ALV-2 Design & Avionics Development Progress

Recent months has seen rapid growth in the ALV-2 project.

The ALV-2 reference design is now completed, and the conceptual design phase has formally started. Partners in this phase include the University of Queensland, University of Stellenbosch and DLR SART.

Full details of the ALV-2 design will be released in due course, but the payload range has now been fixed at up to 30 kg to 400km Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO). This corresponds to cubesats from about 3U up to a maximum of 27U. There is a critical need for a small dedicated launcher in this payload range, not the least to mitigate the space debris issues associated with rideshare cubesat launches to higher orbits. The cost optimized, partially reusable ALV-2 design will make dedicated launch possible, likely at the same cost as current rideshare launches and without the customary launch delays.

The ALV project has recently partnered with several organisations for the development of the ALV avionics system. The ALV will use a revolutionary low-cost avionics architecture, named HAVBUS, that is suitable for both the small-scale ALV-1 and the much larger ALV-2. In fact, the modular architecture would be suitable for almost any unmanned aerospace vehicle, within reason. Heliaq plans to open-source the HAVBUS architecture in future. The mechanical design of HAVBUS is based on the popular PC-104 form factor.

Partners in the avionics development include the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, and the ChibiOS Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) project. Stellenbosch University is a world leader in the field of UAV and satellite control, and have spun off several successful satellite and UAV design companies.

ChibiOS is a professionally written and maintained RTOS that is exceptionally well suited to the development of flight software. Crucially, ChibiOS is one of the very few embedded RTOSs that includes a full Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) for microcontroller peripherals. This relieves the application developer of spending significant amounts of time on hardware-related software coding.

The ChibiOS project is actively investigating the feasibility of porting the NASA Core Flight System (CFS) middleware to ChibiOS. If feasible, the result will be a powerful development framework for professional flight software not only for the ALV project, but for other flight control projects as well.  

Several discussions are also underway with further potential partners on the ALV-2 project. Details will be announced as soon as they are formalised.

A busy 2016 awaits...