Cables are very important electrical devices that carry power and signals across multiple instruments. Any fault in a cable can easily result in a catastrophic outcome. Therefore, verifying that all cables are built to spec is a very important part of Electrical Integration Procedures. Currently, there are two methods used in lab for verifying cable connectivity. (1) Using a Break-Out Box and an ohmmeter — this method is time-consuming but effective for custom cables — and (2) Commercial Automated Cable Tester Boxes — this method is fast, but to test custom cables often requires pre-programmed configuration files, and cables used on spacecraft are often uniquely designed for specific purposes.
The idea is to develop a semi-automatic continuity tester that reduces human effort in cable testing, speeds up the electrical integration process, and ensures system safety.
The JPL-Cable Tester Box is developed to check every single possible electrical connection in a cable in parallel. This system indicates connectivity through LED (light emitting diode) circuits. Users can choose to test any pin/shell (test node) with a single push of a button, and any other nodes that are shorted to the test node, even if they are in the same connector, will light up with the test node.
The JPL-Cable Tester Boxes offers the following advantages: 1. Easy to use: The architecture is simple enough that it only takes 5 minutes for anyone to learn how operate the Cable Tester Box. No pre-programming and calibration are required, since this box only checks continuity. 2. Fast: The cable tester box checks all the possible electrical connections in parallel at a push of a button. If a cable normally takes half an hour to test, using the Cable Tester Box will improve the speed to as little as 60 seconds to complete. 3. Versatile: Multiple cable tester boxes can be used together. As long as all the boxes share the same electrical potential, any number of connectors can be tested together.