Testing New Software Via Nanosat

Innovative Nanosat Will Test Space Software

"How do you test ground-breaking satellite software under real flight conditions? Why not build a satellite? A new design developed by ESA promises new opportunities for European space industry to test software on an actual mission in space. The popular image of a 21st-century satellite includes a sleek design, gossamer solar arrays, ultra-high-tech components and cutting-edge digital electronics. And the onboard software must be the very latest thing, too, right? Wrong. Or, at least, the reality is much more prosaic: software used in satellites today is certainly good, but it rarely runs the latest 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," says Dave Evans, a mission concept engineer at ESOC, ESA's European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany. "ESA is still using the Packet Utilisation Standard to control our satellites, which was defined in 1994. "Today, the software for terrestrial computers has completely changed. Who else do you know still using software from 1994? Back then, PCs were running Windows 3.1 with 3.5-inch floppy disks."

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