A cubesat equipped with the superfast on-board computer developed by the University of Stuttgart team

'Flying Laptop' for small satellites developed by German students

A super-fast and compact on-board computer for satellites of up to 130kg has been developed by the University of Stuttgart students.

The ‘Flying Laptop’, designed to serve as the brain centre of small satellites, integrates the function of an on-board computer with that of a power supply unit. Based on radiation resistant microchips, the computer should withstand prolonged exposure to the cosmic environment, promising improved durability and stable performance.

“The research of small satellites of the 130kg category that started ten years ago at the Institute of Space Systems describes a real success story,” said Professor Hans-Peter Röser, head of the Institute of Space Systems at the university. “The fact that from the original amateur project a highly modern satellite platform based on state-of-the-art standards has been able to develop in the meantime speaks in favour of the quality of the study course, as well as for the excellence of our students,“ he said.

Having been hailed as not only one of the quickest but also one of the most compact on-board computers in its category, the ‘Flying Laptop’ is of great interest to the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) alike.

The project, funded mostly by the University of Stuttgart itself and the German state of Baden- Württemberg, is backed by several industry-partners, including the satellite manufacturer Astrium and the DLR.

“Astrium and the team set up by Astrium of international industrial partners are proud of the fact of having successfully conducted such a highly technological project in a university partnership,” said Professor Jens Eickhoff on behalf of Astrium. “The development of a satellite computer as the basis of a reusable satellite platform goes far beyond the complexity of customary university cooperations. The patented technology developed here is pioneering and the quality of academic education of the students and doctoral students achieved with the project is of a top international level and is consequently of direct benefit to the industry,“ he said.

A small satellite with the computer aboard will be launched in 2014. The system, equipped with three on-board cameras will collect data on shipping movements and vegetation and test several technologies under space conditions.

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