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.