For the past decade, STAR-Dundee has been leading the development of the next generation of SpaceWire technology: SpaceFibre.
SpaceFibre is a high-performance, high-reliability, high-availability network technology for use onboard spacecraft.
STAR-Dundee’s efforts in developing SpaceFibre were recently rewarded with the publication of the SpaceFibre standard, “ECSS-E-ST-50-11C – SpaceFibre – Very high-speed serial link”, by the European Space Agency’s standardization body, the European Cooperation for Space Standardization.
SpaceFibre provides data signaling rates of 6.25 Gbit/s in current flight technology, over electrical or fiber optic cables, while its unique multi-laning features allow up to 16 lanes to be combined into a single link, giving a theoretical link rate of 100 Gbit/s. SpaceFibre offers much more than high data rates, however. The technology is capable of detecting, isolating and recovering from faults in the link where they occur, which prevents faults from propagating and causing further errors. SpaceFibre provides galvanic isolation, transparent recovery from transient errors, error containment in virtual channels and frames, and “Babbling Node” protection. Very versatile quality of service mechanisms allows scheduled, deterministic communication without wasting any network bandwidth.
These powerful capabilities mean that SpaceFibre is not only suitable for very high data rate payloads such as synthetic aperture radar and multi-spectral imaging instruments; it can also be used for network and equipment management and for deterministic command and control type applications. SpaceFibre allows each of these traffic types with very different requirements to share a single network, with each traffic stream operating independently within its own virtual network.
SpaceFibre has been and is being designed into its first ASICs, onboard equipment and space missions. The powerful Ramon Chips RC64 many-core DSP features STAR-Dundee IP to provide 12 SpaceFibre ports each offering up to 6.25 Gbit/s data signaling rate. SpaceFibre is being used in Europe, USA, Russia, and Japan and has been incorporated in the latest revision of the ANSI/VITA 78 SpaceVPX backplane standard.
Steve Parkes, CTO of STAR-Dundee and formerly Chair of Spacecraft Electronic Systems at the University of Dundee, wrote the SpaceFibre standard with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. STAR-Dundee has designed, implemented and tested:
The first SpaceFibre interface;
The first SpaceFibre routing switch;
The first SpaceFibre multi-lane interface;
The first SpaceWire to SpaceFibre interface device;
The first experimental SpaceFibre interface ASIC (VHiSSI);
The first SpaceFibre interfaces in a many-core processor (Ramon Chips’ RC64);
The first SpaceFibre interface in a radiation tolerant FPGA (Microsemi’s RTG4);
The first SpaceFibre routing switch in a radiation tolerant FPGA;
The first SpaceFibre multi-lane interface in a radiation tolerant FPGA;
The first SpaceFibre link analyzer;
The first SpaceFibre interface board.
In addition, STAR-Dundee has demonstrated the first complete SpaceFibre network representative of spaceflight applications and incorporating radiation tolerant technology. STAR-Dundee owns a patent on the SpaceFibre multi-lane technology, which is being freely licensed for space-related applications.
STAR-Dundee’s SpaceFibre PXIe-RTG4 board, providing 8 SpaceFibre ports, 4 SpaceWire ports and accessed from a Microsemi RTG4 FPGA (courtesy: STAR-Dundee)
STAR-Dundee SpaceFibre demonstration, including a SpaceFibre Camera with RTG4, SpaceFibre link analysis and a SpaceFibre-to-SpaceWire bridge (courtesy: STAR-Dundee)
STAR-Dundee is an aerospace engineering company which designs network and related data-handling technology for use onboard spacecraft. STAR-Dundee provides electronic test and development equipment and chip designs for spaceflight applications. The company is based in Dundee, Scotland and has a wholly owned subsidiary, STAR-Barcelona, in Barcelona, Spain.
