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Case study of the space shuttle cockpit avionics upgrade software

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2 Author(s)
Ferguson, R.C. ; United Space Alliance, LLC, Houston, TX ; Thompson, H.C.

The purpose of the Space Shuttle cockpit avionics upgrade project was to reduce crew workload and improve situational awareness. The upgrade was to augment the Shuttle avionics system with new hardware and software. An early version of this system was used to gather human factor statistics in the Space Shuttle motion simulator of the Johnson Space Center for one month by multiple teams of astronauts. The results were compiled by NASA Ames Research Center and it was determined that the system provided a better than expected increase in situational awareness and reduction in crew workload. Even with all of the benefits of the system, NASA cancelled the project toward the end of the development cycle. A major success of this project was the validation of the hardware architecture and software design. This was significant because the project incorporated new technology and approaches for the development of human rated space software. The major technological advances were the use of reflective memory concepts for data acquisition and the incorporation of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products in a human rated space avionics system. The infused COTS products included a real-time operating system, a resident linker and loader, a display generation tool set, and a network data manager. Some of the successful design concepts were the engineering of identical outputs in multiple avionics boxes using an event driven approach and inter-computer communication, a reconfigurable data acquisition engine, the use of dynamic linking at runtime, and the use of a dynamic bus bandwidth allocation algorithm. Other significant experiences captured were the use of prototyping to reduce risk, and the correct balance between object oriented and functional based programming

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:21 ,  Issue: 8 )