Research Focus

The num­ber of satel­lites being launched into orbit is increas­ing rapid­ly every year, and with it the com­plex­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ties of each satel­lite con­tin­ues to grow dra­mat­i­cal­ly. The amount of data gen­er­at­ed by earth obser­va­tion appli­ca­tions, such as opti­cal sen­sors or syn­thet­ic aper­ture radar (SAR), is ever-grow­ing, while the avail­able down­link remains a lim­i­ta­tion in space sys­tem design. Bet­ter on-board data pro­cess­ing, com­pres­sion and stor­age will allow future iter­a­tions of space­craft to achieve high­er per­for­mance in small­er and small­er pack­ages. Cur­rent solu­tions present lim­i­ta­tions in com­pu­ta­tion­al per­for­mance, mem­o­ry capac­i­ty and per­for­mance, and data reli­a­bil­i­ty in very small form fac­tors.

The aim of Smart on-board pro­cess­ing for earth obser­va­tion sys­tems (SOPHOS) is to devel­op data pro­cess­ing, com­pres­sion and stor­age solu­tions for SAR appli­ca­tions, while tar­get­ing a sys­tem con­sist­ing of tra­di­tion­al high reli­a­bil­i­ty com­po­nents and state-of-the-art indus­tri­al com­put­ing COTS tech­nolo­gies for small satel­lites.

  • SOPHOS will design and imple­ment enabling tech­nol­o­gy for high-end data prod­ucts pro­duced on-board space­craft via the imple­men­ta­tion of more pow­er effi­cient high per­for­mance space pro­cess­ing chains for var­i­ous Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) mis­sions, with a focus on Syn­thet­ic Aper­ture Radar (SAR), which is one of the most data inten­sive space appli­ca­tions cur­rent­ly used.
  • This imple­men­ta­tion will be achieved through the opti­miza­tion of the pay­load pro­cess­ing and data stor­age sys­tem accom­pa­nied by the use of COTS com­po­nents and the minia­tur­iza­tion of high-per­for­mance hard­ware in com­bi­na­tion with robust firmware and soft­ware with her­itage in high-end space appli­ca­tions.
  • SOPHOS will com­bine state-of-the-art indus­tri­al com­put­ing tech­nolo­gies (COTS) includ­ing high-end FPGAs and GPU equipped SoCs, along with advanced and scal­able pro­cess­ing capa­bil­i­ties.


The mod­ules devel­oped with­in SOPHOS will allow for high­er data prod­uct per­for­mance in small and nanosatel­lite plat­forms, with the abil­i­ty to deliv­er more data from data-inten­sive appli­ca­tions includ­ing SAR earth obser­va­tion.

Funding and partners

SOPHOS is a 3‑year Hori­zon Europe project coor­di­nat­ed by DSI that start­ed 1st Novem­ber 2022. The con­sor­tium includes 5 part­ners from 3 Euro­pean coun­tries: DSI, Uni­bap, TELETEL, DLR and Uni­ver­si­ty of Lübeck. → →

“It’s great to work togeth­er with our Euro­pean part­ners and devel­op sys­tems for future mis­sions. Our ded­i­cat­ed team is explor­ing new tech­nolo­gies that advance the state of the art.”

Maike Tad­diken
Project Man­ag­er

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