The test complexes at John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC) require reliable and accurate data acquisition in order to analyze the results of rocket engine tests. Acquisition systems include high-speed data, low-speed data, event monitoring, and video feeds. In order to obtain accurate data, routine calibrations must be performed on each channel, which can be defined as a single data stream to be collected, including the entire hardware chain from signal acquisition by a transducer to signal conditioning by an amplifier and digitization by an analog-to-digital converter.

However, with the advent of the commercial space launch industry and NASA’s more recent resumption of operation of SSC’s large test facilities after 30 years of commercial entity control, there was no government-owned software to operate the data acquisition system (DAS) at these facilities. This resulted in a need for a nonproprietary DAS software to support government and commercial testing. Therefore, NASA at Stennis Space Center set out to develop a suite of software to operate these systems that would alleviate the concerns of potential commercial customers in addition to reaping the benefits of owning such a software set.

The NASA Data Acquisition System (NDAS) is a LabVIEW-based software application that is intended to be adaptable to any propulsion test stand or facility’s DAS. NDAS is developed and designed to replace the existing low-speed data and event monitoring systems, including the calibration system.

NDAS software is designed for modularity and flexibility to minimize the software development effort for current and future data systems. In order to enable this adaptability, the system design incorporates the necessary functions to operate a rocket propulsion test facility DAS and its flexibility permits independence from the DAS hardware. An additional benefit of the software’s architecture is its ability to easily migrate to other testing facilities, thus providing future commonality across Stennis. The software is portable without being specific to underlying hardware and facility configuration. The design combines a hardware abstraction layer (translation layer) with an innovative database structure along with the post-acquisition processing capability. This allows the software to be portable to multiple facilities with no modifications to the design and expected minimal modifications to the code. The system combines transducer tracking, in-place calibrations, hardware configuration, data acquisition, logging, and post-acquisition processing into a single software suite. Adapting the software to other Rocket Propulsion Test (RPT) Centers such as Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), White Sands, and Plumbrook Station would provide additional commonality and help reduce overall testing costs for NASA.

The NDAS software is the most configurable DAS software suite that is structured so the user doesn’t have to modify the code for use with the monitored systems. The NDAS database takes advantage of recursive queries, and the advantage of this software is that the translation layer makes software portable. Ultimately, the software provides the government with unlimited rights and guarantees privacy of data to commercial entities.

This work was done by Phillip Hebert, Dawn Davis, Mark Hughes, Mark Turowski, and Wendy Holladay of NASA; Johnathan Morris and Richard Franzl of Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services-Civil Test Operations Contract; and Peggi Marshall and Michael Duncan of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation Research and Technology Solutions LLC for Stennis Space Center. For more information please contact the SSC Technology Transfer Office at 228-688-1929. Refer to SSC-00435.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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