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Saginaw’s Wineman Develops Software For Private Spacecraft

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Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser commercial spacecraft. Wineman Technology photo.

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser commercial spacecraft. Wineman Technology photo.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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SAGINAW — The test technology developer Wineman Technology Inc. of Saginaw said it had delivered a successful flight control simulation system to Sierra Nevada Corp. for its Dream Chaser commercial transport spacecraft.

SNC needed a hardware-in-the-loop flight surface actuation simulator to verify design and performance of the flight control system for the Dream Chaser commercial transport spacecraft. Wineman Technology’s solution reduced time and cost by using Inertia, a commercial-off-the-shelf test automation software specifically designed for quickly and efficiently implementing real-time control and test applications.

At SNC, the Space Exploration Systems division creates technologies for space travel and exploration through commercial civilian means. Its primary project is the Dream Chaser, a 30-foot, space shuttle-like spacecraft for transporting crew and cargo to the International Space Station and back to Earth.

As a lifting-body space plane that takes off vertically and lands horizontally, the Dream Chaser has several body flaps and rudders, or control surfaces, which are all managed by the onboard flight control system. To fully test the flight control system during its development, the SNC’s Flight Control Integration Lab needed an HIL control and data acquisition system capable of simulating the aerodynamic loads expected on these control surfaces during flight. The system would also need to test flight control dynamic performance and assess flight control failure scenarios and resulting flight control responses.

To save the time and costs associated with creating a new system, SNC chose Wineman Technology as a test integration specialist for the company’s previous experience with iron birds and their use of non-proprietary hardware and software. The COTS Wineman Technology Inertia test automation software already contained most of the features needed and could easily be programmed to meet specific functionality requirements.

Wineman Technology built an initial, small-scale control system for testing the lower body flap, which controls pitch and is one of seven total control surfaces for the complete Dream Chaser. This test system consisted of four major components, each of which were designed to meet the requirements of testing the lower body flap, while being flexible enough for the full-scale, seven-axis system. The goal of this HIL simulation system was to thoroughly test the flight control system by performing closed-loop force control on the Dream Chaser’s flight actuators.

“Wineman Technology delivered our test system in an extremely tight turnaround time of three months, and put in long hours to make sure every aspect of the application was running completely smoothly,” stated Jake Crine, senior mechanical systems engineer for Sierra Nevada Corp.

Wineman Technology delivered a control system that included all the hydraulic units, actuators, software, and electronics. All the programs for testing the actuators were developed using standard, drag-and-drop components in the Inertia system. Inertia software runs on both the Windows PC and the PXI real-time controller in the electronics rack and is used for interfacing with the real-time controller and communicating with the hardware. In addition to controlling the system, Inertia is also responsible for monitoring all instrumentation within a test.

For more information on the SNC application, readers can view the case study at www.winemantech.com/campaign/creating-a-flight-control-simulation-system-for-the-dream-chaser-spacecraft/.

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