STAR-Dundee CTO Elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering

Steve Parkes, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of STAR-Dundee and former Professor of Spacecraft Electronic Systems at the University of Dundee, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Steve has been responsible for leading the development of SpaceWire and SpaceFibre computer network technologies for use on-board spacecraft. SpaceWire is being used in hundreds of spacecraft, costing in excess of $50 billion, which are monitoring the Earth, exploring our Solar System, and studying the universe. SpaceFibre is the next generation of this extremely successful technology, offering high-performance and high-reliability. It is already being designed into its first space applications and flying on two experimental spacecraft, OPS-SAT and NORBY.

The first prototype SpaceFibre system being demonstrated by Steve Parkes in USA in 2017.
The first prototype SpaceFibre system being demonstrated by Steve in USA in 2017.

Steve has been a constant innovator over the past 26 years since he first moved to Scotland (living in Kirriemuir, Angus) and joined the University of Dundee, where he became Professor of Spacecraft Electronic Systems. He has worked extensively with the international aerospace industry and space agencies across Europe, USA, Japan and Russia, being recognised by the Saltire society for his international scientific work in 2019.

As examples of his world-leading reputation, in 2012 Steve was awarded a Specialist Bronze Award by the Royal Aeronautical Society for his “instrumental role in the inception, development and continuing success of the SpaceWire standard for spacecraft on-board data handling” and in 2013 he was one of the recipients of the European Space Agency (ESA) Award for Teamwork Excellence for the SpaceWire project.

Steve founded STAR-Dundee to help support users of SpaceWire in 2002, spinning the company out from his research group at the University of Dundee. He led the company for 15 years as Managing Director and then CEO. He became CTO in 2017 to focus on engineering and business development activities.

Stuart Mills, CEO of STAR-Dundee said: “Everyone at STAR-Dundee would like to congratulate Steve on this well-earned recognition. In addition to founding and leading the company until 2017, Steve is responsible for writing the SpaceWire, RMAP and SpaceFibre standards, with input from the international space community. As well as being used in many spacecraft, these standards are the key technologies on which STAR-Dundee’s great success has been built.

“In his position as CTO, Steve continues to innovate. In addition to overseeing our world-leading research and development activities, he is also contributing to the development of new open standards which will benefit the wider space community.

“STAR-Dundee would also like to extend our congratulations to all the newly elected Fellows. I am sure their capabilities will be of great benefit to the Academy in its important mission to create a sustainable society and an inclusive economy for all.”

Steve’s dining room table during COVID-19, being used as the platform for the development and testing of the very latest SpaceFibre technology – in the heart of rural Angus!
Steve’s dining room table during COVID-19, being used as the platform for the development and testing of the very latest SpaceFibre technology – in the heart of rural Angus!

Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, stated: “Our Fellows represent the best of the best in the engineering world, and we welcome these 69 excellent and talented professionals to our community of businesspeople, entrepreneurs, innovators and academics.”

“This year’s new Fellows are the most diverse group elected in the history of our institution. The engineering profession has long suffered from a diversity shortfall and the Academy is committed to changing that, including by ensuring that our own Fellowship community is as inclusive as it can be. It is well established that diverse organisations tend to be more agile and more innovative, and as the UK’s National Academy for engineering and technology, we have a responsibility to reflect the society we serve in addressing the shared challenges of our future.”

Logo of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

SpaceFibre and SpaceWire Demos at Virtual SmallSat 2021

Last month we attended Space-Comm Expo, our first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but we have also participated in several virtual events over the past 17 months and will be participating in several more over the coming months. From Monday 9th of August 2021 we will be exhibiting virtually at SmallSat, the 35th Annual Small Satellites Conference. Our engineers will be online from 9am to 1pm MT from the 9th to the 12th of August to answer any questions you may have, and we will also have a demo each day at 10am MT. The demos are listed below and there are more details, with links to join each event on the SmallSat Demos page of our website:

  • Monday, 9th August 2021: Overview of STAR-System for LabVIEW
  • Tuesday, 10th August 2021: SpaceWire Link Analysis using the Link Analyser Mk3
  • Wednesday, 11th August 2021: STAR-Ultra PCIe: Multi-Lane SpaceFibre Interface and Link Analyser
  • Thursday, 12th August 2021: Introduction to SpaceWire Test and Development with the SpaceWire Brick Mk4

These demos, along with the chance to chat to our engineers, can be accessed regardless of whether you are participating in SmallSat. Just follow the link at the appropriate time.

