Orbital Express system employs AiTech Defense Systems’ computers, PCI boards

Representatives of Aitech Defense Systems in Chatsworth, Calif., reported that the company’s computers and peripheral component interconnect (PCI) boards are at work aboard the Orbital Express system, supporting an on-orbit demonstration led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.

Representatives of Aitech Defense Systems in Chatsworth, Calif., reported that the company’s computers and peripheral component interconnect (PCI) boards are at work aboard the Orbital Express system, supporting an on-orbit demonstration led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.

Orbital Express is part of a DARPA program aimed at demonstrating autonomous on-orbit spacecraft servicing capabilities. It consists of two spacecraft: the Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations (ASTRO) vehicle, developed by The Boeing Company, and NextSat, a prototypical modular next-generation serviceable client satellite developed by Ball Aerospace.

Aitech provided the first-generation computers for ASTRO that included several types of Aitech’s space-qualified, radiation-tolerant 3U CompactPCI boards.

Integration of Aitech’s computers and PCI boards with Orbital Express is an achievement for the embedded computing industry in developing autonomous, robotic commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) in-space subsystems. “It brings the promise of COTS to space,” explains a company representative.

The ASTRO computers (AC-1, AC-2, and AC-3) are based on Aitech’s 3U CompactPCI-based product line, including the PowerPC-based 3U S950 single-board computer (SBC), various analog and digital I/O boards, a subsystem enclosure, and power supplies.

The computers include the command and data-handling spacecraft control computer, the robotic docking computer, and the replaceable avionics insertion computer that will dock ASTRO with NextSat.

In the same United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle containing four additional experimental (microsatellite) spacecraft, Aitech deployed the space-rated S210 VMEbus SBC for the U.S. Air Force STP-Sat1 satellite.

For more information, visit Aitech online at www.rugged.com.

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