• Design, testing, and validation of Dragonfly’s on-board computer

  • Computational imaging techniques for high dynamic range and fast motion applications using machine learning

  • launch of a rocket

    Launch Vehicle Sustainability Rating Development

  • Impact of satellites on Astronomical Observations

  • Developing novel orbit fitting routines

  • space debris above earth

    Enabling the Sauverny Observatory for space debris observations

  • rocket team members carrying a rocket

    EPFL Rocket Team

  • model of the chess sat

    EPFL Spacecraft Team

  • Xplore

  • photo of Orion Nebula (M42) with a satellite trail

    Space Situational Awareness

  • 2 analog astronauts discussing

    Asclepios

Design, testing, and validation of Dragonfly’s on-board computer

Supervisor:eSpace (David Rodríguez/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib) and AQUA (Minglo Wu/Prof. Edoardo Charbon) Type of Project: Semester or Master’s Project (preferably) Duration: 14 weeks /17 weeks (Official start/end date: Feb/20-Jun/02/2023) Submission of final report: Jun/09/2023 Final Presentation:TBD, tentative Jun/16/2023 Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space technologies, embedded systems engineering and design, programming, and early prototyping with a background in Aerospace, Electrical, Electronics, or Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and/or Physics. Prior experience with electronics, programming microcontrollers, and Altium Designer or any other SW tool for PCB design is a plus.

CONTEXT

A wide range of space applications demand improved imaging technology with an ever-higher degree of customization. From remote sensing and monitoring of rural areas on Earth to autonomous navigation of robotic assets on the Moon, optical, often multispectral, cameras are an almost indispensable part of any space system. We are building a breadboard model (BBM) of a unique camera payload that combines, for the first time, a large single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) sensor with novel energy-efficient, AI-on-chip algorithms capable of achieving high-dynamic range, ultra-fast imaging, and real-time, on-board image recognition and processing; aka “Dragonfly.” This project will help us bring the technology from a TRL3 (proof-of-concept in lab) to a TRL5 (breadboard model in representative environment) in preparation for a potential in-orbit demonstration mission and a lunar mission planned for late-2024. We plan to validate the technology using an in-house developed image postprocessing technique for visual-based navigation and/or in-orbit pose estimation, a potential application of our technology critical in today’s endeavor against increasing orbital debris.

PROJECT SCOPE

You will be responsible for activities framed within Phase 1B to Phase 3 of this project (see timeline below). The camera OBC has undergone a preliminary definition and it is currently partly operated through a Raspberry Pi 4. Unfortunately, the RP4 introduced a series of limitations that prevent us from scaling the architecture for a complete readout of the sensor. You will be tasked with the design, manufacturing, and testing of the second iteration of the OBC leading up to the final design of the payload motherboard. This OBC shall manage the full sensor readout (images taken by the camera + potentially other sensors (seismic and radiation) + encoders), handling commands sent by mission control (triggering the acquisition of images, selecting exposure times, etc.), storing and transferring data, and communicating with external interfaces. A bonus phase would involve the development/improvement of a Graphical User Interface to use as part of the Ground Control System (GCS) software.  

OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be in the form of a functional OBC.

TASKS

The following tasks need to be performed as part of this project. Tentative time allocations are provided only as a reference:
  • # 1: Understanding status of the project, needs/constraints, and interfaces. Become familiar with current operation and firmware [10% time allocation, ~1.5 week].
  • # 2: Implementing an improved OBC architecture capable of a full readout of the camera sensor [65% time allocation, ~9 weeks]. This task includes:
      – Scale up the architecture to read out all output lines of the sensor through a read-out circuit
      – Identification of the hardware implementation for the new architecture and circuitry.
      – Design of an integrated power conditioning and distribution circuitry to simplify the current prototype.
      – Design of a PCB implementing all the above.
  • # 3: Functional verification of the camera (final demonstration) [10% time allocation, ~1.5 weeks]
  • # 4: Adapting the OBC to manage readings from additional sensors (seismic and radiation sensors primarily) [15% time allocation, ~2 weeks]

CONTACT

Dr. David Rodríguez
Lunar Hub
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
david.rodriguez@epfl.ch

STATUS OF THE PROJECT

TAKEN

Computational imaging techniques for high dynamic range and fast motion applications using machine learning

Supervisor:eSpace (David Rodríguez/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib) and CVLab (Mathieu Salzmann)
Type of Project: Semester or Master’s Project
Duration: 14 weeks /17 weeks (Official start/end date: Feb/20-Jun/02/2023)
Submission of final report: Jun/09/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jun/16/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space technologies, embedded systems engineering and design, machine learning, programming, and early prototyping with a background in Aerospace, Electrical, Electronics, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and/or Physics.