The other events we currently plan to attend this year are listed on our Events page.

SmallSat 2021

STAR-Dundee Preparations for Completion of Brexit Transition

Following the completion of the Brexit transition period on the 31st of December 2020, the UK will no longer be a participant in the European Union Customs Union or European Single Market. STAR-Dundee would like to assure our customers that we are well prepared for this change and we will endeavour to ensure that there is the least possible disruption to you in the delivery of any orders.

Our preparations for this date have been ongoing for some time and we were awarded Approved Exporter Status in 2019. Holding the status of Approved Exporter simplifies export formalities and allows us to certify the preferential origin of our products, via a specific declaration on our invoices or commercial documents. This means we do not need to apply for movement certificates for each export, for example. We are also grateful to our logistics partners and to our distributors, who continue to help us to ensure that orders are delivered in a timely manner.

STAR-Dundee continues to have a presence in Europe, with our wholly owned subsidiary, STAR-Barcelona, based in San Cugat, to the north of Barcelona, Spain. STAR-Barcelona’s activities are primarily focused on research and development, ASIC design and IP cores related to SpaceFibre.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

01 Jan 2021

STAR-Dundee Proud to be a Supporter/Exhibitor at SEE/MAPLD 2020

For several years we have presented papers and exhibited at the Annual Single Event Effects (SEE) Symposium and Military and Aerospace Programmable Logic Devices (MAPLD) Workshop. With the 29th edition of SEE/MAPLD being a virtual event, we are proud to be named as one of the Supporters/Exhibitors of the event, which is being held from the 6th to the 8th of October, 2020.

We will have lots of exciting information to share during the event. On the first day, one of our engineers will present a paper titled “SpaceFibre for FPGA: IPs and Radiation Test Results”. In addition to information on the implementation footprint of our SpaceFibre Single-Lane, Multi-Lane and Routing Switch IPs on several Xilinx and Microchip FPGAs, this presentation will also include initial radiation test results of the Microchip RTG4 SerDes performance with and without our SpaceFibre IP.

Another of our engineers will be presenting a webinar at our virtual booth on the third day of the event, titled “Very High Speed SpaceFibre Interfacing and Analysis with the STAR-Ultra PCIe”. This will include a demonstration of the STAR-Ultra PCIe, a PCIe board providing two quad lane SpaceFibre interfaces, capable of data rates in excess of 10 Gbit/s. The STAR-Ultra PCIe can also act as a link analyser for monitoring and recording the traffic crossing the link and includes a suite of powerful software applications to easily access the features of the device.

Throughout the event, our team will be available at our virtual booth to answer any questions on SpaceWire, SpaceFibre, our products and related technology. There is lots of other useful content available at our booth which will continue to be online after the show ends and until the end of the year.

STAR-Dundee's Virtual Booth at SEE/MAPLD

Release of SpaceWire Brick Mk4

It has been 16 years since the first generation of the SpaceWire-USB Brick was released and the Brick has since become a familiar product in space organisations across the world. Numerous improvements have been made to the product over the years including new features, improved performance and support for new software and operating systems. Many of these improvements have been delivered in the form of software or firmware updates available from our website to existing users.

Sometimes improvements have been made to the physical hardware, requiring a new generation of the product to be released. Five years following the release of the Brick Mk3, we have taken the opportunity to add some new features to the hardware, resulting in the new SpaceWire Brick Mk4. Although the enclosure looks similar to the Brick Mk3, internally the new device features enhanced FMECA protection while the rear panel now includes a grounding stud and a power status LED.

The Brick Mk4 is connected to a Windows or Linux PC over USB and provides high throughput and low latency access to two SpaceWire ports. External triggers allow external equipment to signal an event to the Brick Mk4 or the Brick Mk4 to signal external equipment. Both interface and router modes are supported and the Brick Mk4 can be used in all stages of SpaceWire equipment development: initial evaluation, instrument simulation, control system simulation, unit testing and integration support.

