ESA approves latest Irish software that will help satellites predict weather

24 Jan 2017

Satellite in orbit. Image: Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

The European Space Agency has approved the latest Irish software to head into space, as Dublin-based OCE Technology’s debug tool will be placed aboard satellites and spacecraft.

As one of 22 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA), Ireland has been quite active in getting various technologies into space, most recently with a new accelerator launched in Ireland to encourage space-based start-ups here.

Now the ESA has agreed a deal with Dublin-based OCE Technology to use its debug tool DMON aboard its satellites and spacecraft.

Founded within University College Dublin’s NovaUCD start-up centre, OCE Technology provides software tools, real-time embedded system design and system-on-a-chip hardware products to international clients.

The software will be installed on the ESA’s latest navigation processor, the AGGA-4, which measures signal distortions in the upper atmosphere for use in weather prediction modelling.

The chip can also be used to measure maritime conditions using reflections from ocean surfaces and signals from European, US, Russian or Chinese GPS units to find its precise location in space.

The underlying problem, however, is that it can be notoriously difficult and time consuming to debug software applications on such complex processors as the AGGA-4 chip because analogue signals from up to 40 channels are being simultaneously combined and decoded.

Barry Kavanagh

Barry Kavanagh, CEO, OCE Technology. Image: Nick Bradshaw/Fotonic

Will hunt out bugs faster

Yet with OCE’s DMON user interface, the ESA said its embedded system developers will be able to quickly determine the source of any problem or bug on the chip and apply a fix much faster than existing systems.

OCE’s CEO Barry Kavanagh said: “We are delighted that our DMON debug tool has been approved by ESA to support its latest navigation processor.

“Testing and debugging accounts for 25pc of developers’ time and they consider debug tools to be their most important tools. DMON will now enable ESA developers to be more efficient as they can now debug applications faster and more efficiently.”

A ‘major asset’ to ESA

Claudio Monteleone, a technical officer with the ESA, added: “A debug tool such as DMON is a major asset to European companies designing applications for this and similar integrated circuits.”

Kavanagh said that the DMON software brought immediate benefits to the AGGA-4 chip as it helped identify a fix for an issue that had eluded ESA developers for several months.

This latest piece of Irish software to head into space will follow on from previous success stories like Skytek, whose International Procedural Viewer technology controls and manages astronaut operations on board the International Space Station.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic