Chatsworth, CA, May 2007 – Aitech Defense Systems computers and peripheral component interconnect (PCI) boards are aboard the Orbital Express system supporting an on-orbit demonstrationled by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Launced on March 8, 2007, Orbital Express is part of a DARPA program aimed at demonstrating full autonomous on-orbit spacecraft servicing capabilities. It consists of two spacecraft; the Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations (ASTRO) vehicle, developed by The Boeing Company; and NextSat, as prototypical modular next-generation servicable client satellite developed by Ball Aerospace.

Aitech provided the first generation computers for ASTRO that included several types of Aitech's space-qualified, radiation-tolerant 3U CompactPCI boards.

Integration of Aitech's computers and PCI boards with Orbital Express is a significant achievement for the company and the embedded computing industry in developing fully autonomous, robotic commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) in-space subsystems.

Aitech CEO, Roger Rowe stated, "This launch and other successful programs, such as the use of Aitech's boards in the International Space Station, help strengthen the usefullness of embedded computing components in space applications. We are excited to be a part of this newest achievement in autonomous space vehicle operations."

"Orbital Express is a revolutionary system that will offer customers with appropriately configured on-orbit assets and new options to enhance the operation of their systems. This demonstration mission is the first step toward developing an operational system that can service satellites and support other space operations," said George Muellner, president of Boeing Advanced Systems.

The ASTRO computers (AC-1, AC-2 and AC-3) are intregrated as three subsystems and are based on Aitech's new, 3U CompactPCI based product line including the PowerPC-based 3U S950 single voard computer (SBC), various analog and digital I/O boards as well as a fully-configured subsystem enclosure and power supplies.

The three mission-critical computers utilize Aitech's space-rated boards and enclosures. The computers include the command and data handling spacecraft control computer, the robotic docking computer and the replaceable avionics insertion computer that will dock ASTRO with NextSat.

In the same United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vechicle containing four additional experiemental (micro-satellite) spacecraft, Aitech also successfully deployed the space-rated S210 VMEbus SBC for the U.S. Air Force STP-Sat1 satellite.

Additional photos of the launch, courtesy of Benjamin Cooper, are available at


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