JANUARY 2020 – Having been awarded the contract to support the launch and early orbit phase (LEOP) of ESA’s new OPS-SAT cubesat, Leaf Space has been successfully supporting the mission’s ground segment with its ground station network since launch on 18 December 2019.
OPS-SAT is an ESA cubesat and the world’s first free-for-use, in-orbit testbed for new software, applications and techniques in satellite control. It enables new software to be tested in orbit, bringing Europe forward to a new era of space flight innovation and commercial opportunity.
With short notice for the radio integration of OPS-SAT’s onboard transceiver, the communication procedure was carried out and proved successful with the first acquisition of beacons from the spacecraft on 18 December, at 17:33 UTC, from Leaf Space’s ground station in Ireland.
During the LEOP phase, telemetry data have been received and telecommand information sent so as to advance the process of spacecraft commissioning. This will be followed by the start of its operational mission as an in-orbit testbed for innovative new European flight software, covering technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced autonomous planning, data compression, data and signal encryption, web services in space, laser communication, new communication protocols and flight dynamics.
Piermario Besso, Head of the Antenna and Infrastructure team at ESA’s ESOC mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, confirmed that, “The mission is now in good operational condition in no small part thanks to Leaf Space’s critical support for UHF communication with the satellite.”
The LEOP support provided to ESA for the OPS-SAT mission is part of a larger commercial agreement between the two, which includes development of two ground station sites, one of which is to be located at the Kiruna teleport. The agreement will give Leaf Space the means to prove its capabilities for mission support on the ground segment side to a large, multi-mission organization, enhancing its value as a technologically advanced partner for ESA as the Agency starts to explore the constantly growing SmallSat market.
OPS-SAT is an ESA cubesat and the world’s first free-for-use, in-orbit testbed for new software, applications and techniques in satellite control. It enables new software to be tested in orbit, bringing Europe forward to a new era of space flight innovation and commercial opportunity. As of launch, experiments will be hosted from experimenters in the UK, Spain, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Greece. Experiments are also expected from across ESA and from other European space agencies. The spacecraft’s development and launch were covered by ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) and it is operated by ESA. For more information access http://www.esa.int/opssat