Satellite Test Stand


Putting a satellite into orbit is a very expensive venture. So testing it thoroughly before launch is crucial.

Our client, a radar systems manufacturer, developed a test stand for satellite components, to rigorously put them through their paces before launch.

The System

This system was the first of its kind to bring cohesion and automation/scripting to satellite component testing. Prior to this, testing would involve a hodgepodge of manually-intensive lab-bench-style steps.

The system integrated two components:

  • a VXIplug&play/VMEbus rack-mount system running the VxWorks real-time operating system.
  • a Windows NT workstation as the supervisory controller, eventually replaced by a Sun (Solaris unix) workstation.

With radar energy being harmful to humans, the system’s safety interlocks were crucial. And with this new effort to further automate and ease testing, these interlocks took on added complexity and significance.

We wrote the embedded components in C++ under VxWorks (multi-tasking), using TCP & UDP sockets. The multi-threaded communication components ran on both VxWorks and NT.

Working with the client’s software team, we helped architect the system, wrote the embedded supervisory control and communication components, and took a technical leadership/mentoring role with the junior staff.