Marc Anthony Azzopardi from the Astrionics Research Group of the University of Malta and Antonio Varriale, Blu5 Group CTO and director of Blu5 Labs Malta Ltd, presented the fruit of a collaboration agreement signed two years ago. The work was outlined at the recent Global Space Technology Convention (GSTC) in Singapore.

Sponsored by industry heavyweights such as Airbus Defence & Space, Thales Alenia Space, ST Engineering, ArianeSpace and other technology leaders including Blu5 Group, the GSTC is the premier space industry event in Asia, where the industry descends annually to showcase their latest products and vision for the entire space industry.

To an intrigued audience, the Maltese delegation described their electronic miniaturisation efforts in the small satellite sector that has overtaken the space industry by storm over the past decade.

In 2017, small satellites under 10 kilos accounted for over 65 per cent of all new satellites put into earth orbit and the exponential trend is seeing no sign of abatement, particularly in the lower cost segment. Malta is currently at the forefront of the picosatellite sector and is actively developing a swath of new technologies for satellites weighing just a couple of hundred grams.

The growing team is developing miniature on-board computers, electric propulsion, solar panels, electrical power systems, attitude determination and control, and both ends of a sophisticated communications system that leverages Blu5 Labs SEcube system-on-chip that combines three powerful, but complementary, computing technologies in a tiny 9x9 mm Ball-Grid-Array (BGA) chip.

The Astrionics Research Group, established by the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering of the University of Malta in 2015, is now a rapidly growing team of research students, academics, support engineers and contributors from various other departments and faculties that share an active interest in applied electronic systems research and development for the space environment. The Research Group is very active in the picosatellite and nanosatellite sector and is currently developing numerous satellite subsystems.

Blu5 focuses on the design and development of hardware-software platforms, targeted to ICT systems developers and integrators in various fields such as spacecraft, IoT, fintech, automotive, biomedical, information security and telecommunications.

Specifically, SEcube System-on-Chip finds its ideal place in the engineering of CubeSats for combining a powerful ARM microprocessor with tightly coupled FPGA fabric and a smart card security algorithm accelerator on a single and compact (9x9mm) BGA device, thus addressing the major satellite design constraints in terms of miniaturisation, high performance and low-cost processing in space.

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