CONTEXT

A wide range of space applications demand improved imaging technology with an ever-higher degree of customization. From remote sensing and monitoring of rural areas on Earth to autonomous navigation of robotic assets on the Moon, optical, often multispectral, cameras are an almost indispensable part of any space system.

We are building a breadboard model (BBM) of a unique camera payload that combines, for the first time, a large single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) sensor with novel energy-efficient, AI-on-chip algorithms capable of achieving high-dynamic range, ultra-fast imaging, and real-time, on-board image recognition and processing; aka “Dragonfly.” This project will help us bring the technology from a TRL3 (proof-of-concept in lab) to a TRL5 (breadboard model in representative environment) in preparation for a potential in-orbit demonstration mission and a lunar mission planned for late-2024. We plan to validate the technology using an in-house developed image postprocessing technique for aiding in visual-based navigation and/or in-orbit pose estimation, a potential application of our technology critical in today’s endeavor against increasing orbital debris.


PROJECT SCOPE

Dragonfly can acquire high-speed sequences (~25 kfps) of binary single-photon images. This camera is particularly useful in challenging operational conditions where high dynamic range and rapid motion tracking of complex or unknown geometries are required. Different approaches exist to improve the quality of the output images (reducing motion blur and other artifacts). This project aims at comparing the results from traditional denoising algorithms and machine learning-based approaches. The final selection and validation of the selected approach should be optimized to run real-time, on-chip on a specific HW architecture. The outcome of this project will be directly implemented in the current development of Dragonfly.

Example of a computational denoising technique for SPADs based on quanta burst photography (Sizhuo Ma et al., 2019)


OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be in the form of a functional demonstration of the selected imaging postprocessing technique.


TASKS

The following high-level tasks need to be performed as part of this project [tentative, to be confirmed at project kick-off]:

  • # 1: Understanding status of the project, needs/constraints, and becoming familiar with the use of SPADs
  • # 2: Performing a literature review on denoising techniques
  • # 3: Development and validation of selected approach(es) (final demonstration)
  • # 4: Path towards on-chip implementation


CONTACT

Dr. David Rodríguez
Lunar Hub
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
david.rodriguez@epfl.ch

STATUS OF THE PROJECT

TAKEN
launch of a rocket

Launch Vehicle Sustainability Rating Development

Supervisor: eSpace (Mathieu Udriot/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of Project: Semester project, 1 student.
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start/end date: Sep/20-Dec/24/2022)
Submission of final report: Jan/06/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jan/13/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space debris mitigation with a strong background in orbital mechanics. Prior knowledge in Launch Vehicle and systems engineering is a plus.

CONTEXT

eSpace has been selected as the organization taking over and putting in place the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR, figure 1), a system that will evaluate the level of sustainability of satellite missions. It has been developed in the last three years by a consortium of organizations including the WEF, ESA and MIT. The objective of the SSR is to push forward sustainability in the space sector and reward operators whose missions comply with the sustainability norms and guidelines, mainly related to space debris mitigation.

Figure 1 Current SSR modules [SSR Consortium]

 

Figure 2 Distribution of the total index among object categories.
[2021 ESA Space Environment Report]

 

It has been shown that the impact of the launch vehicle (LV) was not easily captured by the current version of the rating. Moreover, the responsibility for sustainability in space is for now mainly put on spacecraft operators and there is little incentive for LV providers in this field. On the other hand, rocket bodies are dominating the current total fragmentation risk (figure 2) and the new space mindset could see many more (micro) launchers produced and launched, which could increase the problem of space debris.

PROJECT SCOPE

During this project, you will continue the development of a new rating formula, dedicated to accounting for the launch vehicle’s upper stage impacts on the space environment.
You will be provided with a list of identified significant parameters and the first iteration of the rating formula. Based on that, you will bring your own knowledge and research work to develop a coherent and applicable rating system for launch vehicles’ upper stage impacts.
The focus of this project is first on space debris mitigation, with possible extension depending on your interests. During the project, there is the opportunity to present your work to the SSR team at eSpace. If the results are convincing, you will also be able to present to the SSR
advisory board, a group made of companies active in the space sector and/or to the SSR consortium.

OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be in the form of a report with a refined proposition for a Launch Vehicle Sustainability Rating (LVSR).

