Instrument Controller

Our client had an opportunity to fly, on an upcoming NASA unmanned mission to the Moon, an instrument using their near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy technology used in their commercial products. However, this required a custom adaptation of their controller electronics, with a very aggressive schedule. To further compound the problem, their lead electronics engineer was not available to finish this development, leaving the controller's Spartan-3 FPGA development uncovered. We took over the project, developing, testing, and verifying the design on schedule, and in budget, allowing our client to meet their externally-imposed, extremely tight, deadline.

Distance Measurement System

Our client has developed a novel means of distance measurement. Implementation of this technology required an exstensive electronics support system. We developed the system using a Xilinx Virtex-4 to perform the high-speed (250+ MHz) measurements, coupled with a Freescale ColdFire microcontroller for device control, Ethernet data and control communications, and client interfaces. Our client is poised to revolutionize construction, mining, and agricultural operations by increasing worker and asset safety, while increasing overall efficiency and productivity.

Laser Control and Real-time Health Monitoring System

Our client is developing a very high power laser for the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser program, incorporating their novel cryogenically-cooled laser technology to more than double output power on less than half the electrical and cooling resource allocations. Central to transitioning this innovation from research laboratory to flight application is a reliable, high-performance computing system capable of safe operation of the laser. In addition to command and telemetry communications, laser control, and general housekeeping, the system performs real-time analysis of laser performance, using photodiodes sampled at 200 MHz to determine key operational measurements.

Command and Telemetry Management System

Our client was in an all-too-common situation: their system had to communicate with a host system under development by another entity, which ultimately had authority over the interface and its representation. The host system developers chose a set of simple Excel spreadsheets, with numerous fields specific to their system's implementation, most of which were spottily specified. Our client was instructed to document their command and telemetry messages in terms of these spreadsheets, as best as we could interpret, and we would be told when we got it right. Our client's system defined about sixty distinct command messages, and generated several hundred discrete data items.

The sheer volume of commands and data items also presented a large internal problem - how to manage the evolution of these items over time, especially in terms of argument validation and the simple, yet tremendously tedious, packing and unpacking of messages.

The solution we developed used XML representations of commands and telemetry items, validated by XML Schemas, and translated into desired end products using XSLT transforms. For the host system, the end product was the aforementioned Excel spreadsheets; when a change was required to meet the host systems' rather mysterious requirements, a one-hour change in a transform was sufficient, rather than a tedious and error-prone, multi-day editing session. Other products included generated code to extract and validate command arguments, and packing of data items into telemetry messages. Other products, such as data item dictionaries, are readily created.

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