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Collaborative Software Development Approach Used To Deliver the New Shuttle Telemetry Ground Station

This software affords enhanced capabilities for utilizing telemetric data. United Space Alliance (USA) developed and used a new software development method to meet technical, schedule, and budget challenges faced during the development and delivery of the new Shuttle Telemetry Ground Station at Kennedy Space Center. This method, called Collaborative Software Development, enabled KSC to effectively leverage industrial software and build additional capabilities to meet shuttle system and operational requirements. Application of this method resulted in reduced time to market, reduced development cost, improved product quality, and improved programmer competence while developing technologies of benefit to a small company in California (AP Labs Inc.). Many modifications were made to the baseline software product (VMEwindow), which improved its quality and functionality. In addition, six new software capabilities were developed, which are the subject of this article and add useful functionality to the VMEwindow environment. These new software programs are written in C or VXWorks and are used in conjunction with other ground station software packages, such as VMEwindow, Matlab, Dataviews, and PVWave.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Efficient Processing of Data for Locating Lightning Strikes

Time differences can be computed efficiently to subnanosecond resolution. Two algorithms have been devised to increase the efficiency of processing of data in lightning detection and ranging (LDAR) systems so as to enable the accurate location of lightning strikes in real time. In LDAR, the location of a lightning strike is calculated by solving equations for the differences among the times of arrival (DTOAs) of the lightning signals at multiple antennas as functions of the locations of the antennas and the speed of light. The most difficult part of the problem is computing the DTOAs from digitized versions of the signals received by the various antennas. One way (a time-domain approach) to determine the DTOAs is to compute cross-correlations among variously differentially delayed replicas of the digitized signals and to select, as the DTOAs, those differential delays that yield the maximum correlations. Another way (a frequency-domain approach) to determine the DTOAs involves the computation of cross-correlations among Fourier transforms of variously differentially phased replicas of the digitized signals, along with utilization of the relationship among phase difference, time delay, and frequency.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Determining Direction of Arrival at a Y-Shaped Antenna Array

The direction is computed from differences among times of arrival of signals. An algorithm computes the direction of arrival (both azimuth and elevation angles) of a lightning-induced electromagnetic signal from differences among the times of arrival of the signal at four antennas in a Y-shaped array on the ground. In the original intended application of the algorithm, the baselines of the array are about 90 m long and the array is part of a lightning- detection-and- ranging (LDAR) system. The algorithm and its underlying equations can also be used to compute directions of arrival of impulsive phenomena other than lightning on arrays of sensors other than radio antennas: for example, of an acoustic pulse arriving at an array of microphones.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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P-Code-Enhanced Encryption-Mode Processing of GPS Signals

This is an improved method of processing without knowledge of the encryption code. A method of processing signals in a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver has been invented to enable the receiver to recover some of the information that is otherwise lost when GPS signals are encrypted at the transmitters. The need for this method arises because, at the option of the military, precision GPS code (P-code) is sometimes encrypted by a secret binary code, denoted the A code. Authorized users can recover the full signal with knowledge of the A-code. However, even in the absence of knowledge of the A-code, one can track the encrypted signal by use of an estimate of the A-code. The present invention is a method of making and using such an estimate. In comparison with prior such methods, this method makes it possible to recover more of the lost information and obtain greater accuracy.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Software for Automated Reading of STEP Files by I-DEAS™

A program called "readstep" enables the I-DEAS™ computer- aided-design (CAD) software to automatically read Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP) files. (The STEP format is one of several used to transfer data between dissimilar CAD programs.) Prior to the development of "readstep," it was necessary to read STEP files into I-DEAS™ one at a time in a slow process that required repeated intervention by the user. In operation, "readstep" prompts the user for the location of the desired STEP files and the names of the I-DEAS™project and model file, then generates an I-DEAS™program file called "readstep.prg" and two Unix shell programs called "runner" and "controller." The program "runner" runs I-DEAS™ sessions that execute readstep.prg, while "controller" controls the execution of "runner" and edits readstep.prg if necessary. The user sets "runner" and "controller" into execution simultaneously, and then no further intervention by the user is required. When "runner" has finished, the user should see only parts from successfully read STEP files present in the model file. STEP files that could not be read successfully (e.g., because of format errors) should be regenerated before attempting to read them again.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Using a Portfolio of Algorithms for Planning and Scheduling

The Automated Scheduling and Planning Environment (ASPEN) software system, aspects of which have been reported in several previous NASA Tech Briefs articles, includes a subsystem that utilizes a portfolio of heuristic algorithms that work synergistically to solve problems. The nature of the synergy of the specific algorithms is that their likelihoods of success are negatively correlated: that is, when a combination of them is used to solve a problem, the probability that at least one of them will succeed is greater than the sum of probabilities of success of the individual algorithms operating independently of each other. In ASPEN, the portfolio of algorithms is used in a planning process of the iterative repair type, in which conflicts are detected and addressed one at a time until either no conflicts exist or a user-defined time limit has been exceeded. At each choice point (e.g., selection of conflict; selection of method of resolution of conflict; or choice of move, addition, or deletion) ASPEN makes a stochastic choice of a combination of algorithms from the portfolio. This approach makes it possible for the search to escape from looping and from solutions that are locally but not globally optimum.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Software for Better Documentation of Other Software

The Literate Programming Extraction Engine is a Practical Extraction and Reporting Language- (PERL-) based computer program that facilitates and simplifies the implementation of a concept of self- documented literate programming in a fashion tailored to the typical needs of scientists. The advantage for the programmer is that documentation and source code are written side-by-side in the same file, reducing the likelihood that the documentation will be inconsistent with the code and improving the verification that the code performs its intended functions. The advantage for the user is the knowledge that the documentation matches the software because they come from the same file. This program unifies the documentation process for a variety of programming languages, including C, C++, and several versions of FORTRAN. This program can process the documentation in any markup language, and incorporates the LaTeX typesetting software. The program includes sample Makefile scripts for automating both the code-compilation (when appropriate) and documentation-generation processes into a single command-line statement. Also included are macro instructions for the Emacs display-editor software, making it easy for a programmer to toggle between editing in a code or a documentation mode.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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