The key to accelerating go-to-market times in the commercial space industry is design space reduction. Standardization and modularity made possible through signal-based engineering pave the way for reconfigurable systems that shorten time to market. The following section examines how each of these strategies depends on the other for maximum efficiency.
Reconfigurable test systems are a core piece of a shorter time-to-market strategy. Shifting requirements traditionally have presented problems for agile decision making in the test environment. Any change in requirements after the test system has been designed creates delays and rework and pushes schedules to the right. Reconfigurability solves this problem by allowing you to easily change your test system as requirements change. You can achieve this through modular system design using standardized components and a signal-based engineering methodology, which are discussed later in this paper.
Another key component of a robust testing strategy is reconfigurability for production at a larger scale than in the past. Test systems that can be repurposed for another phase of life-cycle test offer benefits not available in traditional single life-cycle phase test systems. Though companies formerly didn’t need a production strategy when developing satellites in small quantities, they very much do need that strategy today for quantity 100.
Repurposable test systems allow you to move flexibly from validation testing to production testing with minimal time and effort. Life-cycle phase reconfigurability isn’t the only benefit; test systems can be used for the next program through reconfiguration as well.
Modular System Design Using Standard Components
As noted above, reconfigurability relies on a strategy of modular system design using standard, off-the-shelf components that have been tested together for compatibility.
When creating a reconfigurable test system, a crucial component is standardizing on commercial off-the-shelf components.
NI’s PXI and Switch Load and Signal Conditioning (SLSC) platforms provide a suite of COTS components that you can configure into systems to ensure the reconfigurability necessary for a flexible modern test strategy. Tech180 uses these platforms as the basis for our systems, enabling test system creation from suites of COTS components that have all been tested together for compatibility.
Figure 5. NI PXI and SLSC Chassis
The Role of Signal-Based Engineering
Signal-based engineering is the most important component of a faster, more modular test system approach. It allows designing for individual signals in a way that completely separates them, thus isolating the implementation of one signal from another. Modular hardware and signal-based engineering work in tandem to ensure that test system design need not be serialized. Instead, you can individually design, build, and validate portions of the system as requirements evolve. If something changes, you can reconfigure and adjust a portion without impacting the rest of your system.
Costs and Timelines
The costs and time for a reconfigurable test system vary based on the complexity and quantity of signals you need to test, but companies like Tech180 can provide systems in around 12 weeks. Full turnkey systems that can be reconfigured for use across life-cycle phases or programs are available for around $400,000 USD. They provide the flexibility to absorb changing requirements while still being ready on the scheduled test date. Tech180 offers test solutions ranging from basic platform configurations to full turnkey systems to keep you on schedule and on budget.
Tech180 is providing the aerospace industry with reconfigurable test systems that reduce the burdens of complexity, allowing you to focus less on test equipment and more on innovating for the future. Modular test systems reduce the time and effort needed to translate product requirements into a test system specification, resulting in high-quality systems that are available sooner. Whether it’s advanced aircraft, spacecraft, or vehicles that haven’t even been imagined yet, you can test not only the products you’re building now but also the ones you’ll develop in the future.