The Robotic Lander Development Project’s ground systems and mission operations teams are getting a head start on preparing for a mission to the moon by developing the command and telemetry ground control system for the Robotic Lander Test Bed’s Warm Gas Test Article. Early in the project, the team decided to utilize the same ground system software for WGTA that will be used for an actual flight mission in order to gain experience for the ground systems and mission operations personnel. The WGTA ground system is composed of two high-end laptop computers, docking stations, four 24” wide-screen monitors, and a commercial, off-the-shelf flight control software product that provides command and control capability, data archiving, and playback/retrieval of telemetry. The ground system is the avenue through which commands are issued to the WGTA flight software and vehicle systems telemetry is displayed to the operators. The entire life cycle for the ground system is being exercised: software installation, command and telemetry database build, command and telemetry display development, command script development, telemetry data archiving, and post-flight data retrievals including telemetry plots and history reports.
During the WGTA test flights, the ground system and mission operations personnel will operate two console positions that uplink the guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) sequences to the flight computer, send commands to initiate flight software transitions, and monitor vehicle telemetry during pre-flight, flight, and post-flight phases. Key telemetry being monitored includes propulsion system temperatures and pressures, GN&C data, power system voltages and currents, and flight software state changes. “Out Of Limit” monitoring has been implemented in the ground system so that measurements that exceed or go below their defined limits will cause the value to change color from green (nominal) to yellow (warning) or red (critical) and a message will be displayed. Following a test flight, telemetry data will be retrieved and disseminated to the various subsystem leads for analysis. For example, propulsion system pressure and temperature data plots will be generated and provided to the propulsion subsystem lead. GN&C data (e.g., vehicle position, velocity, acceleration, etc…) will be plotted and provided to the GN&C subsystem lead. All these activities mimic what we will do operationally for an actual flight mission, thus preparing the team for multiple mission profiles.