Fraunhofer On-Board Processor

Experimentation and verification platform for satellite communication technologies

The Fraunhofer On-Board Processor (FOBP) is a powerful and flexibly programmable communication payload for satellite-based, digital signal processing. It is reconfigurable from the ground and can thus be adapted to new communication standards at any time. This makes it the ideal test environment for new satellite communication technologies.

The FOBP was launched into space in July 2023 as part of the German Heinrich Hertz satellite mission and has begun its service. The objective of the mission is to test novel communication techniques and associated equipment via satellite and to verify the processability on the satellite. Research and industry will also have the opportunity to conduct scientific and technical communication experiments. This is made possible primarily by the Fraunhofer On-Board Processor – the core of the Heinrich Hertz satellite's regenerative payload. By uploading configuration files, the satellite's complete digital signal processing can be reconfigured. This opens up the option of implementing new transmission techniques and testing them via the Heinrich Hertz satellite.

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On-board processor enables diverse applications

Thanks to a transponder bandwidth of up to 450 MHz, the FOBP can be used flexibly for testing new communications standards. Thus, the satellite can be reprogrammed for different applications during runtime.


5G via satellite

Because the transmission method can be reconfigured at any time, the FOBP can be used to test the deployment of geostationary satellites in 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN).


Satellite IoT

The FOBP supports M2M applications in which the IoT transmitters send their data packets directly to the satellite.

It also enables data to be temporarily stored on the satellite and later forwarded to a ground base station in bundled form. This allows the satellite capacity to be utilized more efficiently.


Broadband applications

The satellite bandwidth used is digitally scalable thanks to the FOBP. It thus enables broadband transmissions based on the DVB-S2X standard, for example also in combination with efficient transmission concepts such as beam hopping.

Test capabilities: exploring the future of satellite communications with the Fraunhofer On-Board Processor

The FOBP enables testing of new communication protocols, including direct transmission from satellite to receiver, eliminating the need for the signal to be processed at a ground station (single-hop connectivity). It supports the following functions:

  • Payload reconfiguration from Earth
  • Satellite communication for stationary terminals, nomadic and mobile users (with return link)
  • Direct satellite connectivity
  • Single-hop connection over IP (Internet protocol)
  • Flexible adaptation to existing systems due to its digitally scalable bandwidth, from broadband to narrowband applications, e.g. for sensor data
  • Measurement of solar radiation and total ionizing dose (TID)
  • Dynamic adaptation of the FPGA firmware to the current solar radiation condition

Technical details

Features of the FOBP

  • Hardware architecture based on two radiation-hard and ground-reconfigurable FPGAs for maximum flexibility in a wide range of applications
  • Radiation-hard, high-speed ADCs and DACs for direct sampling of the L-band intermediate frequency with optimal signal-to-noise ratio
  • Implemented error correction techniques to optimize performance and data rate
  • Radiation sensors for measuring absorbed radiation dose (UV EPROM) and detecting solar particle events (SRAM, BRAM in FPGA)
FOBP integrated in payload
In-orbit reconfigurable Fraunhofer On-Board Processor (FOBP)

Complementary test infrastructure at Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen, Germany

  • Ground station with powerful multiband satellite antenna for controlling and monitoring the FOBP via virtual TM/TC link (telemetry/telecommand)
  • Model of the FOBP for pretesting implemented transmission techniques and algorithms, which will subsequently be tested on the Heinrich Hertz satellite via the real FOBP in space
  • Thermal vacuum chamber to support pretesting under space-like conditions
Ground station at Fraunhofer IIS, Erlangen, Germany
© Fraunhofer IIS/Paul Pulkert
Ground station
Fraunhofer On-Board Processor in thermal vacuum chamber
© Fraunhofer IIS/Paul Pulkert
FOBP model
Thermal vacuum chamber at Fraunhofer IIS, Erlangen, Germany
© Fraunhofer IIS/Paul Pulkert
Thermal vacuum chamber

Availability and use

Since the launch of the Heinrich Hertz satellite in 2023, the Fraunhofer On-Board Processor has been available as an experimentation and verification platform, thus transforming into a laboratory in space.

You would like to test new antenna, modem or transmission technologies live via satellite with a regenerative payload? Then we will be happy to plan and develop a suitable test setup and take care of the preparation and execution of the corresponding over-the-air tests.

Our extensive test equipment for satellite communication enables us to precisely match communication technologies and algorithms to the planned experiments in advance and to verify their functionality in lab.

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When the fascination of space comes to life

Read here the backstory of how a team led by Rainer Wansch managed to launch the FOBP into space.

Heinrich Hertz satellite mission

The Heinrich Hertz mission has the primary objective of testing new technologies for satellite communication in space.

It is coordinated by the DLR (German Aerospace Center) and supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) with participation of the German Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg) on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag.


Fraunhofer IIS opens laboratory in space

Read here which experiments we are planning and how the FOBP can unleash the innovation potential of satellite communications.


On-board processing

For satellite-based, digital signal processing applications

Satellite communication

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