TASKS

● Understand the Space Sustainability Rating concept (with the support of the SSR team)
● Assess the development status of the LVSR
● Perform a literature review on rating systems development to define a methodology to create a coherent scoring formula
● Collect data from launch vehicles providers and refine the selection of parameters depending on data availability
● Iterate on the LVSR modules’ scoring formulas
● Perform a sensitivity analysis of the modules’ scores and refine the points and weights attributed
● Analyse the outcomes of the module with the collected data and rank several launch vehicles

CONTACT

Mathieu Udriot
Systems Engineer on Green Space Logistics
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
mathieu.udriot@epfl.ch

STATUS OF THE PROJECT

AVAILABLE

Impact of satellites on Astronomical Observations

Supervisor: eSpace (Adrien Saada/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of Project: Master Thesis (also suitable for semester projects)
Duration: 14 Weeks (Official start-end date: February 20 2023 – June 2 2023)
Submission of final report: May 26 2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative June 2 2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for one or two students with a background in Physics or aerospace engineering, interested in space sustainability. Knowledge in astronomy and Python would be a plus.

CONTEXT

In 2021, eSpace has been selected as the organization taking over and implementing the Space Sustainability Rating, a rating system that aims to evaluate the level of sustainability of satellite missions. It has been developed over the past years by a consortium of organizations including the WEF, ESA and MIT. The objective of the SSR is to push forward sustainability in the space sector and reward operators whose missions comply with the sustainability best-practises, norms and guidelines.

As the SSR started its operations in 2022, prospects on how to improve the current rating system are already foreseen. In that regard, a strong interest from the space community towards assessing the impact of space missions on the astronomical observations was noticed by the SSR Team. In July 2022, an eSpace intern started the development a new SSR module on the “Dark and Quiet Skies”. The development of this new module is supervised by eSpace, and is supported by several organizations with the appropriate technical expertise such as the CPS Policy Hub (a group co-led by representant of the IAU, ESO) and MIT. This project is a good opportunity to be advised by experienced engineers and astronomers from SKAO, IAU, ESO, MIT, ITU.

As it stands, the SSR encompasses several modules, and particularly one on Detectability, Identification, and Tracking, which methodology overlaps with the potential development of this new module. The DIT module was developed by the Space enabled research group at MIT.

Figure 1: Ground sensor network defined to perform the DIT module simulations

PROJECT SCOPE

The development of the module “Dark and Quiet Skies” is currently under preliminary definition and its inclusion in the SSR is not foreseen before Q4 2023. This master thesis aims at continuing the developments that took place in July-December 2022. This SSR module focuses on two main work packages:
• WP1: Impact on optical observations
• WP2: Impact on radio observations
The focus of this thesis project can be on either on one of those aspects, or both, depending on the student background and the number of applicants (possibility to have one student per work package).

TASKS

The task definition is subject to change as this proposal was written in December 2022 and the status of the work performed at eSpace will probably evolve until February.

The student(s) will:
1. Understand the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR) concept and methodology with an emphasis on the Detectability, Identification and Trackability (DIT) module methodology.

2. Perform a literature review on the impact of man-made objects on astronomical observation (optical and/or radio): understand the cause, what parameters shall be considered, what are the effects…

3. Take-over the work already performed in July 2022 – January 2023 at eSpace and MIT, and understand the current status of the development of the module:
• Understand the pre-identified structure of the module
• WP1 impact on optical astronomy:
• Understand the DIT Python Framework that allows to model ground stations, propagate a satellite and compute its visual magnitude from the modelled ground station.
• Familiarize with AstroPy
• Read about the current status of the questionnaire part of the module
• WP2 impact on radio astronomy:
• Understand the existing regulatory framework (mainly ITU-R regulations), read the pre-identified questionnaire inputs
• Optional: Understand the DIT Python Framework that allows to propagate a satellite and simulate a ground station.
• Refine the selection of parameters depending on data availability from satellite operators

4. Based on the literature review and the work already achieved, the student will:
• WP1 impact on optical astronomy:
• Work on a Python code allowing to:
• model an image from the visual magnitude data and orbit propagation data
• assess the impact of the spacecraft(s) on the image depending on the type of observation, telescope detector, telescope latitude.
• Implement a scoring formula quantifying the spacecraft’s impact, with the support of the SSR Operation officer and experts
• Validate the module scoring methodology using both mock and collected data in order to fine-tune the module’s rating scale
• Radio astronomy
• Draft a list of the guidelines and best practises to avoid/mitigate radio interference
• Filter the guidelines to only consider the ones relevant to satellite operators. The remaining will be reformulated to become a rating criterion.
• Assign a scoring formula depending on the importance of each criteria
• Validate the module scoring methodology using both mock and collected data in order to fine-tune the module’s rating scale.
• Optional and to be discussed: As for the optical part, a modelling can be done using the python framework to quantify the impact of the satellite(s) on radio astronomy using the equivalent power flux density to quantify the data loss due to interference. This task can be tailored depending on the student background as it is not a straightforward implementation.

