I’m now into the swing of things here. I’ve got a couple different projects that I’m helping out on and usually there is a decent stack of papers on my desk to go through. I’ve been mostly helping out with two main projects; the first is working on the initial documentation work for the project I spoke about last time. The second is doing testing on one of our engineering units because we had to do a software update for a customer.
Finally getting into the lab was a lot of fun, but also a little intimidating. To start there are a few different programs that I had to become familiar with to run the tests and to record the data we got out of them. For these tests we actually plugged simulators into the unit to simulate both INS and GPS data going in and were testing the software to make sure that in different situations we would have the correct data coming out of the unit about position, velocity, attitude, etc. Our unit uses the inertial data that it gets from the gyros and accelerometers and compares that with the navigation data that it receives from the GPS. It then feeds it through a filter of sorts and can get more accurate numbers for the position, velocity, and acceleration of the unit.
So what we do is to feed in data that agrees pretty well to start and make sure that everything is operating properly. The next step is to simulate different orbital environments to ensure that the data coming out is pretty accurate to ‘truth.’ The next step is to do different things to the unit like remove the GPS inputs for a few minutes and then turn them back on to see if the unit can still properly navigate with just the INS data and then once it receives the GPS signals to be sure that it properly reacquires the GPS data streams.
Anyways, after all this testing is done we have tons of data that we recorded during the test and we do what’s called post-processing on it so that we can look at how the device performed. A lot of this is done in Matlab and we get out graphs and statistical data from the tests. This takes a while as we had nearly 1 gigabyte of data to post-process. After all the data is extracted and processed it needs to be put into report format so that we can give it to the customer and show them how their unit performed; lucky for me I got to do that.
It was a really good learning experience to get into the lab and do some testing. The guy that I did the testing with was really great and made a point to really show me how things were working and what was going on. I think that the hands – on experience with the unit helped to give me a more complete understanding of how they operate.