EtherSpace - The new space consortium lifts off

The history of spaceflight started already quite a while ago at the early 20th century inspired by fiction writers such as Jules Verne of H.G. Wells. But at that time there hardly anybody would have thought that many years later mankind is able to look back at great achievements in space travel. Who does not know Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who were the first two men to set their feet on the Moon in 1969, with the landing of Apollo 11. Also well know is the International Space Station (ISS), the habitable artificial satellite circling the globe every one and a half hour with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km. Not only those success stories, but also big tragedies like the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986, will remain in our memories.

 

Join the EtherSpace consortium!

Open group set up in 2015.

To bring benefits of Ethernet to space!

  • Simplifies On-Board Electric/Electronic Architecture
  • Greatly Reduces Software Complexity
  • Re-uses Cross-Industry Enhancements (Deterministic
  • Ethernet, AFDX®, TSN)

Key objectives

  • Scalable Solution for All Spacecraft
  • (10 Mbps to 10 Gbps)
  • Interoperability (Standardization/CCSDS, NASA Avionics
  • Roadmap)
  • Development of European Components
  • Create Marketing Platform

Join the consortium now!

Contact: info@etherspace.eu

Background

Recent adoption of ethernet

  • Many new Ethernet based spacecraft developments (in particular nearly all new launch vehicles)
  • NASA MPCV and NASA Avionics Roadmap

Research by DLR and CNES

Promising research on deterministic Ethernet based networks for satellites like AFDX and TTEthernet

Space only? Unaffordable!

With rising development costs, space only developments for data handling have simply become unaffordable

Standards

Instead of proprietary communication profiles, standards allow modular and cheaper system design

Motivation

Since naturally Ethernet will be used in more and more space applications around the globe, what exactly is the motivation for the EtherSpace consortium? First of all there is the aspect of open standards and interoperability – as well as full compatibility with IEEE 802.3. IP providers, chip manufacturers as well as companies providing cables and connectors have to work together to establish the relevant ECSS and CCSDS standards. This fosters even faster adoption. Secondly, providing a platform for “Ethernet in space” success stories helps to promote these standards further. Finally, there are significant challenges in bringing 10 Gbps and faster Ethernet solutions to space. They will require substantial investment in the right radiation hardened Ethernet controllers and transceivers. This can more easily be shouldered by a consortium than one or two individual companies and despite recent growth the market for space grade components is still small! Consequently the consortium mid-term aims at the development of cost-competitive, standardized components with no export restrictions so they can be deployed globally.

 

Benefits for spacecraft

Complexity reduction (long-term cost saving)

  • Single network for payload and control (strictly partitioned)
  • Upgradeability/reusable platforms
  • Inherent fault-tolerance/redundancy (no complex software solution needed)
  • Simpler integration and testing
  • No industry-specific data handling
  • Full determinism and synchronized operation >> less memory required
  • Synchronization to absolute time (GPS)
  • Scalability – up to 10 Gbps
  • Weight savings (PoE)
  • Composability – larger systems/system of systems, habitats, safe separation and docking …
  • Further cost savings: Use of COTS equipment in ground segment which can be seamlessly connected (standard Ethernet)
  • Allows modular satellite system design, payload as well as control

 

Objectives of consortium

Open standard as a growing trend

Ethernet will soon be around for 40 years. It does not in the world of spacecraft where rocket engines from the 1960’s are hardly considered outdated. So just like the CAN bus which is pervasive in automotive applications and industrial control, Ethernet has only in recent years been adopted for use in spacecraft as the space industry tends to wait for technologies to mature elsewhere before adopting them (when it has a choice and in avionics it does have a choice).

Main examples for Ethernet usage in space are the International Space Station, NASA’s Orion MPCV and both Falcon launcher and Dragon capsule by SpaceX. And certainly this is just the beginning as more complex missions (e.g. Asteroid or satellite capturing) require more efficient on-board networks which ideally combine bandwidth with real-time properties to allow autonomous control functions. Deterministic Ethernet is the answer. Even in telecommunication satellites the data throughput could be optimized with a fully synchronous, high-speed Ethernet backbone.

Finally, whole new space applications just like OneWeb’s constellation will require not only the production methods of the aerospace industry, but also most likely their approach to avionics which is also based on full-duplex Ethernet.

Development of components without export restrictions

Clear focus of all development is an export free eco system. Without a doubt, given the strategic importance of space assets, it is an industrial imperative to maintain European independence on space qualified Ethernet components. This has been recognized by both ESA, which co-funds the development of radiation tolerant TTEthernet controller ASIC, and the European Commission, which funds the development of a radiation hardened 100 Mbps transceiver and a related 1 Gbps physical layer feasibility study within the framework of Horizon 2020.