SpaceWire has emerged as one of the main data-handling networks for spacecraft since the SpaceWire standard was published in January 2003. It is now being used on many ESA, NASA and JAXA spacecraft and by other space agencies, research organisations and space industry across the world. SpaceWire is designed to connect together high data-rate sensors, processing units, memory sub-systems and the down link telemetry sub-system. It provides high-speed (2 Mbits/s to 200 Mbits/s), bi-directional, full-duplex, data links which connect together the SpaceWire enabled equipment. Networks can be built to suit particular applications using point-to-point data links and routing switches. Application information is sent along a SpaceWire link in discrete packets. Control and time information can also be sent along SpaceWire links. One of the main advantages of SpaceWire is its low complexity (low gate count) and the fact that it can be implemented easily in both ASICs and FPGAs. SpaceWire is supported by several radiation tolerant ASICs designed by or for ESA, NASA and JAXA, and extensive test and development equipment is available.

The purpose of the SpaceWire standard is to facilitate the construction of high-performance on-board data handling systems, to help reduce system integration costs, to promote compatibility between data handling equipment and subsystems, and to encourage re-use of data handling equipment across several different missions. Use of the SpaceWire standard ensures that equipment is compatible at both the component and sub-system levels. Processing units, mass-memory units and down-link telemetry systems using SpaceWire interfaces developed for one mission can be readily used on another mission reducing the cost of development, improving reliability and most importantly increasing the amount of scientific work that can be achieved within a limited budget.

SpaceWire is defined in the European Cooperation for Space Standardization ECSS-E50-12A standard which was written by the University of Dundee with input from spacecraft engineers across Europe. Some notable missions using SpaceWire include: Bepi Colombo, GAIA, James Webb Space Telescope, SWIFT, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, MMS, GOES-R, and NeXT.

More information on SpaceWire can be found at the ESA SpaceWire website.

The SpaceWire standard can be downloaded from the ECSS website: SpaceWire Standard on ECSS Website

Papers relating to SpaceWire can be downloaded from the International SpaceWire Conference website.