CDPU board

Control and Data Processing Unit for small satellites

Interfaces and preprocessing for optical instruments

Together with the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) we are developing a Control and Data Processing Unit (CDPU) for smallsats (small satellites). This CDPU is an Instrument Control Unit (ICU) equipped with data processing capacity. The Dutch optical industry is world-renowned for the quality of its optical instruments for earth observation from space. The CDPU will enhance the opportunities of this high-grade industry by developing new on-board data processing technology. On the basis of this strategic consideration the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) has awarded the contract to us.

‘New Space’: multidisciplinary and agile

Smallsats, satellites that weigh up to 1,000 kg, and the even smaller minisats and microsats, are typical examples of ‘New Space’: the trend towards small-scale space technology that can be realized quickly and relatively cheaply. The versatile, compact CDPU fits into this trend perfectly. The same principle applies to the development path. Together with NLR, we use a multidisciplinary, agile approach in which we develop new elements of the CDPU in short sprints.

Within the project, NLR concentrates on setting, defining and validating the requirements for the CDPU. Some applications require very highly radiation-resistant technology, for example if the satellite will be in operation for several years. But the CDPU can also be deployed in short-term applications where radiation resistance is less important. We develop reliable electronics with a scalable quality level that is adjusted to the satellite’s mission profile.

Flexibility and versatility are also hallmarks of the CDPU’s technology. The computational core of the system consists of a radiation-resistant reprogrammable FPGA. This technology is the domain of Technolution Advance: reliable, modularly developed electronics in combination with programmable logic. Thanks to the FPGA technology it is relatively simple to implement different data processing functionality or to adjust the operational functions. This can even be done after the satellite with the CDPU has been launched and is operational.

Interfacing and data processing

The CDPU is focused on easy and reliable integration and operation of optical instruments in smallsat platforms. In addition to interfacing for optics, the CDPU has another important task: the built-in FPGA processors are able to preprocess the recorded imaging data. This happens before the data is transmitted downstream to the ground station. Preprocessing the data means much less bandwidth is required to do this. In addition, the CDPU is equipped with enough computational power to filter out irrelevant data from the measurement results and to make data secure through encryption.

A boost for the Dutch aerospace industry

After a successful functional demo, further development of the CDPU is now being undertaken to create a so-called Engineering Model. Despite the flexible New Space approach, space technology of course still has to meet high technical standards. With a combination of reliable (agile) development methods from the high-tech equipment industry, and inspired by traditional aerospace standards, NLR and Technolution Advance will have to complete quite a number of development stages yet. Together, we are working to produce a ’Flight Model’ of the CDPU that is ready for use in space, initially for smallsat space instruments.

With its Dutch operational and data processing technology focused on accommodating Dutch optical technology, the CDPU will give Dutch aerospace technology a serious boost.

The CDPU by Technolution Advance and Royal NLR is an SBIR program commissioned by NSO – Netherlands Space Office.

Learn more about our expertise used in this project



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