Advancements in technology have allowed the miniaturization of systems used in aerospace vehicles. This technology is driven by the need for next-generation systems that provide reliable, responsive, and cost-effective range operations while providing increased capabilities such as simultaneous mission support, increased launch trajectories, improved launch, and landing opportunities, etc.

Leveraging the newest technologies, the command and telemetry processor (CTP) concept provides for a compact, flexible, and integrated solution for flight command and telemetry systems and range systems. The CTP is a relatively small circuit board that serves as a processing platform for high dynamic, high vibration environments. The CTP can be reconfigured and reprogrammed, allowing it to be adapted for many different applications. The design is centered around a configurable field-programmable gate array (FPGA) device that contains numerous logic cells that can be used to implement traditional integrated circuits. The FPGA contains two PowerPC processors running the VxWorks real-time operating system and are used to execute software programs specific to each application.

The CTP was designed and developed specifically to provide telemetry functions; namely, the command processing, telemetry processing, and GPS metric tracking of a flight vehicle. However, it can be used as a general-purpose processor board to perform numerous functions implemented in either hardware or software using the FPGA’s processors and/or logic cells.

Functionally, the CTP was designed for range safety applications where it would ultimately become part of a vehicle’s flight termination system. Consequently, the major functions of the CTP are to perform the forward link command processing, GPS metric tracking, return link telemetry data processing, error detection and correction, data encryption/decryption, and initiate flight termination action commands. Also, the CTP had to be designed to survive and operate in a launch environment.

Additionally, the CTP was designed to interface with the WFF (Wallops Flight Facility) custom-designed transceiver board which is used in the Low Cost TDRSS Transceiver (LCT2) also developed by WFF. The LCT2’s transceiver board demodulates commands received from the ground via the forward link and sends them to the CTP, where they are processed. The CTP inputs and processes data from the inertial measurement unit (IMU) and the GPS receiver board, generates status data, and then sends the data to the transceiver board where it is modulated and sent to the ground via the return link.

Overall, the CTP has combined processing with the ability to interface to a GPS receiver, an IMU, and a pulse code modulation (PCM) communication link, while providing the capability to support common interfaces including Ethernet and serial interfaces boarding a relatively small-sized, lightweight package.

This work was done by J. Emilio Valencia, Christopher Forney, Robert Morrison, and Richard Birr of Kennedy Space Center. For further information, contact the Kennedy Innovative Partnerships Program Office at (321) 861-7158. KSC-13324