As with all of our recent interface and router products, the Brick Mk4 is supported by our STAR-System software suite, making it simple to move from one of our other products to the Brick Mk4. Importantly, the Brick Mk4 is backwards compatible with the Brick Mk3 and includes all features present in the Brick Mk3.

SpaceWire Brick Mk4

Virtual Demos and Q&A for SmallSat 2020

The 2020 edition of the Small Satellite Conference is being held virtually and our participation will include virtual demonstrations of some of our new and existing products every day of the conference.  You can find more details on our Live Events page, but the demonstrations will be as follows:

These demonstrations will take place at 4pm British Summer Time/9am Mountain Daylight Time.  Later in each day (6pm BST/11am MDT) we will be hosting an open question and answer session where you can drop in to speak to our engineers or listen to the discussion.

SmallSat 2020

Type A SpaceWire Lab Cable Assemblies

For many years, STAR-Dundee has offered SpaceWire Lab Cables which are compatible with the SpaceWire standard but are lighter and more flexible than flight-qualified cables. With the publication of Revision 1 of the SpaceWire standard in 2019, a new cable assembly type has been introduced and STAR-Dundee supports both original and new types of assembly.

The cable assembly present in previous revisions of the standard has been named Type AL in the new revision of the standard, with the “L” standing for legacy. The inner-shields of Type AL cable assemblies are connected to pin 3 of the connector at the transmit end of the cable only. The SpaceWire Lab Cables we have previously offered as our standard off the shelf cables have conformed to this arrangement.

The new cable assembly type is named the Type A cable assembly. These differ from Type AL cable assemblies in that the inner shields are connected to the connector shell at both ends. Pin 3 is not connected in the Type A cable assembly.

Type A cables are recommended for all new applications.

SpaceWire Lab Cable

We have been providing Type A cables on request for some time, but we’ve now added the option to select either Type A or Type AL cable assemblies when requesting a quotation for SpaceWire Lab Cables and we will be holding stock of both types of cables. If you’re unsure of which type to order, please get in contact and we’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Second Generation of SpaceWire PXI Products Released

STAR-Dundee’s SpaceWire PXI platform has now been updated to include a number of enhancements to single point of failure FMECA (Failure Mode Effects and Criticality Analysis) protection. The SpaceWire PXI Mk2 range of products now supersedes the original SpaceWire PXI products, offering all the features present in the original products and full backwards compatibility.

At STAR-Dundee we continually work to improve our products. When these improvements are to software or to a device’s firmware, we make these updates available through our website’s Product Support section. You can gain access to these downloads by registering your product. When the update is to the hardware, we endeavour to ensure backwards compatibility with previous generations of the product. We indicate the version number of a product using the mark designation system, abbreviated to Mk. For example, the SpaceWire PXI Mk2 (Mark Two) is the second generation of our SpaceWire PXI product range.

The SpaceWire PXI Mk2 is available in the following variants:

  • SpaceWire PXI Interface Mk2 4HP
  • SpaceWire PXI Interface Mk2 8HP
  • SpaceWire PXI Interface Mk2 with RMAP Target 4HP
  • SpaceWire PXI Interface Mk2 with RMAP Target 8HP
  • SpaceWire PXI Router Mk2

The SpaceWire PXI Mk2 products can be used in cPCI or PXI backplanes, provide link speeds of up to 400 Mbit/s and, as with our other interface and router products, are accessed using our STAR-System software suite. The 8HP variants of the PXI Interface Mk2 and PXI Interface Mk2 with RMAP Target have 4 general purpose bi-directional triggers on the front panel which can be used to sequence events such as the transmission of time-codes or data packets, or to indicate events to an external device such as an oscilloscope. A full FMECA guide for the SpaceWire PXI Mk2 boards is available on request.

SpaceWire PXI Mk2 Products

STAR-Dundee COVID-19 Update

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requiring significant changes to our daily lives, we are striving to maintain productivity while protecting our employees. We are following the guidance of our governments in the UK and Spain, both to ensure the safety of our employees at STAR-Dundee and STAR-Barcelona, and to help minimise the spread of the virus.

