The aim of the OPS-SAT mission, which is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, is to carry out low-risk tests on space software directly in the course of flight. Until now, such in-orbit tests have been avoided for reasons of reliability. Now, though, the OPS-SAT “flying laboratory” will validate new operating concepts in orbit. These range from the latest satellite control technologies to intelligent software for space vehicles, including on-board automatic image recognition systems and artificial intelligence. This enables ESA to test cutting-edge technology in a low-risk setting. “OPS-SAT gives us room to innovate. Although it is small, this CubeSat is bursting with potential, such as the opportunity to validate components of future exploration missions in orbit and test complex infrastructure on the ground,” says Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Mission Operations and head of the control centre. TU Graz is responsible for the technical side of ESA’s first CubeSat mission, which has been implemented at a cost of EUR 2.4 million; the administrative main contractor is UniTel IT-Innovation. Subcontractors from Germany, Poland, Denmark and Austria are also involved, alongside with suppliers from France and the UK. The launch service is provided by Tyvak International from Italy.
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