OAPES-CM - Advanced Small Satellite Operation


Services and infrastructure

IDR  has been involved in research in the area of Space Engineering since the early 1970s. It has contributed to this field with a large number of activities, including experimentation on space platforms such as SpaceLab, sounding rockets, the development of space systems such as UPMsat-1 and UPMSat-2, contributions to scientific missions in astronomy and study of the solar system such as Rosetta, EXO-Mars, Mars 2020 Rover Mission, flights in stratospheric balloon missions such as Sunrise I, II and III, and the development of scientific missions of solar exploration such as ARIEL and Solar Orbiter. Also noteworthy is the initial development phase of the UPMSat-3 satellite.

The STRAST group has been involved in research in the area of time-critical real time systems since its formation in 1988. During this time it has participated in a multitude of projects in the aerospace sector, both nationally, European and privately funded. Among them it is worth mentioning the ASSERT project (Automated proof-based System and Software Engineering for Real-Time applications) of the sixth framework program, coordinated by ESA and with the participation of 25 companies and research centers. Also noteworthy is the OpenRavenscar project and its derivatives, financed by ESA/ESTEC, in which an operating system for space systems qualified at level B was developed. This system has been used on several satellites, including UPMSat-2.

1. Design capabilities

Thermal Design

IDR has extensive experience in thermal design of space systems and scientific instruments. Some recent projects in this field are:

  • Characterization and analysis of the Mars atmosphere. Scientific exploitation of the NOMAD instrument of the TGO-Exomars mission (CIENCIANOMAD).
  • Solar physics from space: PHI for Solar Orbiter and iMaX and SP for Sunrise.
  • Thermomechanical design of the ARIEL telescope assembly (ARIELTA).
  • TEC2SPACE-CM: Development and exploration of new technologies for space instrumentation in the Community of Madrid.
  • Advanced operation of small satellites (OAPES-CM).

The structural thermal design team has the appropriate computer equipment and software tools to carry out the design tasks (ESATAN, ESARAD, NASTRAN, CATIA, GMAT, etc.).

A line of work oriented to the development of thermal design engineering tests by means of experiments on board stratospheric balloons is being initiated (participation in the EXUS-BEXUS program of the ESA).

Structural Analysis

IDR's structural analysis team has extensive experience in numerical simulation for structural design and verification of space systems. The group has the most widely used software tools in the European space industry, such as MSC Nastran for structural analysis and MSC Patran for finite element modeling.

Attitude control.

Thanks to the experience acquired in the development of attitude control for satellites such as UPMSat-1 and UPMSat-2, an attitude control group has been formed at IDR with experience in the following areas:

  • Development of attitude sensor models (sun sensors, magnetic sensors, gyroscopes...).
  • Development of attitude actuator models (magnetopairs, reaction wheels...).
  • Development of purely magnetic attitude controls (both active and passive).
  • Development of attitude determination algorithms (including Kalman filtering).
  • Development of three-axis active attitude control algorithms (magnetopairs and reaction wheels).
  • Development of detumbling algorithms.

IDR has also carried out the implementation of these algorithms in flight software in collaboration with the STRAST group (Real Time Systems and Telematic Services Architecture) of the UPM.

Among the projects carried out by IDR + STRAST in this area, the collaboration in the development of the attitude control of the ANSER mission of INTA stands out.

Electrical power systems

The group has developed, thanks to the UPMSat-2 mission, an important capability in terms of satellite electrical power systems. This capability is summarized in:

  1. the integration and testing of solar panels,
  2. integration, testing, monitoring and maintenance of lithium-ion batteries for space use, and
  3. the design and construction of connection cabling for satellites.

In addition to this, we have the ability to simulate, often with self-developed models, electrical power systems (solar panels, batteries, DC-DC converters), both in isolation and as a whole.

