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GENSO Workshop at University of Vigo


From the Global Educational Network for Satellite Operations (GENSO) web site:

GENSO aims to increase the return from educational space missions by forming a worldwide network of ground stations and spacecraft which can interact via a software standard. This will fundamentally change the way that these missions are managed, dramatically increasing the level of access to orbital educational spacecraft.

GENSO is a project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and is coordinated by ESAs Education Office. The project is endorsed by the International Space Education Board (ISEB), which consists of representatives from the education departments of CSA, CNES, ESA, JAXA and NASA


I have been involved in the project since July 2006 as a:

  • representative of AMSAT
  • voluntary Software Engineering mentor
  • contributor of an Open Source implementation of the NASA/NORAD SGP4 and SDP4 satellite prediction algorithms (see Footnote).

Vigo Workshop

This was hosted by Prof. Fernando Aguado Agelet of the Telecommunications Dept. of the University of Vigo, Galicia, Spain.

The dept has it's own ground station and has a clean room and 500MHz-24GHz anechoic chamber for satellite development.

The workshop was both tiring and enlivening at the same time, with two 12 hour, one 8 hour working days and two early morning starts, travelling!

Day 1:

  • Welcome and tours of Dept facilities
  • Introduction of the GENSO system to the new intake of students.


  • Systems engineering review
  • Practical demonstrations of R1 of the application
  • Presentation on the likely throughput of data through the system based on the modelling of satellite availability (work based on my satellite prediction implementation)
  • Presentation of the use of Test Driven Development and Continuous Integration in a distributed development team.


  • Detailed discussion of the design options for for R2
  • Refactoring of code by the existing team to remove redudancy and improve performance

In addition to the organised workshops there were several after-hours discussions about the design and development of payloads and telecom's protocols for Cubesats, including the one being developed by Vigo, XaTcobeo.

The Way Forward

There was a good deal of debate as to whether or not the Ground Station Server (GSS) and Mission Conrol Client (MCC) should be integrated for deployment. The problem being that while there is commonality in the model and controller there are significant problems integrating the view layer, given the time to next release.

The replication of data between the GSS and the Authorisation and Update Server (AUS) and between AUS instances was discussed and it was agreed that an investigation into the use of Web Services may be a way forward. A development spike was proposed that would create a web service on the AUS and a proxy client for the GSS.

The ESA student education office are sponsoring a number of students at Vigo university to perform the refactoring and further development of the project, with a target of release 2 by June 2010. This includes providing a mechanism for automating the generation of the XMLBeans and Hibernate definition.


I must express my thanks to my employers Black Pepper Software for allowing me to attend this workshop in exchange for my Training and Conference allocation for this year.

Dave Johnson


For over 20 years I've been porting and improving the NORAD SGP4 & SDP4 satellite orbit prediction algorithms as new programming languages have come and gone or lost favour:

  • Basic
  • Fortan
  • Pascal
  • C
  • C++
  • Several JAVA VMs!

The latest manifestation, in Java 1.6 can be downloaded from SourceForge via svn here:

or more recently here:

as the project is moving towards the building of a Google Apps Engine implementation to support the development of the GENSO project and a satellite prediction program for the Android platform.


The SGP4 implementation is also in us as part of MSc / PhD student projects as part of GENSO: