The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) is one of the components onboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, and was designed to detect and locate lightning over the tropics. The LIS flight code was developed to run on a single onboard digital signal processor, and has operated the LIS instrument since 1997 when the TRMM satellite was launched.

The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) is one of the components onboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, and was designed to detect and locate lightning over the tropics. The LIS flight code was developed to run on a single onboard digital signal processor, and has operated the LIS instrument since 1997 when the TRMM satellite was launched.

The software provides controller functions to the LIS Real-Time Event Processor (RTEP) and onboard heaters, collects the lightning event data from the RTEP, compresses and formats the data for downlink to the satellite, collects housekeeping data and formats the data for downlink to the satellite, provides command processing and interface to the spacecraft communications and data bus, and provides watchdog functions for error detection.

The Special Test Equipment (STE) software was designed to operate specific test equipment used to support the LIS hardware through development, calibration, qualification, and integration with the TRMM spacecraft. The STE software provides the capability to control instrument activation, commanding (including both data formatting and user interfacing), data collection, decompression, and display and image simulation.

The LIS STE code was developed for the DOS operating system in the C programming language. Because of the many unique data formats implemented by the flight instrument, the STE software was required to comprehend the same formats, and translate them for the test operator. The hardware interfaces to the LIS instrument using both commercial and custom computer boards, requiring that the STE code integrate this variety into a working system. In addition, the requirement to provide RTEP test capability dictated the need to provide simulations of background image data with short-duration lightning transients superimposed. This led to the development of unique code used to control the location, intensity, and variation above background for simulated lightning strikes at user-selected locations.

This program was written by Kathleen Freestone, Louis Simeone, Byran Robertson, Maytha Frankford, David Trice, Kevin Wallace, and DeLisa Wilkerson of Marshall Space Flight Center.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.