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What is HELIX?

In a landscape where there is a renewed interest in integrated mission software, it’s worth exploring the concept of HELIX.

What is Helix?

HELIX is a suite of nine products offered by Bright Ascension that cater for those who need an integrated end-to-end space software solution from flight software development, test and operations and right through to using space-based data and services to provide insights and analytics to end users.

All HELIX products are built around an innovative technology that is based on software components fused together with a model-driven approach where information about these components and their functionality is shared across different software systems both on spacecraft and on the ground. These components comprise the basis of the software product, and they are a complete unit with a unified purpose.

HELIX uses both pre-validated library components, which permit users to quickly cover the core functionality of the system and custom-made component, that focus on the development of bespoke functionality, unique to their specific mission.

What does HELIX do?

Space software is essentially the “glue” that underpins everything and holds the entire system together – both on spacecraft and on the ground. Any space company needs to ensure that the software is quick to develop, easy to operate and maintain, robust and stable and helps to maximise the use of available resources.

But the key and currently unaddressed challenge is to keep up with inevitably changing requirements – such as new hardware, new software updates or new technology – and to make sure that all parts of the complex flight-ground software system work seamlessly. This challenge doesn’t just end during development; it extends as systems move on, become operational, and enter the commercial market. 

Many of the challenges in the downstream or service delivery sector stemmed from inefficient integration, communication, and a lack of understanding of the space-based aspect of the system, also known as the upstream sector.

It’s not enough to just make the ground side and flight side “talk” to each other. Technical and commercial drivers in the industry push towards a high level of heterogeneity. The real challenge lies in consistently providing services and maintaining this complex, often disjointed system over time as it naturally evolves and undergoes changes.

The HELIX suite of products is designed to bridge the upstream and downstream sectors through what is called the midstream. It covers and tightly connects three critical sectors in the space industry.

In the upstream sector, it makes sure space software is quick to develop, easy to integrate into the existing system and simple to operate with lower risk and at lower cost.

In the midstream sector, it helps to optimise and improve the delivery and management of space-based services through seamless integration with the space-based side.

And finally, in the downstream sector, it provides an easy-to-use access to space data that helps to make the most of space services for delivering insights and applications to end-users.

So, it’s essentially an all-encompassing solution that spans the entire spectrum of space operations.

Why is HELIX a great addition when planning a mission?

Satellite missions depend on software packages which can be costly and overly complex for no particular reason. HELIX is a great straightforward solution for those planning a mission or using space-based data for service delivery for a number of reasons:  

  1. HELIX saves significant cost across development/operations and visibly reduces total cost of ownership by at least a factor of 2.
  2. Given the main elements of the HELIX technology are reusable components optimised for endless combinations of software units, it offers a high level of innovation and creativity. These components function as building blocks which accelerate the production of more reliable and cost-effective software packages.
  3. On top of this, the component-based nature of HELIX means that existing software can be reused in future missions, saving time on future work and avoiding the need to start from scratch. Additionally, this framework is intended to be incredibly versatile and adaptable, giving users the freedom to combine many pre-made and custom software components quickly and reliably.
  4. There are always unforeseen circumstances when it comes to mission planning, and HELIX is perfect for responding to potential changes in the development process because its component-based structure offers flexibility and adaptability.  
  5. HELIX is an extremely scalable suite of products as relevant changes can be made in response to new requirements, functionality or hardware. This allows those planning a mission to support evolving space systems, as it is easy to extend or build new Helix applications. It is also exceptionally flexible to support extensive configuration or integration with third-party software.
  6. Component-based structure allows to develop the flight package rapidly, which means users can take advantage of early access to software for testing and integration or operations development.
  7. There is also less risk associated with this product because the components are authenticated with extensive flight-heritage and over 40 satellites in orbit.

HELIX manages to bridge the gap between current fragmented and flawed space software systems by creating the ultimate end-to-end single space system.

What’s included in the Helix suite?

There is a whole host of development kits, downstream platforms, and ready-made products that are offered to users under the umbrella of HELIX .

Development kits include a Flightkit, Groundkit, Appkit and Simkit, whereas ready-made products include Ops, Infinity, Test, Edge and Analytics. Downstream platforms include Infinity.

Flightkit

The Flightkit consists of components and services that can be used repeatedly for assembling complete flight software systems.

Groundkit

Groundkit is a library of reusable components and services for assembling complete ground software systems.

Appkit

Appkit allows customers to develop mission add-ons as platform-agnostic apps, and these can be executed on the satellite, or by Ops or Infinity on the ground.

Simkit

SimKit consists of reusable components and services for putting together complete operational and functional simulator systems.

Ops

In terms of ready products, Ops is a catalogue of applications for straightforward mission operations. They are scalable, from single satellites to multiple constellations are created to reduce the cost of operations.

Test

Test is an all-encompassing, mission-focused solution that is operationally representative. It recognises and points out actionable intelligence, guarantees safety of system and operational procedures and enhances operational quality.

Edge

Edge is a platform-specific, pre-built flight software application which offers a basic payload interface and the inherent capabilities to run apps.

Analytics

Analytics is an integrated dashboard which can be used to outline status and upcoming passes, as well as facilitating aggregation, filtering, and assessment of live and historical data relating to Ops, Test and Infinity.

Infinity

As a downstream platform, infinity is a white-label software solution that can be configured to allow clients to present their users with an easy-to-use web-based solution. It can be used to gain entry to their space-related services regardless of application domain.

What are the benefits of having an integrated mission software?

Integrated mission software is advantageous as it helps to reduce the likelihood of mistakes during a mission, it requires a lot less engineering effort to develop, test, operate and deliver on mission goals, which untimately makes it significantly more efficient and cost-effective.

Ready to experience the benefits of Helix?

Currently, there is high demand to produce space software quickly and at low cost.

With ready-to-use components and functions, Helix from Bright Ascension is the only choice when it comes to planning a mission.

To discover how our modular space software technology and integrated solutions can help you simplify and streamline your space mission development and operation, contact us today.