The health and safety of our employees is our primary concern and the majority of our team are now working from home. Our homeworking engineers have all of the equipment they need to provide support but, in some cases, this may take slightly longer than normal.

We are continuing to work on our innovative research and development contracts and the development of new products as best we can, and have recently announced several new and forthcoming products. These include the SpaceWire Link Analyser Mk3, SpaceWire EGSE Mk2, SpaceFibre Interface FMC Board and STAR-Ultra PCIe. We expect to announce some more new products in the coming weeks.

There is a small team working in our office in Dundee, primarily focussed on fulfilling orders. We are grateful to our manufacturers and suppliers who are continuing to deliver to us. Our order fulfilment team is endeavouring to keep customers informed of likely delivery dates and ensure orders are delivered on time.

Everyone at STAR-Dundee would like to extend our best wishes to you all during these challenging times. We hope you are all safe and well.

Units being shipped during the COVID-19 pandemic

SpaceWire System Validation using the SpaceWire Recorder Mk2

SpaceWire Recorder Mk2 Hardware and Software

In order to validate and debug complete SpaceWire systems it is very useful to be able to record and view the traffic on multiple links. Thorough validation can also require very large quantities of SpaceWire traffic to be stored and analysed.

The SpaceWire Recorder Mk2 can record and display the SpaceWire traffic on up to four SpaceWire links. It records SpaceWire packets, time-codes and link errors to solid-state disk, along with time information, and then displays these in network and packet level views ready to be inspected. The quantity of data that can be recorded and viewed is limited only by the size of the solid-state disks used (960 GB).

Recording statistics provide a summary of recording contents and help highlight any concerns. Built-in search helps to validate and navigate recorded traffic. To help automate SpaceWire traffic validation, all or part of a recording can be exported to CSV formatted files and then easily interpreted by custom software.

More information about the SpaceWire Recorder Mk2 is available on the product page.

SpaceWire EGSE and Device Simulator Mk2 Now Available!

SpaceWire EGSE Mk2 Hardware and Software

A new version of our SpaceWire EGSE and Device Simulator has been released! Like its predecessor, the SpaceWire EGSE Mk2 can be used to very quickly create SpaceWire instrument and equipment emulations. This is done using a scripting language designed specifically for SpaceWire applications.

The SpaceWire equipment behaviour required can be quickly and accurately defined in a script. The script is then compiled on a host PC and the resulting configuration file loaded into the SpaceWire EGSE Mk2 unit. The EGSE Mk2 then immediately begins to operate as defined in the script, functioning independent of software, resulting in real-time performance and precise emulation.

The SpaceWire EGSE Mk2 supersedes the original SpaceWire EGSE. It now supports SpaceWire link speeds up to 400 Mbit/s (previously 200 Mbit/s); the on-board memory in which packet data is stored has been increased in size to 512 MB (previously 128 MB); and a USB 3.0 interface (previously USB 2.0) is now used to connect the unit to a host PC. Compared to the original SpaceWire EGSE, these improvements mean traffic can be transmitted and received at higher link speeds; a larger quantity of pre-defined packet data can be stored in memory; and compiled scripts can be loaded into hardware faster.

More information is available on the SpaceWire EGSE Mk2 product page.

SpaceWire Link Analyser Mk3 Now Available!

Link Analyser Mk3 Hardware and Software

Essential for validating and debugging a SpaceWire link, our latest model of the SpaceWire Link Analyser is now available!

The Link Analyser Mk3 can capture and display bi-directional traffic travelling over a link; it can display live link statistics; and it can output decoded SpaceWire link characters and events to an external logic analyser. The traffic visibility this provides greatly helps to validate a link is operating correctly and aids debugging when problems are detected. Without such traffic visibility, there is an increased risk that issues go undetected and problems may take significantly longer to resolve.

Building on the capabilities of previous models, both the Link Analyser hardware and software are significantly improved. Hardware improvements mean much larger quantities of traffic can be captured, on SpaceWire links operating at faster speeds, and can be uploaded to a host PC more quickly. The software has been completely rewritten, retaining familiar views and useful functionality from the Mk2, whilst removing limitations of the previous software and adding new features.

More information is available on the SpaceWire Link Analyser Mk3 product page.