Jena-Optronik GmbH is a supplier of attitude and orbit control sensors (AOCS) for the European satellite industry and high-value imaging systems for scientific, medical and industrial applications. The company has 109 employees, 60 of them working in electronic engineering, construction and software development.
The objective of the Application Experiment (AE) focussed on the introduction of ASIC technology was the development of a highly competitive modular star sensor family having an inherent high performance and low cost. Jena-Optronik had to learn how to plan and to manage such a project and how to design an ASIC in order to realise one of the final goals: to open new markets in the area of non-space applications for its intelligent vision systems.
The existing star sensor product was introduced to the market in 1987 and consists of three boxes. The electronic modules were designed and manufactured as standard PCBs (printed circuit board) with simple ICs (integrated circuit). All product parameters of this solution do not correspond to the current demands for star sensors. The only way to overcome the product impairments was the introduction of an advanced ASIC technology into the companys products.
The new star sensor will be one of the best product families in this field in the world starting with low cost versions up to high-end applications. Depending on the application the price of the new star sensor will be 2 to 4 times lower than the old device.
In the AE Jena-Optronik has learned to plan and to design an ASIC for space applications. The specialists were confronted with the pressure of First Time Right Design, they learned to prevent errors and to solve problems in planning, designing and simulation of ASICs. One of the main lessons was that the test bench and the stimuli files must test as many elements of the ASIC as possible WITHOUT ANY errors. A test sequence for a high fault-coverage rate reflects not necessarily the typical application-related functional behaviour. From the management point of view, it is necessary to co-operate very closely with all companies involved in such a project from the beginning.
The AE started in December 1996 and ran for 12 months, which was two months longer than planned. The reasons were additional iteration cycles in the design process, especially in the synthesis task which required more effort than expected.
The total costs of the AE were 164K ECU, and the total production development cost was approximately 300K ECU. This additional cost was due to the high standards for satellite/space application that have to be fulfilled. The expected ROI is therefore about 1000% per year after the finished market introduction. Taking into consideration this introduction curve, the payback period will be about one year.