Improving Test Time & Mission Readiness with a Universal Automated Satellite Power Supply Test System

Optimized Solutions (OSL) is a leading Product Engineering Service provider for build to specifications, embedded firmware, and entire product development lifecycle management services. Founded in 2005 and based in Gujarat, it has a PAN India presence supported by 100+ engineers and provides high quality solutions and services to space, defense and OEM industries. OSL has partnered with NI to provide Test, Measurement & Automation solutions for over 50 percent of businesses focusing on aerospace, defense and government customers. For this, NI used its PXIe based Universal DC-to-DC Converter ATS Solution to automate the DUT performance evaluation, increase the throughput of the system, minimize turnaround time and cut-down human errors during the testing.

Challenge at Hand

Tuning, testing and validating a Satellite Payload Power Supply require the characterization of electrical parameters associated with DC-to-DC converters. Additionally, different power-rated DUTs with multiple specifications must be tested to ensure regulated power reaches all subsystems of the satellite payload. Traditional DC-to-DC Converter tuning & testing methodologies can take up to seven days to tune the DUT to match the expected performance, with overall test time lasting and often exceeding one month. Furthermore, tests and test results are typically set-up and captured manually, requiring more resources. A scalable, modular, and automated tuning and testing system is desired to minimize test time while maximizing system performance.

Our Approach & Solution

DC-DC Converter Basics: A DC-DC converter is an electrical device that converts direct current sources from one voltage level to another. In other words, a DC-DC converter takes a DC input voltage and outputs a different DC voltage. Power Management Systems such as DC-DC converters are used to manage or convert power within larger systems, like those found in satellite payloads, for applications such as up-converting or down-converting a source of direct current from one voltage level to another.

DC-DC Converter Requirements: Whether performing design validation prior to manufacturing or evaluating a DC-DC converter for possible use in a Satellite Payload System, the need for repeatable and precise testing is essential. Standard DC-DC converter test sequences measure performance criteria such as voltage accuracy, efficiency, line/load regulation and transient response. Hundreds of DC-DC converters with different specifications are designed and deployed. The DC-DC converter in this case is the device under test (DUT) which must go through different phases which include fabrication, component tuning, testing & validation. In tuning, multiple resistors & capacitors must be emulated to check the DUT performance to ensure the output values remain within requirement thresholds. Multiple tests must be performed with different instruments in different test setups, and test results are typically captured manually. There is an additional requirement to test the DUT in different environmental conditions as well. To summarize, completing the DUT performance test through all phases typically takes at least one month.

Solution: The solution was built on the NI PXI Express platform for card level Tuning & Testing (T&T) and Testing & Evaluation (T&E) activities for different types of DC-DC converters. The solution meets customer requirements to increase throughput and minimize manual efforts & human errors in testing. OSLs solution addresses the need for automating the tuning & testing process in all phases of DC-DC Converter DUTs. The NI PXIe system controls the instruments through Test Application Software developed using NI LabVIEW. The solution is customized to meet specific requirements and allows for the testing of two DUTs simultaneously with different tuning algorithms in a single ATS. Furthermore, the NI PXIe system controls the required power supplies, electronic loads and other modular measurement equipment, acquires the test data and analyzes the data to evaluate the DUT performance. The solution is configured in an easily transportable rack to allow its use across locations.

Salient Features

1. Test Configuration Module:

• Different types of DUTs can be tested using the Test Configuration Module.
• Multiple configurations can be stored for different DUTs.
• Capability to edit the stored configuration & save it for different types of DUTs.
• User configurable tunable components with limits available in test configuration.
• User-selectable test sequences.
• User-defined test sequences for different test phases.

2. Testing Module:

• Different types of DUTs can be tested using the Test Configuration Module.
• Includes Barcode scanner of DUT.
• Based on the barcode, DUT details with all test parameters fetched from database & displayed in GUI.
• Based on the selected test phase, the test application determines to proceed with tuning or testing.
• Instrument health verification was carried out before proceeding with the test.
• All tests are executed in a defined sequence & customized report generated after testing is complete.

Benefits & Impact of the Solution

• Automated RC Component tuning.
• Test configuration reusability for different types of DUTs.
• Test Sequence customization as per user need.
• Test case selection for different testing phases.
• Instrument health verification as a precheck before proceeding to testing.
• Multiple safety features to protect the DUT in case of inadvertent operation/condition.
• Automated Stability Analysis using Fast Fourier Transform.
• Automated Test Report generation after test completion.
• Quick retrieval of DUT test results.
• Test Result comparison of different phases of the DUT.
• Automated Test results back up to the server.

Case Summary

With this Universal DC-DC Converter Automated Test Solution enabled by NI’s PXIe Modular Architecture and flexible development tools, OSL delivers the desired capabilities for Satellite Payload Package Testing to Indian Space users to test DC-DC Converter DUTs quickly. The solution can adapt to different test cases with agility and flexibility, enabling scalability and efficiency by automating reports. Additionally, the test time is reduced by 10x as compared to manual testing, along with improved post processing analysis and standardization of the DUT test results.