You are here

Software-Only Front-End Processors for Satellite Command and Control


OBJECTIVE: Develop a reconfigurable software-only front-end system for satellite command and telemetry processing. DESCRIPTION: Technology breakthroughs have drastically increased the complexity of today"s satellites, with some satellites having upwards of 20,000 satellite telemetry points. In addition, communication technology has increased the data throughput capability across satellite links. The net effect is that the amount of satellite data that must be downlinked to the ground and de-commutated has increased drastically. Ground telemetry processing technologies have not kept abreast of the corresponding technologies enabling much greater data throughput. Specialized expensive computer hardware is thus often needed. Meeting these additional data demands is often not as simple as buying more expensive and faster computer hardware. What is needed are more innovative software approaches for performing telemetry de-commutation implementation of these approaches with reusable systems in order to lower development and operations costs. In this time of reduced budgets, many organizations are seeking affordable and flexible command and control (C2) systems in order to provide mission support for a variety of satellites. One such system is called the multi-mission satellite operation center (MMSOC) which is currently supporting a number of DoD missions. The mission suite is rapidly being expanded to include a variety of new missions from the large-scale programs to the tiny CubeSats. The variety of missions present daunting challenges: how to affordably host these missions while providing highly-tailored business models. Many new missions have need of very small equipment footprints and low acquisition cost. Scalability and portability of satellite C2 systems such as the MMSOC are overcoming the aged concepts of large, fixed C2 facilities. Satellite C2 systems, particularly those which must interface with the AFSCN, require expensive front-end processors (FEP) to process the command and telemetry streams or packets. Each FEP is comprised of a dedicated processor which requires its own space, power, and HVAC. The use of dedicated FEPs in satellite C2 systems was necessary. The real-time demands of processing the streams and precisely time-stamping the data have required a dedicated CPU. With the proliferation of multi-core CPUs operating in GHz cycles, however, there is now no reason a FEP cannot be based entirely in software and hosted on the same server as the rest of the satellite C2 system. A software-only FEP can liberate satellite C2 systems to be hosted on extremely small and affordable equipment footprints. They can also enhance super-scalability, redundancy, and failover capabilities by having any number of FEP processes running on demand. Of particular interest is the capability to run multiple software-only FEPs from a single multi-core computer. While industry has experimented with software FEPs, they have yet to be proven in the demands of a combat support system. Innovative reconfigurable low-cost software solutions are sought that will enable processing of large volumes of satellite telemetry data. PHASE I: Conduct feasibility studies/technical analysis/simulation/proof-of-concept demonstration software-only FEPs. The FEPs should demonstrate the cost savings over their hardware counterparts, to include typical life-cycle costs. Analysis of the performance and performance degradation over hardware solutions should be shown. Industry standard protocols such as CCSDS and WAN IP should be considered. PHASE II: Using the results from Phase I, construct and demonstrate use of a software-only FEP in command and control of a simulated or, if available, an experimental satellite. Demonstrate launch of FEP service on demand. Demonstrations should consider items such as: having multiple FEPs running on a multi-core CPU; and hot handover of satellite contacts between two FEPs on a single multi-core computer. PHASE III: Military Application: A modular software FEP is considered for super-scalable/affordable future military satellite C2 systems. Commercial/Civil Application: Lowering the cost of NASA/commercial/academic space experimentation by eliminating specialized hardware in the mission control system. REFERENCES: 1. N. Lay, M. Lyubarev, A. TKacenko, R. Navarro, C. Goodhart, S. Finely, K. Andrews,"Software Receiver Processing for Deep Space Telemetry Applications", IPN Progress Report 42-180, Feb 15, 2010, 2. J Muller,"Exchanging Databases with Dissimilar Systems Using CCSDS XTCE", AIAA-2006-5801, SpaceOps 2006 Conference, Rome, Italy. 3. Glenn Reinman, Brad Calder,"Optimizations Enabled by a Decoupled Front-End Architecture", IEEE Transactions on Computers, Vol 50, No.4, April 2001.
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government