The group's experience in the design of electrical power systems is reflected in the work carried out for the UPMSat-2 mission, which includes:

  • The design of the on-board computer for this satellite, which includes the electrical distribution system, carried out together with the company TECNOBIT S.A. and the STRAST group of the UPM.
    It is also worth mentioning the programming of this system, both for the management of the electrical power distribution and for data acquisition.
  • The design of the UPMSat-2 cabling, from CAD drawings to manufacturing, which includes flattening, cable connections, grounding, connectors, shielding and shielding.
  • Design of autonomous systems (i.e. not dependent on computer control to reduce failure modes), of thermal protection for the batteries, given the risk they suffer at low temperatures.
  • Design of external wiring and connection of solar panels from space-qualified commercial modules.

Mechanical Design

IDR has a mechanical design group necessary to develop the projects in which it is involved, both space and aeronautical. Among these projects we can mention the following:

  • UPMSat-2
  • Thermomechanical design of the ARIEL Telescope Assembly (ARIELTA).
  • Development of a structural monitoring system based on a microinterrogator and neural networks (STARGATE).
  • Attitude test bench for satellites.
  • High temporal and spatial resolution simultaneous multi-magnitude measurement system for aerodynamic and aeroelastic wind tunnel tests.
  • Wind tunnel test models.
  • Active aerodynamic actuators for load control.

The group is equipped with industry standard software tools (CATIA, NASTRAN, ESATAN, ESARAD, etc.).


Manufacturing and design of composite structures.

Capacity to design, calculate and optimize composite structures:

  • Autoclave (1.5 m diameter, 1.2 m deep).
  • Hot plate press (up to 550 ºC, 200 MPa).
  • Vacuum furnace (1.5x2x1.8 m3 and up to 400 ºC).
  • Composite machining centers
  • 3D printer for high pressure and high temperature tooling manufacturing (1.2x0.8x0.5 m3).
  • Sicoteva.

Experience in the design, calculation and manufacture of complex structures:

  • Isogrid geometries.
  • Cubesat structures.
  • Deployable supports for solar panels.

Mechanical characterization and quality control.

Materials and structures characterization capability:

  • 5 universal testing machines from 2 kN to 150 kN.
  • Gravity tower impact machine up to 400 J.
  • Standardized testing tools for compression, shear, and sandwich.
  • Ultrasonic inspection with reflective square.
  • Omniscan MX2 phased array inspection.

Experience in materials certification (Level 4 Laboratory of the Community of Madrid).

Sensorization and intelligent structures.

  • Optical laboratory for the manufacture of FBG sensors.
  • Laboratory for integration of sensors in structures.
  • FBG and PZT sensor interrogators.
  • OBR 4600: Distributed sensing.
  • ODiSI 2.
  • Smart Layer & Smart Suitcase.
  • Photonic chips integration station.

Experience embedding sensors and actuators in composite structures.

On-board computers and software

The STRAST group has extensive experience in the development of on-board computers and software for space systems. Among its lines of research are:

  • real-time systems,
  • embedded computers,
  • cyber-physical systems,
  • high integrity systems.

Among the projects carried out by the group it is worth mentioning:

  • ORK (Open Ravenscar Real-Time Kernel), operating system for embedded computers qualified as level B according to the ECSS-Q-ST-40C standard.
  • ASSERT (Automated proof-based System and Software Engineering for Real-Time applications).
  • AURORA (Tool suite for AUtomatic code generation and validation of model-based critical inteROpeRAble components).

The STRAST group developed all the software for the UPMSat2 mission, both on-board and ground station software, experimenting with techniques such as model-based development (MBD), automatic code generation and validation with PIL (Processor In the Loop) and HIL (Hardware In the Loop). In addition, the SoC (System On-Chip) for the on-board computer (OBC) was developed and synthesized from IP Cores libraries in VHDL.

The ground station was developed using the Cassandra no-SQL database, which allows easy replication of the system and secure communications. The web interface is based on Django and Python. The telecommand generation and telemetry decoding interface software is developed in Ada like the flight software.

Currently, STRAST and IDR are working together on the development and validation of ADCS (Attitude Determination and Control System) algorithms for the ANSER (Advanced Nanosatellites Systems for Earth Observation Research) nanosatellite constellation. They also collaborate in stratospheric balloon experiments, in the TASEC-Lab and HERCCULES projects, where STRAST is in charge of the design of the onboard computers, based on COTS components, and the software for both missions.

