Tiny sat, big ambitions ESA376721.jpg
Engineering model of OPS-SAT, seen on a test bench
Mission typeTechnological demonstrator
COSPAR ID Edit this at Wikidata
Spacecraft properties
Bus3U CubeSat
ManufacturerGraz University of Technology, Austria
Launch mass7 kg
Dimensions96 mm × 96 mm × 290 mm
(3.8 in × 3.8 in × 11.4 in)
Start of mission
Launch date18 December 2019
RocketSoyuz VS23[2]·[3]
Launch siteCentre Spatial Guyanais
(Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz)

OPS-SAT is a CubeSat by the European Space Agency (ESA) and it is intended to demonstrate the improvements in mission control capabilities that will arise when satellites can fly more powerful on-board computers. The mission has the objective to break the cycle of "has never flown, will never fly" in the area of satellite control. It was the first CubeSat operated directly by ESA.[6]

The satellite has an experimental computer that is ten times more powerful than traditional ESA on-board computers. This on-board computer provides an experimental platform to run software experiments on board. One innovative concept is the deployment of space software in the form of apps. This concept is enabled by the NanoSat MO Framework (NMF) and allows Apps to be uploaded to the spacecraft and then started on board. This is a new concept that ESA has successfully demonstrated in space.[7]

OPS-SAT has been launched at 08:54:20 UTC on 18 December 2019 exactly twenty-four hours later than originally planned.

Payload and communications

OPS-SAT will provide an in-orbit test-bed environment for the deployment of different experiments to test new protocols, new algorithms, and new techniques. The satellite is being designed to be robust and no single point of failure should exist, therefore it shall be always possible to recover the spacecraft if something goes wrong with one of the software experiments. The robustness of the basic satellite itself will allow ESA flight control teams to upload and try out new, innovative control software submitted by experimenters.

OPS-SAT payload devices:

Communication links to ground:

Experimental Platform

The Experimental Platform of OPS-SAT is where experiments will be running. It has two Critical Link MityARM 5CSX in cold redundancy (if one fails, the second one is used). These have a Dual-core 800 MHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, an Altera Cyclone V FPGA, 1 GB DDR3 RAM, and an external mass memory device with 8 GB.[8]

ESA's aim is to remove as many barriers to experimentation as possible. For example, there will be no paperwork, ESOC's infrastructure will be ready to do automated tests on the experiments, and aims at reducing the overheads close to zero. Additionally, the experiments can be easily developed in form of apps using the NanoSat MO Framework.

NanoSat MO Framework (NMF)

The most innovative concept in OPS-SAT is the deployment of space software in the form of apps. The European Space Agency in collaboration with Graz University of Technology investigated and developed the NanoSat MO Framework.[9]

The NanoSat MO Framework (NMF) is a software framework for nanosatellites based on CCSDS Mission Operations services. It includes a Software Development Kit (SDK) to develop experiments as NMF Apps which can then be installed, started, and stopped in space. The framework also includes monitoring and control capabilities for the apps which will allow experimenters from the ground to take control of their software when it is running in space.[10]

The OPS-SAT system image comes with the NanoSat MO Framework which interfaces with all of the OPS-SAT payload systems and provides it in the form of services to the experimenter application. The NanoSat MO Framework allows simple integration of other libraries and applications. During the development of the experiments, the NMF SDK can be used and it includes a simulator, providing most of the platform functionalities accessible to the experimenter. The simulator allows developers to make their NMF Apps without the need to access an advanced satellite testbed hardware platform.

On the ground, EUD4MO will provide a web-based solution for the monitoring and control of NMF Apps. OPS-SAT experimenters will be able to take control using their web browser.

See also


  1. ^ "OPS-SAT". ESA. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  2. ^ CHEOPS exoplanet mission meets key milestones en route to 2017 launch. ESA, 11 July 2014
  3. ^ CHEOPS has arrived in Kourou. Barbara Vonarburg. 16 October 2019
  4. ^ "CHEOPS will ride on a Soyuz rocket". cheops.unibe.ch. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  5. ^ CHEOPS - Mission Status & Summary
  6. ^ "OPS-SAT". ESA. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  7. ^ "OPS-SAT". ESA. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  8. ^ "ESAW 2017" (PDF). ESA. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  9. ^ "NanoSat MO Framework". Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  10. ^ Coelho, Cesar; Koudelka, Otto; Merri, Mario (2017). "NanoSat MO Framework: When OBSW turns into apps". 2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference. pp. 1–8. doi:10.1109/AERO.2017.7943951. ISBN 978-1-5090-1613-6.