embedded world 2013: Computers for space

Release from Wed., February 13, 2013

When carrying out maneuvers in space, such as docking with a space station or landing on another planet, spacecraft must operate with extreme accuracy. In order to do this, sensors capture a flood of data that has to be processed in real time. To this end, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS have developed an on-board computer for spacecraft. This system can be seen at embedded world 2013, which takes place in Nuremberg from the 26th to the 28th of February.

Berlin, 13 February 2013 – In order for a spacecraft to 'see' and not veer off course, the sensors have to detect a variety of data that is processed by an on-board computer. This computer must be not only particularly efficient, but also able to withstand the harsh conditions of space. As part of the MUSE project (multi-core architecture for sensor-based location tracking in space), Fraunhofer researchers have developed an on-board computer, which uses modern multi-core processors to achieve an extremely high computing power and thus improved the positioning and steering of spacecraft.

They have also developed efficient fault-tolerance mechanisms to detect and resolve sporadic data corruption, which can occur as a result of space radiation. Furthermore, the on-board computer has minimal power, weight, space and cooling requirements. The system is based on the P4080 multi-core processor from the manufacturer Freescale, which is highly integrated and extremely robust. The P4080's eight cores are used not only to maximize the computing power, but also in the implementation of powerful fault-tolerance mechanisms. Fraunhofer researchers have developed sophisticated algorithms for location detection especially for multi-core architectures. With the help of these algorithms, critical calculations can be carried out redundantly on different processor cores and the results can be reliably compared.

At embedded world, the researchers from Fraunhofer FOKUS will demonstrate how the MUSE computer carries out a comparison between 2D data taken by a camera of a lunar surface and a previously stored landing point. Due to the modular structure of the MUSE hardware, the system can also easily be used as a basis for other demanding control tasks.

We look forward to your visit at the Fraunhofer joint stand in Hall 5, Stand 228. We would also be happy to arrange an appointment for a personal meeting in advance.