What kind of testing does the Avionics Laboratory carry out?
The Laboratory evaluates a broad range of avionics elements from individual microprocessors up to complete sensors and systems with application environments, through a combination of real-world testing and also complex software 'test beds'. It also validates new operational concepts – such as high-speed networks or wireless communications – using the same combination of methods.
It is made up of two linked facilities, the Data Systems Laboratory and Control Systems Laboratory, often working in conjunction with the adjacent Software and Simulation Laboratory, with whom the main End-To-End Avionics Test Bench is shared. Coupled testbeds are instrumental in the validation of Fault Detection Isolation and Recovery (FDIR) schemes.
The Data Systems Laboratory performs testing on avionics for onboard data handling – satellite computers, interfaces and communication systems – as well as payload data processing systems for the instruments performing specific mission 'work'. It is also responsible for microelectronics testing.
It employs a variety of software test beds comprised of linked computers, simulating onboard subsystems or even entire virtual missions. These are used to evaluate new concepts for computer and data-handling architectures, investigate on-board communications services and protocols in an end-to-end context.
Test beds also assess how well data processing systems can manage the all-important results that the mission has been designed to retrieve in terms of image or information processing, compression, storage and transmission.
The Data Systems Laboratory also performs tests related to the design of microprocessors – the same kind of application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and fully programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) at the heart of today's terrestrial electronics. Both play at least an as important role in space electronics.
A dedicated microelectronics area maintains a pool of state-of-the-art computer aided design (CAD) tools to investigate and validate microprocessor designs. Space microprocessors such as the ESA-developed LEON-2 FT chip must be able to withstand radiation-induced memory 'flips' – an ability allowing to mitigate single event effects. The CAD facilities include a capability to simulate single event upsets (SEUs), through a capability called 'fault injection'.
The Control Systems Laboratory tests new attitude and orbit control (AOCS) and guidance navigation and control (GNC) techniques and equipments. These are sensors such as star trackers, Sun sensors, navigation cameras or actuators such as control momentum gyros, reaction wheels which are used to monitor or maintain a satellite's position and pointing direction (known as attitude) in space.
Its facilities include ultra-rigid optical tables with pneumatic legs that isolate them from all external vibration sources. Star trackers or Sun sensors can be stimulated on the table to check how well they are able to measure their attitude against a reference light source or simulated starfield. AOCS and GNC sensors can also be synced up to software test beds to evaluate HW/SW compatibility issues and real time performance on a closed loop basis.
The Control Systems Laboratory also supports the development and maintenance of GNC/AOCS toolkits and Astrodynamics SW tools. These tools are used either internally to support projects or made available to industry (e.g. advanced control synthesis toolboxes, new tools for emerging GNC applications and astrodynamics tools for trajectory optimisation.)
Last update: 28 September 2009