TTEthernet controllers boost Ariane 6 space launcher

TTEthernet controllers boost Ariane 6 space launcher

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Real time Ethernet ASICs designed by TTTech Aerospace have been qualified for the use in the next generation Ariane 6 space launcher.

The radiation hardened ASICs connect over 50 avionics subsystems in the launcher using Time-Triggered Ethernet technology to replace the past MIL-1553 bus. This allows safety-critical guidance, navigation and control data on the same network as non-critical monitoring or video data on the same physical media, reducing cable harness. 

Using redundant TTEthernet-based data networks also reduces the software complexity, enabling faster integration and reducing the risk of programmes over-running. This was a key issue with the Space Launch System (SLS) developed by Boeing for the Artemis 1 that is waiting to take off.    

Ariane 6 is Europe’s new flagship launcher that is intended to ensure independent access to space for the European space sector, boosting heavy satellites into orbit.  The launcher’s fully integrated avionics network was qualified at ArianeGroup’s development centre in Les Mureaux near Paris, France in March 2022, ahead of the first launch of Ariane 6 which is expected to take place at the European Space Port in Kourou, French Guiana, in the first quarter of 2023.

The development and qualification of the TTEthernet controller chip and the related embedded software started as part of research co-funded by the French Space Agency (CNES) and then later the European Space Agency (ESA) via its Future Launchers Preparatory Program (FLPP). TTTech Aerospace developed, manufactured, and qualified the chips in both HiRel and space quality with Ariane 6 being one of its first users.

 “The completion of the development and qualification of the TTESwitch and TTEEnd System Controller HiRel ASICs as core of the avionics connecting all safety-critical units in the data network is a major milestone. We also contributed to Ariane 6 with firmware development and qualification as well as integration support and we are very excited about the final qualification steps and the upcoming first launch,” said Christian Fidi, Senior Vice President, Business Unit Aerospace, TTTech.

Previous generations of the space launch vehicles used the robust MIL-1553 bus for handling safety-critical command and control data. However, to meet the demands of modular avionics and higher data throughput, the developers of Ariane 6 chose a data network that could provide about ten times more bandwidth and at least the same level of reliability without increasing cost and complexity. Research has found that architectures based on TTEthernet are an excellent fit and can meet these specifications.

This provides safe and secure partition of data, bandwidths scaling up to 1 Gbit/s and precise time distribution ensure that three traffic classes (best-effort, rate-constrained and Time-Triggered Ethernet) for critical control and command data as well as non-critical payload data can be transmitted on the same network. This reduces cabling as well as system complexity, integration, and testing efforts. Fault-tolerant, automated time synchronization and fault containment are implemented in hardware, which increases safety and ensures the system is operational at all times.

“For Ariane 6 we needed an avionics backbone system that could handle current and future requirements, especially higher bandwidth, to integrate additional data, for example camera streams, on the avionics network,” said Andre Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup.

“TTEthernet was the ideal choice, as it is a deterministic network with built-in fault tolerance for maximum reliability and lowers the cost of flight software over the system’s lifecycle. It is also interoperable with standard Ethernet used by ground control, which allows us to use the same network for the transmission of all telemetry data.”

“Using TTTech Aerospace’s TTEController HiRel ASICs to implement TTEthernet connectivity allowed us to reduce our recurring cost. These components come in automotive-grade packaging and qualifying both this ’off-the-shelf‘ solution and the Ethernet-based data network is one of several key innovations in Ariane 6.”

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