MDH research brings Sweden into space

Jan 14, 2014 | Research/Cooperation

A new MDH research project in cooperation with the companies Bruhnspace AB and AMD will use game console technology to develop a supercomputer for future big data analysis in satellites. The purpose is to strengthen the competitive edge of the Swedish space industry in the world.

–The new research project will transform the space industry and constitute a big step forward for space robotics. Coproduction between the industry and academia provides technological enhancement of many applications characterised by data fusioning where Västerås and Sweden have a strong industrial basis, says Lars Asplund, a Professor of Robotics at MDH.

The one-year project which started in late 2013 aims to develop a supercomputer for space which can perform intelligent information analysis, make independent decisions in space and only return relevant information to earth in a more effective and less costly manner. The project has several possible applications, which means that there is a great interest for it on the market. For instance, the project can be used for earth observation in such a way that visual data for vegetation surveys can be selected and catalogued without downloading huge amounts of date to a high cost.

– Today it is expensive to gather data from space since there is no satisfactory way to distinguish useful information in large databases on orbit. The new powerful computer screens information which makes it cost-effective while operating in a radiation environment. Several companies in the space industry and industrial automation have already shown a great interest in this platform. A first test of the system on a satellite in space is expected by the summer of 2014, says Fredrik Bruhn, the MD of the technology think tank Bruhnspace AB and Adjunct Professor at MDH.

The project is funded by the Swedish National Space Board and Bruhnspace AB together within the framework of the National Space Research Programme for small and medium enterprises with SEK 2.1 million and aims to develop both hardware and software in the heterogeneous supercomputer which will combine industrial high performance PC circuits with programmable logics for space systems. The technology for adapting the demanding applications to satellites and unmanned flying systems is based on AMD technology in game consoles such as Xbox One and Playstation 4.

– It is exciting to have the opportunity to take advantage of the great technology investments for game consoles and PC markets for the first time by applying them to a heterogeneous supercomputer which will and can be used in space through our new advanced architecture. Heterogeneous supercomputers are attractive for any type of robotics and especially in the space industry where the capacity of current alternatives for real time analysis is limited because of the difficulties in handling radioactive radiation in space, says Fredrik Bruhn, the MD of Bruhnspace AB.

For MDH, the project will have multiple synergy effects for ongoing research in the area of submarine robotics with artificial vision. It will also make possible the formation of a new MDH research group in this area.

– The project constitutes a considerable step forward for data fusioning and high performance robotics systems and stereo vision that we have been working on for a long time. The project will provide a good starting point for beginning to build student satellites and the platform will be the basis for the next generation of MDH efforts in the research project RALF3, which deals with the use of autonomous robots to clear mines in the Baltic, says Lars Asplund, Professor of Robotics at MDH.