Overview

OS-VOLT is a circa €12 Mn project within ESA’s Versatile Optical Laboratory for Telecommunications. Led by Craft Prospect Ltd. for the Telecom Directorate of ESA under the ScyLight programme, the project is designed to evaluate and test radical new real-time techniques and technologies in low Earth orbit. It will incorporate a range of onboard cutting-edge solutions, including Quantum Key Distribution space hardware and autonomous operations software.

OS-VOLT is expected to demonstrate several capabilities as part of services for quantum key distribution, high-speed optical communications, hyperspectral imagery capture with onboard AI processing and software-defined payload experimentation through a secure reconfigurable high-performance computing system.

Our end-to-end suite of software products called HELIX will form the foundation for the OS-VOLT/Bright Ascension partnership.

Software development

Upstream

As part of the consortium, we are leading software development for the upstream side of the mission. Our HELIX Flightkit is used to ensure that onboard software is developed quickly, risk-free and within the tight budget constraints. Flexible software-defined operations are enabled by the use of our HELIX App execution environment, integrated with the high performance compute platform through Flightkit components. Once developed, our HELIX Test solution will take the software package through the entire operational cycle to help identify any actionable intelligence to ensure safety of system and the best quality of operational processes. As the spacecraft reaches the orbit, it will be operated via our HELIX Ops, which is designed to reduce the complexity and cost of operations through extensive automation capabilities and tight integration with the flight side.

Downstream

The most innovative and cutting-edge part of the OS-VOLT software development is the downstream service delivery solution. The project includes an extensible and customisable HELIX Infinity platform to provide secure high-level tasking capabilities for a number of anchor customers. It will allow end users to shape and define their data requests based on a specific set of criteria to then be processed onboard or on the ground via mission add-ons, developed through our HELIX Appkit.

Mission challenges

Security

In recent years, the demand for assured cybersecure communications has become significantly more apparent with safe data delivery being one of the “hot” topics within the industry. OS-VOLT includes the development of a responsive operations platform for an AI-powered Quantum Key Distribution solution that will ensure the highest levels of encryption and security. The project also involves a considerable amount of onboard autonomy though software-defined onboard data processing which helps establish secure end-to-end communication, avoiding the cloud.

Efficiency

One of the outcomes of OS-VOLT is provision of climate and forestry monitoring services for Resilience Constellation, the mission’s largest client. Delivered data will be used to provide insights on effective climate mitigation for conclusive decision-making by governments, financial institutions, businesses and civil society. The monitoring data will be gathered through the onboard hyperspectral imager, but most of the measurements will performed on the edge by the onboard software add-ons, developed through HELIX Appkit. Resilience Constellation will be able to define and refine their monitoring requirements through our web-based HELIX Infinity portal. This set-up will enable the space system to work significantly more efficiently for faster data processing and delivery.

Adaptability

OS-VOLT also aims to essentially create a type of a “flying laboratory” for ESA. It will enable the space agency to develop various and numerous software experiments using optical communications and the onboard hyperspectral imager. HELIX Infinity will provide a web-based portal where end users will be able to control and task the satellite through its software-defined capability. HELIX Infinity will also allow easy and straightforward integration with existing data sets on the ground for additional, further or more optimised data processing.

Scalability

Across the three core services to be demonstrated on the OS-VOLT mission, a common need is the ability to bridge upstream and downstream, breaking down barriers to efficiency and adaptability whilst retaining end-to-end security. By functioning as continuous software infrastructure, the combined HELIX suite of products will demonstrate an increased ease of access to upstream facilities for downstream applications, leading to decreased total cost of ownership for a service and offering the potential to unlock a wide range of future applications for single-satellite to large or multi-constellation use.

Outcome

OS-VOLT is a multi-year project which is currently in development, but it’s a true vote in confidence in our HELIX suite of software solutions on the part of a large number of stakeholders. It demonstrates our capabilities both in terms of proven upstream technology, that has been tried and tested on over 50 spacecraft in orbit, but also in the context of downstream service delivery, only made possible through tight and straightforward integration between the flight and the ground side.

 

Products used in OS-VOLT Development

 

HELIX Flightkit for quick and reliable onboard software development

– HELIX Test for operationally representative end-to-end testing

– HELIX Groundkit for quick assembly of a bespoke and fully integrated ground system

HELIX Ops for autonomous and easy-to-use operations

– HELIX Appkit for the development of mission specific add-ons to be deployed and executed onboard or by Ops/Infinity on the ground

– HELIX Infinity for high-level tasking and monitoring, as well as integration with 3rd party data sets

 

HELIX offers unparalleled benefits to a large number of companies – whether they are building their first demonstration mission, a large constellation or even delivering services and insights without owning or operating actual space assets.

Contact us to discuss what HELIX can do for you.