A method of quickly simulating and testing components and software for satellites that can be put together in a matter of days is on display at NSS.
The technology is aimed at the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office’s long-term goal of being able to design, build and field a tactical satellite in as little as seven days. Albuquerque, New Mexico-based PnP Innovations, is developing hardware components and software to enable users to rapidly develop modular ‘plug and play’ (PnP) satellites.
Developers demonstrate how tipping the panel in the foreground affects the inclination of the simulated PnP satellite on the screen behind. (all photos, Guy Norris)
Based on the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) research and Space Plug and Play Avionics (SPA) standards, the company’s structural panels contain embedded power and data routers, as well as mounting positions for PnP sensors and processors. Added to PnP parts such as reaction wheels, torque rods and magnetometers, the satellites components are brought together using modular software components.
Using a SPA-family of protocols, the PnP system tests the standardized communications interface between the flight computer system of the spacecraft and the various avionics and sensors. The simulation, portrayed on a large format screen, allows satellite developers to quickly assess, in real time, the impact on the vehicle dynamics and operations of adding particular elements.
Development of a tabletop SPA system is almost complete.
The company is now developing a “bench-top” version of the test and development system called the tabletop SPA. This will enable developers of SPA-compliant satellite components to remotely test the suitability of the parts to fit the application before they leave the factory. “You will be able to run co-ordinated simulations and verify they meet specification before they deliver the part,” says PnP Innovations director advanced software technology Ken Center. The initial hardware has been developed and software is close behind says Center who adds first sets will be available in mid-2009.