems;
  • space environment simulation, including planet surface simulation and simulation of challenging operating conditions such as in-orbit rendezvous.

Case study: SpaceWire Plug-and-Play

SpaceWire is a high-speed network communications standard for use on board spacecraft. It is typically used for connecting elements of the spacecraft which are responsible for handling payloads and payload data, such as mass memories, processing units and downlinks. Despite being a relatively recent technology (in space terms, at least), the standard has been widely accepted and is flying on spacecraft developed all over the world.

One of the many benefits of SpaceWire is its relative simplicity: the hardware and software necessary to implement and operate a SpaceWire link are small. Whilst a level of interoperability is provided by following the SpaceWire standard, there is no standard ability for ‘plug-and-play’ style automatic detection of devices or their functions. This capability is relevant to space systems during both development and operation. Even within the typical static communications network onboard a spacecraft, a standard way of determining that the available devices, and they way they are interconnected, are just as expected can contribute greatly to more robust and interoperable fault detection, isolation and recovery (FDIR).

Bright Ascension staff have taken a leading role in the development of a network management, or plug-and-play, standard for SpaceWire. Currently we are responsible for authoring a draft standard and sit on the international steering committee for SpaceWire.