Last week I attended the SmallSat symposium in Mountain View. This is the first of around half a dozen Small Satellite conferences that I’ll attend in 2018. That sounds like a lot of small satellite conferences, but there are actually many more that I will not get to. The number of events and the increasing attendance reflects the market growth, investment and general level of interest in space electronics right now. Space is sexy again for the first time in a generation. The demand to get SmallSats in space is very high and the number that will be put into orbit is constrained by the limited launch capacity.
That the industry is becoming more efficient is evident by the ecosystem of suppliers and service providers that have emerged around small satellites. It is now easy and inexpensive (relatively speaking) to create a small satellite using plug-and-play modules, have it launched, commissioned and communicating with ground services equipment. VORAGO have been contributing to this ecosystem with the availability of an On-Board-Computer (OBC) reference design.
One of the design trends in SmallSat electronics is to selectively use radiation-hardened chips. SmallSats are supposed to be inexpensive, so it is not usually possible to use rad-hard ICs across the whole chipset. VORAGO Technologies have created a reference design for a SmallSat OBC that mainly uses rad-hard chips. The main processor is an Arm Cortex-M0 based VA10820 rad-hard microcontroller. Our objective was to give designers a circuit design that can be easily customized by the designer to their unique requirements. The OBC is Pumpkin CubeSat Kit Bus compatible, so it will easily plug-and-play with the sizeable ecosystem of Pumpkin CubeSat Kit Bus modules. The reference design is available at the VORAGO website.