European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed the Operations Satellite (Ops-Sat), which is designed to allow controlled testing and validation of critical onboard and ground software. Software used in satellites typically does not run state-of-the-art operating systems, languages, or interfaces. "Space software is generally older because it is selected for its proven, rock-solid reliability, rather than its use of the latest and newest programming technologies," notes ESA researcher Dave Evans. He says one of the major hurdles to providing updated software for use in space is the lack of opportunities to test new tools, systems, and procedures. It is difficult and expensive to replicate in-orbit conditions using an Earth-bound simulator. "The secret behind the Ops-Sat design is that the satellite is easily recoverable from the effects of ‘buggy’ software and we use commercial, off-the-shelf processors to provide increased computing power compared to normal spacecraft," Evans says. Ops-Sat software could be ready to launch by early 2015, says ESA researcher Mario Merri.
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