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 Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development
21.02.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>