5. Propose a connexion methodology between the newly formulated module with the rest of the SSR.

CONTACT

Adrien Saada
Space Sustainability Rating Operation Officer
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
adrien.saada@epfl.ch

STATUS OF THE PROJECT

AVAILABLE

Developing novel orbit fitting routines

Supervisor: eSpace/LASTRO (Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib/Stephan Hellmich)
Type of Project: Semester project (TP4)
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start/end date: February 20-June 2)
Submission of final report: June 19
Final Presentation: TBD
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in orbital mechanics, numerical integration. Prior knowledge in Java and Python is a plus.

CONTEXT

As part of the newly established Space Sustainability Hub (SSH) at eSpace, we are exploring novel techniques for determining the rotational and physical properties of space debris. For this purpose, we are currently developing methods for the detection and extraction of space debris observations from large astronomical data archives. These archives contain observational data over a 10-year period and include a large amount of random satellite and space debris observations. On the astronomical images, these objects appear as characteristic streaks, most of which cross the entire detector during the several minutes of exposure time. To identify the object that caused the streak, the observations are correlated with publicly available catalogs of satellites and space debris. However, due to uncertainties in the cataloged orbital elements, propagation errors and the fact that the real orbits are constantly changing, the observation does not precisely match the cataloged orbit. In order to determine the precise observation time, the orbits from the catalogs need to be fitted to exactly match the observation.

PROJECT SCOPE

The goal of this project is to develop a method that does not rely on exact observation time stamps, but rather treat the observation time as a variable during the fitting process. Existing orbital mechanics libraries such as Orekit contain sophisticated orbit determination and fitting routines. These methods however account only for errors in the astrometry (the measured position of an orbital debris particle in the sky) and not for errors in the observation time. Due to the high resolution of the images, the astrometry is very accurate but for the objects that cross the whole field during the exposure, the precise exposure time is unknown and can only be determined from the fitted orbit.

TASKS

  • Familiarize yourself with existing orbit fitting techniques
  • Investigate if these methods can be modified or extended to account for variable observation times
  • Design and implement a method to fit orbits to streaks that cross the whole detector

CONTACT

Dr. Stephan Hellmich
LASTRO – EPFL Laboratory of Astophysics
stephan.hellmich@epfl.ch

STATUS OF THE PROJECT

TAKEN
space debris above earth

Enabling the Sauverny Observatory for space debris observations

Supervisor: eSpace/LASTRO (Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib/Stephan Hellmich)
Type of Project: Semester project (TP4)
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start/end date: Sep/20-Dec/24/2022)
Submission of final report: Jan/06/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jan/12/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in the software design of autonomous observatories and space surveillance and tracking with a background in Software Engineering.

CONTEXT

To characterize the physical properties of space debris eSpace/LASTRO is currently expanding its observation possibilities. EPFL has access to the TELESTO telescope, located at the Sauverny observatory close to Geneva which represents a good observing facility. However, in its current state, the telescope is not very well suited for the observation of space debris. There is no possibility to target or track objects in the orbit of Earth. To overcome these problems and enable TELESTO for space debris observations, the telescope control software needs to be improved. A longer-term goal is the complete automation of the telescope and the work done in this project represents an important step towards achieving this goal.

PROJECT SCOPE

During the project, you will familiarize yourself with the telescope and its software environment. You will learn about requirements of passive optical observations of space debris. In order for the telescope to be used for space debris observation, the control of the various subsystems of the facility needs to be integrated into an easy-to-use interface. The resulting software module should provide a command-line or script-based interface through which observers can create observation plans that are automatically processed by the telescope. The basic requirements for the module are pointing and tracking based on two line elements (TLEs), camera and filter control as well as routines for automated acquisition of calibration frames.

CONTACT

Dr. Stephan Hellmich
LASTRO – EPFL Laboratory of Astophysics
stephan.hellmich@epfl.ch

STATUS OF THE PROJECT

TAKEN
rocket team members carrying a rocket

EPFL Rocket Team

Click HERE to visit the EPFL Rocket Team’s projects page.

model of the chess sat

EPFL Spacecraft Team

Click HERE to visit the EPFL Spacecraft Team’s projects page.

Xplore

Click HERE to visit Xplore’s projects page.

photo of Orion Nebula (M42) with a satellite trail

Space Situational Awareness

Click HERE to visit SSA’s projects page.

2 analog astronauts discussing

Asclepios

Click HERE to visit Asclepios’s projects page.

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