Application Briefs

Multicores Affect Algorithm Choices

Design engineers soon will need to bridge the growing gap between hardware reality and software capabilities in the highperformance computing (HPC) realm as the use of multicore microprocessors grows. If your software development or sourcing plans haven’t anticipated these development situations, your applications may have a shorter life than you had planned. The 2006 version of technical computing “reality” is an inexpensive dual-core processor from AMD or Intel on a desktop system, or a dual- or quad-core RISC processor from Sun or IBM running on a server. In 2007, we should expect to see inexpensive quad-core processors from AMD and Intel, and processors with up to eight or more cores in 2008. These small symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems will be a far cry from the proprietary $500,000+ SMP systems of a few years ago. This technology transition has big implications for the “democratization” of computing power. On the horizon are four- to eightcore systems that cost only a few thousand dollars and sit on the desk of every design engineer.

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Data-Centric Network Integration Takes Headaches Out of Avionic Upgrades

Avionics systems are becoming more powerful and more dependent upon data exchanged between instruments. These instruments and subsystems reside on a network and must share time-critical data to achieve their mission. For example, targeting systems require real-time input of aircraft speed and attitude, as well as position and velocity data of the target. At the same time, additional bandwidth is required for data from onboard systems, such as GPS, airspeed and directional gyro, flight control systems, and dozens of other instruments and subsystems. As a result, network traffic is high, and potential data interactions can be highly complex. This complexity makes real-time integration of the data from disparate instruments during operational missions a significant challenge. Furthermore, upgrades of avionics and software applications during the useful life of the airframe means that new subsystems must be seamlessly integrated with legacy subsystems. In other words, data paths, interactions, and integration are not fixed forever. Today, aircraft systems typically are constructed to provide point-to-point communications between instruments and control systems that require realtime data. This approach has a significant impact on the complexity of the system and its subsequent maintainability. If an instrument is upgraded or replaced, the interfaces between it and other directly connected devices have the potential to change, requiring significant recoding and retesting.

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Open-Standard Software Helps Operate James Webb Space Telescope

Rational Rose Real-time visual modeling development software IBM Armonk, NY 914-766-1362 www.ibm.com/software/rational Set to launch by 2013, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to study galaxy, star, and planet formation in the universe. Nearly 20 years ago, when the components and instruments on the HST were developed, software was built by multiple organizations using proprietary software for systems development. This approach meant that maintenance, changes, and repairs made to components and instruments required multiple tools. Because separate space agencies from several countries around the world are developing the software that will operate the JWST’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) systems, Command and Data Handling (CNDH), and the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) that houses the JWST’s four primary instruments, it was imperative for NASA to weave a common thread throughout the project that would circumvent expensive and time-consuming software issues.

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Computing Platform Improves Stellar Imaging Applications

Star-P interactive parallel computing platform Interactive Supercomputing (ISC) Waltham, MA 781-419-5050 www.interactivesupercomputing.com NASA’s Optical Systems Characterization and Analysis Research (OSCAR) is modeling software used to design and analyze large space-based imaging systems. Because systems of this type require large, high-fidelity optical modeling, NASA runs OSCAR on Beowulf parallel computing clusters to handle the large datasets and meet the memory requirements. To facilitate parallel computing, OSCAR is written entirely in C, with message passing interface (MPI) handling the computations across many processor nodes. OSCAR was instrumental in solving the optical flaws of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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FPGAs Yield Virtual Laser Valves for Microfluidics

In today’s “micro world,” complex electrical systems, including analog and digital components, can fit on integrated circuits smaller than a fingernail. Microfluidics, a subset of microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology, is emerging as a new technical niche within microelectronics with widespread application in the health, chemical, and food industries.

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High-Integrity Java Targets Safety-Critical Systems

High-integrity software plays critical roles in telecommunications, transportation, defense systems, industrial automation, and power management. Because human lives may be lost and tremendous economic costs may result if the software fails, the development of high-integrity software adopts practices that impose greater rigor on the software development processes. This rigor includes documentation of system requirements, architecture, design, test plan, and source code; development accountability audit trails; independent peer review of all development artifacts; full traceability analysis; and extensive test coverage. The goal of this increased rigor is to assure correct operation and reliability of the software. As computer automation expands its reach and influence, the size and complexity of high-integrity software is expanding as well. To deal with the increased development workload resulting from the ever-expanding role of high-integrity software, military and aerospace industries are leading the way towards the use of a safety-critical subset of the Java programming language to help increase developer productivity and reduce the maintenance costs associated with highintegrity software.

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Laser Scanning System Helps Validate Method for Repairing Space Shuttle Heat Shield

SLP-330 Laser Scanning Probe Laser Design Minneapolis, MN 952-884-9648 www.laserdesign.com The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia because of damage to its thermal protection system (TPS) during launch spurred a search for methods of repairing the TPS in space; specifically, repairing the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) material used to protect the nose cap and wing leading edge panels that experience the most extreme heating — more than 3,000° F — during the return to Earth. In testing possible repair methods, it is critical to accurately measure the complex freeform 3D RCC panel shape after the damage, after the repair, and after tests that simulate re-entry. NASA used the SLP-330 laser scanning probe from Laser Design, integrated with Romer portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) arms for this task.

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