European Space Agency

FLARe Development of a Flexible AIS Receiver


The project is to develop an AIS system with an added function to remotely update the firmware to the FPGA.

 The objective is to use an existing AIS system and re-design to add this function to update firmware onto the FPGA via microcontroller, i.e. in- flight reprogramming.

 The project takes an evolutive approach that will allow a stepped development to more advanced in keeping the AIS system updated while in use with future requirements on the functions.

 The result is a more flexible, software configurable product designed to give mission assurance with optimised cost of ownership for the evolving small sat world.

Picture credit: COM DEV Europe (TA Honeywell). FLARe AIS Unit


The key challenges are in appropriate component selection for the given design philosophy and the system architecture choices to meet the exacting radiation, thermal, mechanical and electrical environmental factors, while maximising product functionality and configurability. Key experiences from heritage flight datalink products, where pragmatic qualification approaches were validated are essential to development success. Our development also requires inputs from as many potential users as possible to ensure that its capabilities meet customer needs.


The defined architecture allows for flexibility in reconfiguring firmware updates to the FPGA remotely while in flight mode meeting future operational requirements. configurability also enables:

  • flexible demodulation
  • flexible data-rate
  • flexible output power
  • Non-ITAR commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components
  • Low mass and low volume unit
  • Programmable AIS channel selection

 This solution is aimed at missions in low earth orbit (LEO) with a balance of affordability, flexibility and total cost of ownership in mind, enabling smaller, lower cost, more agile platforms in our evolving industry.


Units are built in accordance with ECSS class 3 (NASA level 2) standards taking a radiation tolerant rather than radiation hardened approach to deliver mission assurance. 

  • Low mass, low volume unit
  • SDR based implementation combined with a direct conversion receiver architecture.
  • Programmable AIS channel selection
  • Selectable operational modes
  • a) raw spectrum capture
  • b) OBP
  • Low power consumption 

Full product spec available contact


System Architecture


MS1 PDR: Architecture development, Concept development & breadboard design

MS2 CDR: detailed design and MAIT of EM unit

MS3 TRR: EQM MAIT, test system development and release MS4 FR: Qualification of EQM and development

Current status

Project KO meeting held January 2016, early preliminary design presented with work ongoing towards PDR

Status date

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 - 09:38