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Benefits of Integrated Flight-Ground Software Development

Traditional approach to mission software development

The ground and space segments of a satellite project are often developed independently of each other, by different teams, or even different contractors, and at different life cycles of the mission. Traditionally, there has been a noticeable tendency to de-couple the development of these two separate systems.

Utilisation of packet data is probably the most common way to establish this separation early on. In order to efficiently operate a spacecraft, developers need to thoroughly describe the telecommand and telemetry packets that will perform exchanges between the flight and the ground sides.  This means that the spacecraft functionality and its exposure to the control centre have to be described in significant detail and then captured at packet level.

The limitations of traditional approach

However, this approach has certain downsides:

  • It offers an impoverished view of the available functionality
  • It is labour intensive and error-prone
  • it does not readily capture high-level patterns of interaction
  • it is hard to change
  • it complicates operation and automation
  • it does not scale well in terms of constellations when your space system grows

Alternative approach: GenerationOne

Our industry-leading GenerationOne technology offers an alternative solution and addresses these key challenges through a model-based and component-based approach to software engineering.

Model-based software engineering

The GenerationOne’s model-based platform provides a machine-readable description of the architecture of the system, which is understandable by both the space side and the ground side, and is used across the life cycle of the system. The central elements of this platform are software components, which are entirely self-contained and have a coherent set of functionality. They are designed to create mission-specific spacecraft flight software through our Flight Software Development Kit (FSDK) by combining bespoke components with library components which have been previously validated. 

Why choose model-based approach

The real advantage of the model-based approach is that the entire flight software package, developed through FSDK, can be quickly and easily understood by our ground system Mission Control Software (MCS).

The spacecraft database generated by each specific deployment in FSDK can be loaded up into MCS to automatically populate it with all the spacecraft components. This gives the MCS a full view of different services and the concepts of the components, which allows for easy interaction at a very high level and extensive opportunities for automated operations.

This unified approach to flight and ground software development through a shared functional architectural model brings a wide range of benefits to all aspects of missions, end-to-end and across the full life cycle:

  • It facilitates rapid interaction 
  • It improves efficiency of operations
  • It allows for light level of automation
  • It supports scalability

To find out more about our off-the-self spacecraft software products, download our FSDK datasheet or visit the MCS page. Alternatively, contact us today.