In this protocol and packet format, data traffic is monitored by all network interfaces to determine the health of transmitter and subsystems. When failures are detected, the network interface applies its recovery policies to provide continued service despite the presence of faults. The protocol, packet format, and interface are independent of the data link technology used. The current demonstration system supports both commercial off-the-shelf wireless connections and wired Ethernet connections. Other technologies such as 1553 or serial data links can be used for the network backbone.

The Wireless Avionics packet is divided into three parts: a header, a data payload, and a checksum. The header has the following components: magic number, version, quality of service, time to live, sending transceiver, function code, payload length, source Application Data Interface (ADI) address, destination ADI address, sending node address, target node address, and a sequence number.

The magic number is used to identify WAV packets, and allows the packet format to be updated in the future. The quality of service field allows routing decisions to be made based on this value and can be used to route critical management data over a dedicated channel. The time to live value is used to discard misrouted packets while the source transceiver is updated at each hop. This information is used to monitor the health of each transceiver in the network.

To identify the packet type, the function code is used. Besides having a regular data packet, the system supports diagnostic packets for fault detection and isolation. The payload length specifies the number of data bytes in the payload, and this supports variable-length packets in the network. The source ADI is the address of the originating interface. This can be used by the destination application to identify the originating source of the packet where the address consists of a subnet, subsystem class within the subnet, a subsystem unit, and the local ADI number. The destination ADI is used to route the packet to its ultimate destination. At each hop, the sending interface uses the destination address to determine the next node for the data.

The sending node is the node address of the interface that is broadcasting the packet. This field is used to determine the health of the subsystem that is sending the packet. In the case of a packet that traverses several intermediate nodes, it may be the node address of the intermediate node. The target node is the node address of the next hop for the packet. It may be an intermediate node, or the final destination for the packet.

The sequence number is used to identify duplicate packets. Because each interface has multiple transceivers, the same packet will appear at both receivers. The sequence number allows the interface to correlate the reception and forward a single, unique packet for additional processing. The subnet field allows data traffic to be partitioned into segregated local networks to support large networks while keeping each subnet at a manageable size. This also keeps the routing table small enough so routing can be done by a simple table look-up in an FPGA device.

The subsystem class identifies members of a set of redundant subsystems, and, in a hot standby configuration, all members of the subsystem class will receive the data packets. Only the active subsystem will generate data traffic. Specific units in a class of redundant units can be identified and, if the hot standby configuration is not used, packets will be directed to a specific subsystem unit.

This work was done by Gary L. Block, William D. Whitaker, James W. Dillon, James P. Lux, and Mohammad Ahmad of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46327

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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