Tag Archive for: ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has initiated a demonstration project in collaboration with Marple, a German technology firm, to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite data for certifying organic cotton farms in India and preventing fraud. The project aims to train Marple’s software to analyze imagery from ESA’s Sentinel-2 satellites, which orbit the Earth in a polar trajectory, to identify cotton fields across India and classify them based on their cultivation method.

Marple previously tested this software in Uzbekistan, achieving a 98% accuracy in distinguishing between organic and conventional cotton. Now, the project will be conducted in partnership with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a non-profit organization that sets a voluntary global standard for the textile industry.

The demonstration in India is particularly important for enhancing the accuracy of the software, as the country has diverse climatic conditions, a prevalence of small fields, and intercropping practices that can make distinguishing organic cotton more challenging. The software leverages a range of sensors to collect data on vegetation, water, soil, and other indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which measures the health and density of vegetation.

The project aims to demonstrate how AI and satellite data can streamline the certification process for organic cotton farms, ensuring the authenticity of organic produce and combating fraud in the industry.

The initial outcomes from the project in India are anticipated to be available by the end of the year, and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) intends to utilize these results to enhance yield estimations. The project aims to identify cotton fields with traditional and environmentally friendly farming practices, including smaller farms that may operate without organic certification. If fields certified as organic are found to have failed to meet the required criteria, they will be flagged for investigation prior to harvesting their cotton.

One of the challenges in the organic sector is the lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which fraudulent practices have impacted the industry. Additionally, there is currently no reliable data source regarding the number of organic cotton farms in India, making it difficult to accurately assess the quantity of organic cotton being cultivated and its origins.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is co-financing the project in India through its Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) program in collaboration with GOTS. They have allocated approximately 500,000 euros ($535,000) to support the demonstration, which utilizes satellite data and artificial intelligence to verify organic cotton farms and address fraud within the industry.

Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract to develop quantum technologies based on another push by the European Space Agency (ESA) to use the behavior of subatomic particles to make communications more secure. 

The European satellite maker has said that it is leading a consortium called TeQuantS, which aims to develop technologies that are needed to demonstrate quantum communication links from space in three years.

These links are projected to be more secure than conventional networks by using the entanglement properties of photons, because any attempt to intercept them would change their state.

According to Thales, Terrestrial quantum communication networks using fiber optic cables are limited to about 150 kilometers and satellites are better suited for using these capabilities over longer distances.

According to Chinese state media, the Micius satellite China launched in 2016 was the first quantum-enabled spacecraft.

NASA and startups including Singapore’s SpeQtral are also exploring space-based quantum capabilities to protect communications from increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks, such as by quantum computers.

The overall contract ESA awarded TeQuantS is worth around 10 million euros ($11 million), said Mathias Vanden Bossche, director of research, technology and product policy at Thales Alenia Space.

Bossche told SpaceNews via email, that this amount covers the first phase lasting 12 months, to start technology qualifications that could lead to a potential demonstration in 2026.

It is part of ESA’s multi-pronged approach to advance quantum communications technology, notably under a framework called EuroQCI (European Quantum Communication Infrastructure.)

Two groups have secured contracts under the EuroQCI framework to study quantum communication architectures: One led by Airbus and another by German telco Deutsche Telekom.

EuroQCI covers many projects ranging from ground to space segments. The main objective is to define the overall architecture of quantum-based networks and set up terrestrial test beds.

TeQuantS is focusing on technology developments for the space segment, Bossche said, and targets a wider scope than EuroQCI.

And unlike an ESA project led by satellite operator SES aiming to develop a satellite to test the distribution of quantum encryption keys for cryptography, he said TeQuantS will also study ways to connect quantum computers and quantum sensors in a multipurpose network.

While quantum key distribution (QKD) is important for security, he said generic networks will need to be able to support the many applications and greater performance promised by quantum information networking

“These generic networks are the real at-stake and challenge of quantum communications,” Bossche added.

“Overall, the Thales Alenia Space project is the first project that addresses quantum information networks in space.”

The TeQuantS consortium comprises Airbus, seven smaller firms and startups, and two research laboratories.

The ESA (European Space Agency) is making efforts to restore operations of the Sentinel-1B radar imaging satellite that malfunctioned more than sic months ago and will instead move up the launch of a replacement.

ESA said in a statement that the agency and the European Commission, partners on the Copernicus series of Earth observation satellites, had given up trying to restore the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payload on Sentinel-1B and was ending the spacecraft’s mission more than six years after its launch. That payload malfunctioned in December 2021 and ESA has been working since then to try to recover it.

summary of the investigation into the SAR payload failure concluded that two 28-volt power regulators for the SAR payload malfunctioned. One is needed to operate the payload. Efforts to restore them failed other than one case in April when the main regulator turned on for 4.4 seconds before turning off again. That provided “valuable observations to identify possible failure modes,” the summary stated.

The report concluded the most likely reason the power regulators failed was “a potential leakage of a ceramic capacitor” found in both regulators that had to be replaced during manufacturing and testing of the payload. The replacement was soldered in a way that may have damaged it.