2. Infrastructure

Equipment for vibration testing

One of the IDR facilities is a vibration test room with two electrodynamic shackers devoted to the structural qualification of space systems.

The main shacker is a V18/DPA 20K from Ling Dynamic Systems (LDS), with a load capacity of 17 792 N. The secondary shacker is a V400LT/DSA5-10K from Data Physics, with a load capacity of 7325 N.

IDR's vibration test team has extensive experience qualifying systems for companies such as PLD Space, DHVm AMSAT, EMXYS and IENAI. The pre-flight vibration campaign of the UPMSat-2 satellite was successfully carried out on the primary shacker, and some of the subsystems were also tested with the secondary shacker in order to achieve their structural qualification.

V810 / DPA 20K shacker, from Ling Dynamic Systems (LDS).

Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVAC)

The thermal vacuum test facility is located at the Montegancedo campus, in the building of the University Institute of Microgravity "Ignacio Da Riva" (IDR/UPM).


  • Pressure range: From ambient pressure up to 5×10-7.
    • For high vacuum tests the thermal system operates at pressures below 5×10-3.
    • For tests in rarefied atmospheres (from 0.1 to 700 mbar) the thermal system operates with limited power.
  • Temperature range: -150 ºC to 180 ºC.
  • Time to reach high vacuum: Less than 180 min to reach 1×10-5 mbar under normal conditions.
  • Vacuum system composed of oil-free primary pump, turbomolecular pump and cold trap configurable from -150 ºC to -170 ºC.
  • Temperature change rate: Up to 3 ºC per minute under normal conditions.
  • Temperature stability in stationary conditions: Variations of less than ±1 ºC.
  • Temperature uniformity without specimen and in stationary conditions: Variations less than ±3 ºC (jacket) and less than ±1 ºC (base plate).
  • TQCM for outgassing and bake-out tests.

Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) testing of the Attitude Control System (ADCS).

The IDR has received a grant for the acquisition of equipment in the call for Scientific-Technical Equipment 2021 (funded by MCIN/ AEI/10.13039/501100011033/ and by the "European Union NextGenerationEU/PRTR".) for the acquisition of an attitude test bench for satellites (EQC2021-007549-P). The granted aid will allow IDR to have by end 2023 one of the most advanced attitude test benches in Spain, with the capacity to perform HIL attitude tests reproducing the environmental conditions of freedom of rotation, illumination (sun and stars), magnetic field and GPS that a satellite in orbit would see. The figure shows a test bench with equivalent performance to the one that will be acquired with the project funding.

Ground Station

IDR and STRAST have developed a ground station for satellite tracking, which is located at the Montegancedo Campus of the UPM. The station contains two UHF chains:

  • Simplex chain, which operates in the radio frequency band for space operations in the space-to-ground direction (401-403 MHz).
    • UHF crossed Yagi antenna.
    • Airspy receiver (software defined radio)
    • LNA (low noise amplifier) and filter
  • Half-duplex chain, operating in the 420-450 MHz amateur radio band
    • Yagi X-Quad antenna
    • Kenwood TS-2000 transceiver
    • LNA (low noise amplifier) and filter
    • HPA (high-power amplifier) opcinoal on transmission

The orientation of both antennas (azimuth and elevation) is controlled by an Alpha Spid rotor, with a resolution of 0.1degrees. The tracking software is based on Ham Radio Deluxe software.

The figure shows the ground station software architecture. The following enhancements are currently under development, within the OAPES program:

  • Automatic deployment for cloud computing.
  • Advanced visualization tools
  • Automatic generation of integration components and database content from received telemetry messages.


Concurrent design and engineering




Our officies

The University Institute of Microgravity "Ignacio Da Riva" is part of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. We have one site at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Aeronáutica y del Espacio, within the Moncloa campus, and another at the Montegacedo campus.

Campus Moncloa / Montegacedo

📍 Plaza Cardenal Cisneros, 3 28040 Madrid, España

📍 Calle de los Ciruelos S/N, 28223 Pozuelo, España

📧 secretaria.idr@upm.es

📧 Iac.idr@upm.es

📞+34 9106 76072

📞+34 9106 76073