Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Goodbye ground control: autonomous nanosatellites

10.02.2016

The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.

Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into space. Exploring mysterious light phenomena on the moon.


An autonomous nanosatellite detects a meteor and autonomously decides what to do next: That is the research focus of the Würzburg aerospace engineers.

(Graphic: Hakan Kayal)

These are just a few examples of unpredictable events taking place on Earth or other planets. Observing such events with satellites requires special, highly autonomous technologies. That is the focus of Professor Hakan Kayal's team at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany.

The Würzburg aerospace engineers have a plan: In future, nanosatellites, measuring around 10x10x30 cm, could permanently patrol the orbit of Earth or other planets with running cameras. When they encounter strange phenomena, they would have to decide autonomously what to do next: Just send a picture to Earth? Or is it worth observing the phenomenon and realign the camera?

Autonomous target planning is a challenge

"It is extremely challenging to put such an autonomous target planning system into practice. So far, the technology hasn't been available for nanosatellites," says Professor Kayal. According to Kayal, however, the technology is crucial for interplanetary missions, because communication with ground control takes too long.

For instance, it can take 20 minutes for a satellite to send a radio message from Mars to Earth. Until it has been decided what the satellite should do, the interesting event on Mars may already be gone.

For such missions, Kayal's team has developed ASAP, an autonomous sensor and planning system for small satellites. Its key components are to be tested in space for the first time now: The Würzburg scientists are adapting the system to SONATE, a nanosatellite set to be launched into Earth's orbit in 2019.

Automatic diagnostics system for satellites

The SONATE mission is sponsored by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt - DLR) with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. The sponsors will contribute around 1.3 million euros to the project over the next four years. Besides the ASAP system, the nanosatellite will take another novelty into orbit: ADIA/ADIA++, an automatic diagnostics system for satellites, developed by Kayal's team in cooperation with computer scientist Professor Frank Puppe from Würzburg.

"We want to use ADIA to autonomously predict potential faults and malfunctions on board satellites, find the root cause and handle it more efficiently," the professors explain. At present, troubleshooting is performed via remote control from Earth. By accelerating this process, many damages or even total losses might be avoided in future.

When testing the system during the SONATE mission, the Würzburg computer scientists will produce several faults on board the nanosatellite. Whether ADIA will be capable of recognising what is normal and what is faulty aboard the satellite remains to be seen.

Students involved in the research

Students of aerospace programmes at the University of Würzburg will have the chance to work on the SONATE project in the next four years: either as assistants or within the scope of master or bachelor theses. Professor Kayal also incorporates the topic in his lectures and seminars to create close ties between academia and state-of-the-art research.

Communicating with interplanetary satellites

NACOMI is another project that is open to students. Equally funded by the DLR with 310,000 euros from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, its focus is on developing communication technologies for nanosatellites that are on their way to other planets. The harsh space radiation is a major challenge in this context. Cosmic rays in the interplanetary space are much stronger than on an Earth orbit where the Earth's magnetic field has a protective effect.

The project is also supported by the industry. For the time being, the tests are conducted on Earth, namely in the laboratories of the Würzburg computer science department. The ultimate goal is to develop a prototype in 2018 that may get the chance to prove itself in space in a potential follow-up project.

Kayal's team is working at the front line of this project, too. "NASA is presently running a similar project, but apart from that the development in this field is in its early stages. If we complete this project successfully, Germany will benefit as a technology centre," Kayal says.

The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy supports the projects based on a decision by the Bundestag under funding code 50RM1606 (SONATE), 50RM1231 (ADIA/ADIA++) and 50YB1608 (NACOMI).

Contact

Prof. Dr. Hakan Kayal, Professor of Space Technology at the Chair of Computer Science VIII, University of Würzburg, Phone +49 931 31-86649, hakan.kayal@uni-wuerzburg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www8.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de/mitarbeiter/kayal0/ To Hakan Kayal's homepage
http://www.luft-und-raumfahrt.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de Aviation and Space Information Technology (Bachelor) at the JMU
http://www.spacemaster.uni-wuerzburg.de/ SpaceMaster: Master in Space Science and Technology at the JMU

Robert Emmerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Stable magnetic bit of three atoms
21.09.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668

nachricht Drones can almost see in the dark
20.09.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>