Intelligent building blocks for satellites … and more

The conventional design approach for space systems is based on a monolithic solution, developed for a specifc application scenario. The disadvantages in this regard include high development costs or unsustainable solutions for maintenance in orbit, as well the issue of space debris. In contrast, the individual modules of the building blocks (iBLOCKS) in the iBOSS approach can be built into almost any conceivable, functioning space system (for instance satellites), similar to the LEGO® principle. The central component in the concept is known as the iSSI (intelligent Space System Interface), a multifunctional aerospace-capable interface. This interface can be used to make mechanical, data and energy connections between individual modules, vehicle components or payloads, hence producing the first USB standard for aerospace applications.

A digital twin complements the building block system. The implemented design tools permit the generation of possible system solutions for a satellite, based purely on the technical and operational requirements. This is the first time that principles otherwise applied in an IT environment and used in the AppStore®, the IKEA Kitchen Planner® or in vehicle confguration tools will be exploited for aerospace purposes.

iBOSS demonstrates how to move away from ‘expensive, inflexible, disposable satellites’ and toward maintainable, modifable and cost-effcient, recyclable systems. What makes the building block system special is that it can be used for many different applications using the same technical basis, without having to permanently repeat expensive development and qualifcation steps. When the current project phase is completed at the end of 2018, these developments will have reached a level of maturity that will permit transfer of iBOSS technologies into industrial use and enable in-orbit qualifcation.

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Daniel Nölke · E-Mail: daniel.noelke@dlr.de · DLR.de/en