Since 2002, STAR-Dundee has provided SpaceWire and, more recently, SpaceFibre evaluation, test, and development equipment to the world’s space agencies and aerospace companies. Our interface boards and units are used in Electronic Ground Support Equipment (EGSE) for integrating and testing many spacecraft. Our IP cores are integrated into spaceflight systems monitoring the Earth, exploring our Solar System, studying the universe and supporting commercial space applications.
STAR-Dundee is committed to providing the best possible solution to meet the requirements of each unique space mission. Our team of highly qualified and experienced engineers understands the challenges of designing systems for space applications. Our well-proven technology has flown on many high-profile space missions. Part of our commitment to our customers is the effort that we spend on the research, development, and standardization of data-handling technology. SpaceFibre is the latest manifestation of our commitment to engineering excellence and international standardization.
What is SpaceWire?
SpaceWire is a data-handling network for use onboard spacecraft, which connects together instruments, mass-memory, processors, downlink telemetry, and other onboard sub-systems. SpaceWire is simple to implement and has some specific characteristics that help it support data-handling applications in space: high-speed, low-power, simplicity, relatively low implementation cost, and architectural flexibility making it ideal for many space missions. SpaceWire provides high-speed (2 Mbit/s to 200 Mbit/s), bi-directional, full-duplex data-links, which connect together SpaceWire enabled equipment. Data handling networks can be built to suit particular applications using point-to-point datalinks and routing switches.
STAR-Dundee’s highly experienced engineers were instrumental in the development of SpaceWire, writing the ECSS standard with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. Since the standard was published in January 2003, it has been adopted by ESA, NASA, JAXA, and Roscosmos for many missions and is being widely used on scientific, Earth observation, commercial and other spacecraft. High-profile missions using SpaceWire include Gaia, ExoMars Rover, BepiColombo, James Webb Space Telescope, GOES-R, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and ASTRO-H.
What is SpaceFibre?
SpaceFibre is a spacecraft on-board data-link and network technology developed by STAR-Dundee and the University of Dundee for the European Space Agency (ESA), with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. It runs over both electrical and fiber optic cables and is the next generation of the widely used SpaceWire technology, offering higher throughput, lower mass and new capabilities including quality of service (QoS) and fault detection, isolation and recovery (FDIR). Initially targeted at very high data rate payloads such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and multi-spectral imaging instruments, SpaceFibre is capable of fulfilling a wider set of spacecraft onboard communications applications because of its inbuilt QoS and FDIR capabilities and its backward compatibility with the ubiquitous SpaceWire technology.
SpaceFibre provides high performance: 6.25 Gbit/s in the Xilinx Kintex UltraScale FPGA, 3.125 Gbit/s in the Microsemi RTG4 and Xilinx Virtex-5QV FPGAs, and 2.5 Gbits/s in the Microsemi RTAX. Multi-laning can be used to achieve much higher data rates, e.g. 40 Gbit/s, sufficient for most, if not all, spacecraft on-board data-handling operations including SAR and high-resolution, multi-spectral imaging instruments.
The SpaceFibre Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms uses virtual channels to provide multiple independent communication channels over a single physical link. Each channel provides priority, bandwidth reservation and scheduled QoS. These QoS mechanisms operate together, resulting in very versatile QoS which also provides scheduled, deterministic communication without wasting any network bandwidth.
SpaceFibre FDIR detects, isolates and recovers from faults in the link where they occur, which prevents faults from propagating and causing further errors. The FDIR capability of SpaceFibre provides galvanic isolation, transparent recovery from transient errors, error containment in virtual channels and frames, and “Babbling Node” protection.
Low latency broadcast messages are provided in SpaceFibre which enable the rapid signaling of events, reporting of errors, and distribution of system time information.
Very importantly, SpaceFibre is backward compatible with existing SpaceWire equipment at the Network level allowing simple interconnection of existing SpaceWire devices into a SpaceFibre network and enabling that legacy equipment to take full advantage of the QoS and FDIR capabilities of SpaceFibre.