RADE aimed to develop a reconfigurable hardware platform that can be qualified and reused in the development of a variety of different applications.
The platform’s functionality and performance were evaluated under this programme using a typical application of an AIS receiver. COM DEV used this application to demonstrate the ability of the platform to be reconfigured and change modes of operation.
The ability to perform radio functions in the software domain enables cheaper, more reliable and highly flexible systems to be developed. This is important in the space segment, where the expected life of the equipment is long and the ability to configure and upgrade the radio to implement additional features and requirements after deployment is highly desirable. The more of the design that can be made “soft”, the greater the ability to re-use technology and capitalise on previous investment
COM DEV developed RADE (Reconfigurable Applications Demonstration Equipment), a COTS based in-orbit reconfigurable platform, using ITAR free, Mil-Aero, industrial grade, or other unrestricted components.
The program faced a major technical challenge in selecting the correct parts that have compatibility with the developed AIS application firmware.
One of the most important benefits of RADE has been the ability to allow equipment developers to re-use reliable hardware to develop their applications at a very short timescale and low costs.
Another way that enabled cost reduction was to design the platform with most of the technology in the ‘soft’ domain and adapt the software to meet the specific needs of the application under development.
RADE is aimed at the “MicroSpace”/small-sat segment. It is entirely export/restriction-free (e.g. non ITAR), using only Mil-Aero, industrial grade or other similarly unrestricted components. The result of these aspects of the design philosophy being that the target range of markets for this platform is greatly enhanced. RADE is in-orbit reconfigurable allowing enhancements to the firmware to reflect ever evolving signalling standards and possibly extending mission life or usefulness as a result.
All of the above have created an innovative, low cost, resilient platform with a short production time suitable for many markets and applications.
The RADE AIS Receiver is a Direct RF Sampling (DRFS) type with support for multiple separate and independent antenna interfaces sampled by a high performance multi-channel A/D converter clocked by a low-noise high-stability clock. For redundancy purposes, multiple RADE AIS receivers can be configured for either hot or cold redundancy.
The RADE AIS Receiver is designed to be in-orbit reconfigurable i.e. the spacecraft’s on-board computer (OBC) can upload software images to the equipment.
The microcontroller provides Telemetry and Tele-command (TMTC) functions, monitors the system, maintains various logs, and enables the software to be uploaded. The application FPGA provides a platform for high speed application logic such as Digital Signal Processing. Spacecraft interfaces are provided for TMTC, payload data and power.
The RADE AIS Receiver is part of the RADE-enabled products being planned by COM DEV for micro-space applications.
The overall project was executed in four phases some of which ran concurrently:
Phase 1: Refinement of the architecture, mechanics, circuit design and EEE selection and procurement.
Phase 2: Manufacturing and assembly, with the major constituents being assembled and tested before integration into the unit as a whole.
Phase 3: Software development of the FPGA application and the target microcontroller.
Phase 4: Testing where the application system was reconfigured and the top-level system demonstrated the satellite AIS application.