Development of a New Software Platform for Testing Satellite Components
The Combination of LabVIEW and TestStand Is to be Used for a New Software Platform
For many years, Terma Space has used TestStand in combination with LabWindows/CVI for testing satellite components. On the hardware side, Terma Space has always used in-house developed instrumentation together with a few purchased standard instruments. A necessity in such a highly specialized industry as Space, which is known for its low numbers of pieces, high complexity, and high-quality requirements.
In order to make the production of test systems faster and at the same time increase the uniformity of the parts included in the special instrumentation, Terma Space has developed some standard modules that can be combined in different ways when building a test system. Each of these modules can be considered as an instrument with a microprocessor for controlling various inputs and outputs. This naturally entailed a need for having standard drivers on the tester PC, so that the instrumentation could be controlled from the test sequence in TestStand. In this part, GPower came into the picture.
Our task was to create software components for use in test sequences that were as modular as the hardware they were to control. We solved that task in two steps:
- Firstly, we developed a basic LabVIEW API to communicate with Terma’s hardware. This was done in very close collaboration with Terma’s developer of the microcontroller software
- Next, we used the LabVIEW API to develop some custom step types for TestStand, which Terma’s test engineers can use to build the test sequences
As part of the task, we also had the entire software deployment process improved. This applies to the deployment of re-use tools for the developers’ PCs as well as the deployment of test sequence files and custom step types on the tester PC itself. We have used VI Packages for re-use tools and NI Packages for the rest. By using the package systems, we can control versions and dependencies between the various software components. This approach gives a better overview, just as it helps to ensure the quality of the test system.
Focus on Robustness and Data Collection
When developing test systems for our customers, it is different what is given the most weight. In some cases, speed may be the most important parameter, while in other cases it may be robustness and the amount of data to be collected and processed.
For Terma, it was crucial to get a long-term stable and robust test system which should be able to record, but also store large amounts of data for test processes that run for up to several weeks. In this case, it was not speed, but rather quality and stability that was the focus:
The delivery from GPower is more stable than any other system we have had in the past. Quality and stability are clearly the most important things when delivering systems to space. Based on GPower’s new software platform and our in-house developed hardware platform, we have the absolute best performing and most stable test system, we have ever had.