ESA title

New Instrument Control Electronics (NICE)

Space Segment
  • Payload
  • Product Development
The purpose of the NICE activity is to develop, manufacture and test a Demonstrator (EQM quality) of the ADHA compliant New Instrument Control Electronic (NICE) concept with the aim of reaching TRL7 for the product. The scalable, flexible and high-performance processing solution from Airbus Crisa for the future payload applications
Objectives of the Product

The future scientific missions require instruments with very high data processing and storage capability. On top of that, development times are being reduced and, therefore, uncertainty for phases B2/C/D has to be minimized via standardization and via increasing TRL before electronics Kick-off. Solutions based on industry standard allows to reduce developing times while keep the costs low by maximizing the reuse.

NICE is the Airbus Crisa answer to these demands from the industry. NICE is a modular concept fully aligned with the state-of-the-art ADHA standard (Advance Data Handling Architecture) currently promoted by the european space industry. It provides the flexibility demanded by the payload applications while keeping the NRE cost under control by reusing core modules in several missions.

The NICE project develops the core items of the concept by integrating existing ADHA modules already developed by Airbus Crisa (Processor module and I/O module) with brand new modules (Power and Backplane) in a fully standard 6 slots ADHA rack which is submitted to full qualification campaign. The TRL achieved for NICE concept is TRL7.

Customers and their Needs

The key customers segments targeted by NICE product, the related problems and needs are summarized as follows:

  • Satellite/Instrument manufacturer.
    • New instruments need electronics with sufficient capacity to process on-board the higher amount of data provided by the sensors. NICE provides processing capacity increased in a factor of 25.
    • Increased storage capability to manage very high volume of data. NICE provides 2Tbit mass memory which is 16 000 times higher than previous product.
    • High data volume requires increased data-rates in communication links. NICE provides internal SpFi links increasing data-rate by a factor of 60. External Optical Links with aggregated net data throughput of 10Gbps are also provided.
    • Need to redesign common building blocks from similar applications and potential re-qualification is needed with costs increase. NICE is based on the ADHA concept, allowing a fast integration of existing modules provided by third-party suppliers. This approach allows cost improvement and decrease of development uncertainties and risks
  • Units’ integrators. Need of redesign already existing building-blocks with impacts in cost and schedule. In some scenarios geo-return rules are difficult to meet. Standardization based on the ADHA concept, allowing a fast integration of existing modules already qualified providing improved time to market.

Targeted customer/users countries

The NICE product targets mainly european users (satellite and instrument primes as well as unit’s integrators).

Using the ADHA standard also opens the possibility of exporting to non-European customers, either at the unit or module level.

Product description

The NICE electrical architecture is a cold-redundant one supplied by independent power busses powering independent electrical chains, and managed by independent TM/TC/Science Interfaces. It could include specific modules instrument dependent. The redundancy is implemented in two independent units with no cross-strapping.

Each NICE section is composed by two groups of functions/modules:

  • A set of core modules which implements basic functions common to all ICUs.
  • A set of specific modules which implements instruments specific functions not covered by core modules.

The modules are connected together via a backplane and enclosed in a standard ADHA rack.

The NICE core is composed by the following modules:

  • Payload Controller Module (PCM): This is the ADHA rack System Controller of NICE. It implements most of the functions and interfaces required for the Data Handling function.
  • Standard Interface Module (STDIM). It implements functions of standard discrete input/output interfaces (relay commands/status, acquisition chains for thermal sensors and voltage telemetries).
  • Power Module (PM): it implements the interface with the spacecraft power bus as well as the discrete command and monitoring interfaces with the platform.
  • Thermal Control Module (TCM): it implements functions for thermal control support which provides supply to the heaters in charge of the instrument’s  thermal control.

Added Value

There are several areas of innovation which differentiates NICE from the existing products in the market:

  • Increased processing capacity: NICE is based on quad-core processor GR740 which leads to the increasing of the processing capacity by factor higher than 25
  • Increased storage capacity: NICE will implement a mass memory bank of 2 Tbits able to store several instances of BSW/ASW plus Scientific/mission data which is 32.000 times higher than previous product.
  • Higher data management capability via multiple internal high speed serial links based on SpFi over copper, which increases the rate by a factor of 60. External Optical Links with data throughput target of 10Gpbs
  • Standard modularity: standardization based on the state-of-the-art ADHA concept, which allows the fast integration of existing modules provided by third-party suppliers or to deliver Airbus Crisa modules to units’ integrators.
  • Flexibility: The use of re-programmable FPGAs will provide flexibility to primes allowing closer and shorter firmware update cycles after coupling tests between the electronics and the instruments.
  • Equivalent performances in terms of mass and power consumption but with increased capability in processing power, storage capacity and communication data throughput

Current Status
  • NICE KO held by mid-January 2024
  • Preparation of Requirement Review (foreseen by mid June 2024) is in progress. Delivered documents to ESA includes technical, PA and management documentation.
  • MPRs held with ESA in monthly basis.
  • The short term activities to follow: KO of Unit Tester activities with the supplier and preliminary identification of LLIs to start procurememt activities
Prime Contractor Company
Airbus Crisa
Spain Flag Spain
Contractor Project Manager
Isabel Garcia-Rojo Lopez
Torres Quevedo, nº 9. PTM 28760 Tres Cantos (Madrid)
ESA Technical Officer
Iñigo Alonso Etxebarria

Current activities