“The conclusion drawn by the Anomaly Review Board is that it is impossible to recover the 28V regulated bus of the satellite’s C-band synthetic aperture radar antenna power supply unit, which is needed to provide power to the radar electronics,” Simonetta Cheli, director of Earth observation program at ESA, said in the statement announcing the end of the Sentinel-1B mission.

There had been rumors in recent days that ESA and the European Commission had given up on efforts to recover Sentinel-1B. the last public update on recovery efforts was in April. An ESA spokesperson said Aug. 2 that the agency was still “gathering some additional information” and coordinating with the commission about the mission.

Sentinel-1B operated in tandem with Sentinel-1A, launched in 2014, to provide SAR imagery for a variety of Earth science applications. Sentinel-1A remains operational but has the same potential flaw in its payload power system. The ESA investigation noted that the payload power system on Sentinel-1A has not experienced any problems since launch and, since the Sentinel-1B anomaly, its performance is being closely monitored.

“The permanent unavailability of Sentinel-1B satellite represents an important loss for the European Union’s space program and the European Commission is engaged to mitigate its impact,” Paraskevi Papantoniou, acting director for space in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Defence, Industry and Space, said in the statement.

In the near term, ESA and the European Commission are buying SAR data from other satellites. That includes Canada’s Radarsat-2 and Radarsat Constellation Mission, Germany’s TerraSAR-X, Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed and Spain’s PAZ.

A new satellite, Sentinel-1C, is nearly ready for launch. ESA announced in April a contract with Arianespace for the Vega-C launch of Sentinel-1C. At the time the launch was scheduled for some time in the first half of 2023.

“Our focus is on fast-tracking the launch of Sentinel-1C,” Cheli said in the statement. “Now, thanks to the successful inaugural flight of the Vega-C rocket on 13 July, we, with Arianespace, are targeting the launch in the second quarter of 2023.” There was discussion early in the year, though, of moving up the Sentinel-1C launch to as soon as late this year.

Despite the failure of its SAR payload, the Sentinel-1B spacecraft itself remains operational. “We have Sentinel-1B under control,” Alistair O’Connell, Sentinel-1 spacecraft operations manager, said in a statement. “We perform regular monitoring of the spacecraft health and routine orbit control maneuvers.”

ESA will deorbit Sentinel-1B after the launch of Sentinel-1C. O’Connell said the spacecraft will comply with orbital debris mitigation guidelines that call for spacecraft to be deorbited within 25 years of the end of its mission. “In practice, the reentry duration is expected to be much shorter,” he said.

  • DLR is developing distributed and heterogeneous on-board computers for future space missions.
  • Combination of radiation-resistant and commercially available processors that monitor each other and redistribute tasks in the event of an error.
  • Successful experiment with Earth observation data on an ESA test satellite.
  • Focus: space travel, earth observation, technology

Reliable and powerful computers play a central role in space travel: computer systems in satellites, for example, enable demanding earth observation missions. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is developing a new computer architecture that is intended to give the so-called on-board computers (OBC) more power and also enable them to repair themselves. Distributed heterogeneous OBCs are being developed in the ScOSA (Scalable On-Board Computing for Space Avionics) flight experiment project. You have different computing nodes connected as a network.

A general challenge for computer systems in satellites is that cosmic rays can disrupt the computers. “When a radiation particle flies through a memory, it might turn a zero into a one there,” explains project manager Daniel Lüdtke from the DLR Institute for Software Technology in Braunschweig . Ultimately, the system can even fail or deliver incorrect results. Radiation-resistant processors are therefore available for space travel. However, these are very expensive and have little computing power. On the other hand, processors, such as those used for smartphones, are very powerful and also cheaper. However, they are much more susceptible to cosmic radiation. ScOSA brings both processor types together in one system.

Test run on the test platform OPS-SAT in low earth orbit

The software recognizes errors and failures and controls the computer. “Programs running on a faulty processor are automatically transferred to other processors via the network,” says Daniel Lüdtke. Meanwhile, the satellite continues to work. The software then restarts the processor and integrates it back into the system.

An experiment on the satellite has now shown that this works OPS-SAT of the European Space Agency ESA shown. “The 30 x 10 x 10 centimeter small satellite with an experimental computer has been in low-Earth orbit since the end of 2019. OPS-SAT is available to researchers as a full-featured open platform,” explains Dave Evans, ESA’s OPS-SAT Project Manager.

The DLR scientists installed and successfully tested the ScOSA software on OPS-SAT together with ESA. For this purpose, the satellite created earth observation images, processed and evaluated them with artificial intelligence. The satellite then transmits only the usable images to a ground station. “Increasingly higher resolution sensors and complex algorithms require more and more computing power,” Daniel Lüdtke summarizes the requirements for software and hardware. A larger ScOSA system consisting of radiation-resistant and commercially available processors will soon be tested on DLR’s own CubeSat: the small satellite is expected to be launched into orbit at the end of next year.

Development of software for space missions

The Onboard Software Systems Group from the DLR Institute of Software Technology participates in a number of national and international space missions. A central research topic is the development of error-tolerant and so-called resilient software that can react to errors and failures. The ScOSA flight experiment project is a DLR research project in which the Institute for Software Technology , the DLR Institutes for Space Systems and Optical Sensor Systems as well as DLR Space Operations and Astronaut Training are involved.