With a reputation for delivering 'best-in-class' solutions to high-profile customers in the space industry, CRITICAL Software has provided software services and products for mission-critical subsystems and interfaces since 1998.

Working in the space, ground and earth observation sectors, we are established as a reliable, proactive and cost-effective partner for customers seeking innovative solutions for their most demanding challenges. Our first customers were the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1998 and the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2001. Currently, we work as a prime contractor and subcontractor for a wide range of companies and institutions, including ESA, NASA, JAXA, Airbus Defence & Space, Thales Alenia Space and many others.

Our activities range from on-board systems development to specialised services such as independent product assurance. With a blend of skills that comes from operating in this sector for more than 15 years, our engineering teams are exceptionally familiar with the sector’s standards and requirements. From the production of high-integrity software solutions to the development of customised systems using the best available technologies and modelling methodologies, we have the expertise to deliver success.

If you want to learn more about our work in the space industry, check the dedicated downloads hub.

Embedded Software Development for Space

CRITICAL Software has developed both application software and central software for various ESA space missions, including Galileo, Sentinel 2 and 3, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Solar Orbiter. CRITICAL Software regularly collaborates with Airbus Defence & Space and Thales Alenia Space to perform activities from software requirements to system validation of Level B software, working closely with their teams and keeping a very flexible approach.

Ensuring optimal performance, our engineering team has worked with customers to deliver complex systems according to precise standards such as ECSS-Q-20, ECSS-Q-30, ECSS-Q-40, ECSS-Q-80 and ECSS-E-40. Our presence in the majority of space missions is a reflection of our broad capabilities and cutting-edge embedded software development skills. We have wide-ranging experience in applying ESA’s ECSS standards, which form the basis of our Quality Management System, recognised as CMMI Level 5.

Safety-Critical V&V for Space

If it were to be suggested to an audience that spacecraft are launched before being tested, it might well trigger a strong sense of surprise and disbelief. Such reactions would be well-justified because the suggestion is not entirely true. However, it is also not completely in opposition to the facts. As surprising as it may seem, and contrary to common practice in other industries, spacecraft are not fully tested before being launched, and neither are test flights, except for rockets and other very specific missions.

But, there are good reasons for this lack of testing. The first is that it is simply not possible to fully test a spacecraft before launch, because we cannot fully replicate the conditions of space on the ground. The second reason is that launching a spacecraft just for the sake of testing it makes for a test case that is far too expensive to be economically viable.

The fact that spacecraft cannot be fully tested on the ground makes V&V activities even more challenging. Having participated in over fifteen space missions to date, CRITICAL Software is well aware of this challenge, and well versed on how to combine software-in-the-loop (SIL), model-in-the-loop (MIL) and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) to achieve maximum V&V coverage on the ground, in the most efficient way.

Though testing in space is, in general, not viable, lessons can and must be learned from previous missions. Which errors occurred in the past? How were they detected and overcome? Which architectures were most and least effective? Which specification flaws or deficiencies were present? Experience is paramount in addressing all these questions and more.

CRITICAL Software’s V&V services for space include:

  • Independent software Verification & Validation (ISVV): including, but not limited to, ISVV according to the mission-specific tailoring of ESA's ISVV Guide, a document that CRITICAL Software originally contributed to.
  • On-board software validation (TS/RB Validation): where the scope may include the validation of the entire on-board software (OBSW), specific functional blocks only, or otherwise start from an incomplete validation state.
  • AIT support: support to functional verification and/or AIT including: functional testing of central software in FV/AIT test bench, functional testing of equipment (e.g. Star Tracker), and support to proto-flight model (PFM) tests. Some of CRITICAL Software’s case studies include the CryoSat-2 mission (AIT and PFM support), ExoMars TGO (FV support including interfacing between FV, AIT and OBSW teams) and, to a lesser extent, S2 (interface between OBSW and AIT).
  • On-board software V&V support: execution of specific V&V activities across the OBSW life cycle, either extending or complementing the costumer project team already in place. This service can be instantiated to respond to a project peak, contingency situation or simple outsourcing of a range of V&V activities.

We offer our clients a unique 4-stage approach to accommodate their specific V&V requirements:

  • V&V Setup & Go: designed to support clients in setting up an effective V&V environment and to bring them up to speed with the use of key tools and resources.
  • V&V Analyser: designed to help clients understand the gaps that exist in their projects according to the relevant industry standards in their area.
  • V&V Accelerator: designed to provide a quick response team to help clients overcome project peaks and other challenging or unplanned V&V scenarios.
  • V&V Plus: designed as a bespoke, comprehensive service to provide clients with the full-spectrum of V&V activities.

Know more

Automated testing suite that injects faults and monitors the activation of errors and their impact on the target system.

Space Flyer
Space Flyer

Systems, Development & Consultancy

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Safety and Dependability Assessment of Complex Systems for Space Flyer
Safety and Dependability Assessment of Complex Systems for Space Flyer

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Xception Flyer
Xception Flyer

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'Things We've Done in Space' Infographic
'Things We've Done in Space' Infographic
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Safety Management
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Safety Training for Space

Our training course provides attendees with an introduction to the parts of the European Cooperation for Space Standardisation (ECSS) initiative that relate to the development of certified software applications. The course provides an overview of the ECSS's organisation and disciplines, followed by a more detailed examination of the appropriate sections of the Space Product Assurance and Space Product Engineering branches.

Software Development for Space Applications

This two-day course looks at the relevance of ECSS to product development in the space sector, looking at how ECSS quality assurance impacts software development processes. Attendees will come away having developed a solid understanding of the software engineering processes and safety concepts required to meet ECSS certification objectives.

Find out more and register for the course.

Want to know more about our work in the space industry?

Click the button below to download our latest case study detailing our work on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

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