Electrical checkout and testing is a critical part of the overall space integration and test flow. Verifying proper harness and connector signal interfaces is key to ensuring component health and overall system functionality. Break-out boxes (BOBs) are used to give test personnel access to electrical signals for probing, voltage injection, isolation checks, safe-to-mate checks, and voltage/current measurements, and comparing to expected results. Currently, this involves manually attaching multimeters and oscilloscopes to banana jacks on the BOB, taking measurements, and comparing to expected results.

An automated BOB makes electrical integration activities more efficient, repeatable, and safe by introducing software- controlled test sequences and reducing human errors. Additionally, significant schedule and cost reductions are realized by improving the speed and reliability of integration operations. The software-controlled BOB allows isolation and safe-to-mate checks to be accomplished in a fraction of the time required for a human operator. Voltage and current measurements can be analyzed in the software for pass/fail criteria, and reported to the user for inclusion in the test log. Automating test sequences through the use of an automated BOB has the potential to significantly streamline spacecraft, payload, and launch site electrical integration and test activities.

The innovations consist of replacing manually controlled switches with a series of relays for each pin in a BOB. Additionally, software controls the switches (as well as optional external test equipment) to perform all connections and measurements required to complete whatever test is needed. The software allows scripts to be run, which can fully automate very complicated test sequences in a very repeatable and well-documented fashion.

This work was done by Robert Atkin of Tiger Innovations for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16892-1


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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