Using NI PXI Solutions to Build a Universal Integrated Intelligent Test System to Escort the Launch of More Than 100 Satellites

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"With the help of NI’s industry-leading automated test system, we strive to promote the industrial restructuring and upgrading in Jilin Province, revitalize the northeast old industrial base, and write a grand blueprint for China's commercial remote sensing satellite."

- Sirui Xing, Chang Guang Satellite Technology

The Challenge:
Shortening the development cycle and controlling the system acquisition costs in the face of heavy satellite launch missions, and increasing the versatility, flexibility, and performance of a satellite test system.

The Solution:
Using NI PXI test solutions to improve the integration and development efficiency of satellite test systems to shorten the satellite development cycle.

Author(s):
Sirui Xing - Chang Guang Satellite Technology

 

Chang Guang Satellite Technology is the first commercial remote sensing satellite company in China. The company develops and operates the JILIN-1 satellite series, which has pioneered the application of commercial satellites in China. The JILIN-1 satellite is the first commercial high-resolution remote sensing satellite, the first onboard integrated commercial satellite, and the first meter-level high-definition dynamic video satellite developed by China. This is also the first time that China has succeeded in on-orbit imaging in a flexible manner.

 

 

Following its long-term vision and strategy, Chang Guang Satellite is building an aerospace information industrial park. Upon completion, we can gain an annual throughput of 30 satellites and form a whole industrial chain cluster centered on satellite R&D and production.

Heavy Launch Tasks, Tight R&D Cycle

We plan to complete 60 satellites operating in orbit by 2020, and launch 138 satellites by 2030. Thus, our researchers face the arduous task of satellite R&D. Satellite test, which takes about 70 percent of satellite R&D time, is challenging. We urgently need off-the-shelf mature test technologies and platforms to drive a smooth transition during the whole cycle from pre-researching system equipment to design project establishment. These technologies can also help with test, high-volume delivery, repair and maintenance, and efficient complex ground experiments including testing and verification. This can ultimately help us ensure the quick and successful launch of satellites. In addition, in view of the special nature of space products, long lead times, and the high cost of satellite components, the requirements for a satellite test system’s operability and stability are very stringent.

As a commercial satellite company, we are concerned about the costly purchase of high-performance equipment. Commercial satellites, unlike conventional satellites that each have different test systems, require a system to test multiple models simultaneously. Test system versatility is extremely demanding. We need traditional test equipment to complete different types of complex test tasks while ensuring the test quality of complex devices under test (DUTs). Once the DUT changes, we also need to upgrade or replace the test system, which exerts a heavy secondary cost burden. Compared with traditional test systems, we can upgrade the NI test system by simply replacing or adding modules. We can reuse the system functionalities to save money and shorten the system development cycle.

Flexible, Universal, Stable, and Reliable: PXI Drives Successful R&D and the Launch of Four Satellites With One Rocket

We chose NI for a comprehensive service solution that includes a ten-year warranty, technology updates, and management consulting through the entire life cycle. We also signed a strategic cooperation agreement with NI to further enhance the support. Our test system has three core systems using NI test products.

 

 

The first is an S-band ground monitoring system, which we based mainly on the NI PXI Vector Signal Transceiver (VST) RF and FPGA-based board. The device can be flexible in autonomous programming so we can customize some functions during debugging. We can also use NI’s peer-to-peer technology to have the VST directly communicate with an FPGA-based board. We can implement real-time signal capture, modulation, and demodulation on FPGA to ensure we can use the signal for status monitoring and spectrum monitoring for real-time remote control and telemetry. NI’s automated test approach uses a modular platform-based integrated intelligent test system to help us get rid of the traditional closed architecture to address long testing life cycles as well as constantly evolve RF and design testability requirements to build an innovative custom test platform to satisfy current and future testing needs.

 

 

The second system is an on-orbit satellite dynamic model hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) system, which emulates and monitors satellite dynamics and simulates the electrical interface of satellites. With the seamless integration of NI VeriStand and The MathWorks, Inc. MATLAB® software, we saved R&D time and test time. In addition, NI's powerful hardware configurations and systems ensure a shock period of no more than 1 ms and a system closed-loop period of less than 1 ms, which is a dramatic improvement over the 100 ms conventional closed-loop cycle and ensures more accurate real-time simulation.

Finally, we can combine a GPS simulator developed with the NI test system with an FPGA to simulate high-dynamic, in-orbit satellite navigation signals. The built-in multitrace mode ensures the full test of the satellite positioning system and fixed-speed system.

Our test system used the first generation of VST for DUT RF testing. We installed a dedicated power supply inside the PXI chassis to simulate the solar panels that power the satellite, so we can complete the receiving and transmitting tests simultaneously with only a single board. Compared with the traditionally large combination of sizable instruments needed for this test, this configuration greatly reduced the footprint of the satellite test system and, therefore, cost. The NI hardware platform can also operate in harsh environments to meet the critical compliance requirements of aerospace projects.

NI products powered the smooth launch of JILIN-1 and provided convenient and reliable technology support for status monitoring, spectrum monitoring, and remote control and telemetry of JILIN-1, which set a solid foundation for future satellite research and development.

Expanding the Grand Blueprint of China’s Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite

Chang Guang Satellite has achieved outstanding results this year in satellite R&D, remote sensing information, product development and services, condition construction, and market development. We will continue to be at the forefront of technologies in commercial aerospace to eventually reach our goal of launching more than 138 satellites by 2030. NI continues to upgrade and innovate on its automated test system to enable future-proof, next-generation automated test system architecture that highlights the core role of software and takes advantage of a modular instrument hardware platform. This will help us accomplish our mission to provide seven billion clients worldwide with satisfying and customized satellite and information services. It will also help us launch innovative products with an Internet-based remote sensing information platform to promote the industrial restructuring and upgrading in Jilin Province, revitalize the northeast old industrial base, and write a grand blueprint for China’s commercial remote sensing satellite.

Author Information:
Sirui Xing
Chang Guang Satellite Technology

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