The electronic complexity of automobiles is increasing rapidly, making the testing of these electronic sub-assemblies extremely difficult. Aerospace electronics engineers have their own testing requirements based on their long operating life, high reliability and requirements for harsh environmental conditions. In this interview, Keith Moore, CEO of Pickering Interfaces, a provider of modular signal switching, simulation and software for electronic testing and verification, discusses the unique challenges facing aerospace test engineers and the solutions Pickering offers. Growth.
technical OverviewWhat are the unique challenges of the space testing market compared to automotive testing?
Keith Moore: The difference between space and automobile is reliability. The cost of failure of aircraft is so high that rockets and the systems that support them from the ground must take great effort to verify, especially in extreme temperatures, vibrations, and all other cases. It can happen in space.
Another area where location differs from automobile is burn-in. Whether it is aircraft or ground station equipment, customers can perform several burn-in tests before using the product to prove the reliability of the product. You can use Pickering’s off-the-shelf LXI/PXI products.
Cars also focus on reliability, but they don’t require the level of robustness or certification required for the location. Some aerospace manufacturers are now glaring at the reuse of spacecraft and the use of commercial products. As a provider of PXI switching and simulation products, we are a very important supplier.
For us, most of the automotive business is simulation, and the system isn’t that complicated. If you’re simulating a dashboard or braking system, it’s pretty complicated, but it’s not down to the level of satellite or rocket components.
technical OverviewWhat kind of applications does your product support in the space industry?
moore: There is a payload test. Today’s payload is too complex. Power consumption is critical for space satellites. Due to the very low power consumption, power dissipation must be measured with very high sensitivity when these vehicles are in space. There are reed relays that can reliably connect very low currents and voltages to instrumentation, but traditional relays do not. Pickering specializes in relays that are suitable for switching very low level signals, so these types of applications are very inherently useful, for example, in investigating spacecraft battery drain.
The latest product launched by us is the resolver simulator used by one of the leading aerospace manufacturers. It is believed to be used to simulate the gimbal (or position) of a rocket motor. When you see the vehicle taking off, the motor position slightly shakes when going up or down, so you need to simulate it very quickly in a very fast loop, using it to support our product.
Our products are card-based and therefore very scalable, so we can test relatively small (such as a microscope light) or very large ones. With our solution, you can scale up by just connecting more modules. Some resistance simulators can simulate temperature accuracy up to 0.01 °C by increasing the accuracy constraint.
Communication from these satellites is in the microwave domain, so there are standard architectures (LXI, PXI) and various microwave switching products within these architectures. So, when these signals go down, you need to deliver them. In addition, many applications have unique requirements, so we design custom microwave switching systems to suit your specifications.
technical OverviewWhat are Pickering’s unique differentiators?
moore: We work closely with you, especially rapidly, to define products and applications that meet your needs. Being agile is important because space companies are moving so fast. It’s great for us to work with some of these new space companies. The project takes less than three years to complete. The project may take several months to complete.
We have deep knowledge of our products, especially Switching. We have been doing this for over 50 years. We all do our own engineering and produce almost everything in-house. We actually manage our own products, so we can also provide long-term support. We not only design and manufacture products, but also kill them when sales suddenly drop below a certain level because they are not making money. Even now, years after the end of standard production, we make them even in very small quantities. This is a very important differentiator. What some customers need to know is that if the satellite is installed in space (which could take 20 or 30 years), more test kits may be purchased to keep what is available in the future. We discontinued them because we don’t have to tell them that the kits are based on obsolete computer chips. We don’t do that.