Irish software research centre Lero chips in on €400,000 ESA contract

15 Jan 2015

Prof Mike Hinchey, director, Lero

The European Space Agency (ESA) has drafted Irish software research centre Lero to develop software for specialist microchips built for space missions as part of a research programme worth €400,000.

The 18-month programme will be led by Lero director Prof Mike Hinchey, a consultant to US space agency NASA, who will have been primed for this mission in his previous role as director of the software engineering laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the US.

“We are honoured to be selected for this important work,” said Hinchey.

“Software designed for space missions needs to be leading-edge and highly reliable in view of the cost, distance and unforgiving environment involved.”

Work begins this month and will involve collaborating with Cobham Gaisler AB, a Swedish chip manufacturer.

Cobham Gaisler’s LEON radiation-hardened microchip has been developed in association with the ESA and has been designed to operate in harsh environments, such as space. Lero researchers now have the task of developing a new back-end for the Open Source LLVM compiler library to enable it to be used for the LEON chip family. This should expand the toolset available to developers working on the flight software for future space missions in order to boost reliability.

Lero, which is based at University of Limerick, brings together researchers from Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick.

The software engineering research centre is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, as well as corporate contracts, and this is the third contract between the ESA and Lero, as well as the largest to date.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.