Welcome to ECom’s documentation!

ECom (Efficient Communication Library)

Documentation Status

A library that provides a way to define a communication between devices. Both high level platforms (via a Python module) and a low-level embedded platforms, like an Arduino (via generated C code) are supported. The communication is as efficient as possible with a focus on minimizing the size of the transmitted payload, and minimizing memory usage and copy operations on the embedded device. It supports variable sized messages, where the size is included as part of the message.

Communication between tow high level platforms (Python to Python), one high level and one low level platform (Python to embedded device) and between two low level platforms (embedded to embedded) are all supported.

The library was originally developed to be used in the ASTER project.

Online documentation is available here.


The communication happens between two sides. One of these sides is considered the base and the other side is considered the secondary device. The base is usually controlling the secondary device to some extent. In the typical groundstation and satellite case, the groundstation is the base and the satellite represents the secondary device.

Within the ECom system, messages from the base to the secondary device are called Telecommands. Messages from the secondary device to the base are called Telemetry.


Some examples demonstrating the usage of the library can be found in the examples directory. This includes an example communication database with further documentation on the database.


The ecom Python module provides access to a communication database (see example). It allows to parse and serialize messages defined in the communication protocol. It also includes a code generator named ecomUpdate to generate a serializer and parser in C.


The ecom library can be installed with pip, this requires git to be installed:

pip install git+https://gitlab.com/team-aster/software/ecom

Alternatively, if the repository is already downloaded locally, it can be installed with the following command:

pip install .

This will cause the ecomUpdate script to be added to the PATH, so it can be called from everywhere.


The library provides a parser and serializer. In case the data is both parsed and serialized, a ResponseParser should be used, as it can handle deserialization of telecommand responses.

from ecom.database import CommunicationDatabase
from ecom.parser import TelemetryParser

# Initialization
database = CommunicationDatabase('/path/to/database')
parser = TelemetryParser(database)
connection = ...

def handleParseError(error):
    print(f'Parsing error: {error}')

# Read loop
for data in connection.read():
    for telemetry in parser.parse(data, errorHandler=handleParseError):

Note: The parser provides an errorHandler argument, which should always be provided. Otherwise, the parser will throw an exception when it encounters a parsing error, which causes it to ignore all data after the parsing error that was given to that call of parse.

from ecom.database import CommunicationDatabase
from ecom.serializer import TelecommandSerializer

# Initialization
database = CommunicationDatabase('/path/to/database')
serializer = TelecommandSerializer(database)
connection = ...

# Send a telecommand
motorEnabledCommand = database.getTelecommandByName('MOTOR_ENABLED')
telecommandBytes = serializer.serialize(motorEnabledCommand, enabled=True)
Database verification

The following command will attempt to load the database and can be used to verify the database.

python ecom/database.py --dataDir /path/to/database
Code generation

The code generation scripts expect a path to a directory which should contain the source code and a path to a directory which should contain the header files. It will generate a generated directory in both and write the generated code into them. Invoking the following command will generate the C code in the path/to/include/directory/generated and path/to/source/directory/generated directory.

ecomUpdate --dataDir /path/to/database path/to/source/directory path/to/include/directory
Unit tests

The unit tests for the module can be run as follows:

python -m unittest discover tests


This library has been successfully used in student projects:

  • The library was used for communication between the hardware on the rocket and the groundstation in the ASTER project, which flew on a REXUS rocket on the 21st March 2023.

  • The library was also used for communicating between Arduino microcontrollers on the 2023 balloon projects of the M2TSI master of the university in Toulouse.