ESA has announced that it has successfully operated a spacecraft using its new so-called “space brain.” The software is officially called European Ground System – Common Core (EGS-CC). The space agency says the software will be the brain of all European spaceflight operations in the years to come.
EGS-CC will provide new possibilities for how future missions from the ESA will fly. A satellite called OPS-SAT “Space Lab” is a small CubeSat launched specifically to be the test spacecraft for the new operation software. ESA says testing the software was too risky to be conducted on other missions. Interestingly, Space Lab is open to the public for experimentation as well.
Teams at the ESA ESOC Operations Center used the EGS-CC control system to monitor and control the small 30 centimeter spacecraft. Using the new software, they successfully sent commands and received data from the spacecraft. EGOS-CC project manager Klara Widegard says that the software had a successful validation and has demonstrated the exciting future mission control technologies and Europe’s leading position in space.
The ESA needed the new software as more missions are launched today than ever before. The missions are required to perform a wide variety of tasks from monitoring landmasses on Earth, the oceans, and the climate, while others are peering into deep space or grabbing debris in space and bringing it into the atmosphere to burn up. All of those missions must send data back to ground control while receiving commands and performing automated onboard tasks.
A control system able to cater to the needs of each spacecraft would consume too much time and resources. A shared infrastructure was required to allow any number of missions and mission types to share a common core minimizing the need for custom software for each mission and allowing missions to be flown by multiple operators. The software opens up the possibility to operate bigger missions collaboratively with multiple operators working in a distributed manner across countries and control centers.