Jul 14, 2009

Valve Controllers, Data Compression and Altimeters

Our open source partner Lunar Numbat is dedicated to developing low-cost solutions for mission-critical systems in our GLXP mission. Here are three specific projects they are currently investigating:

Valve Controller

A key component in a lunar lander is the valve that controls the throttle setting of the engine used for the descent to the lunar surface. Lunar Numbat has started developing a design for an Arduino board to communicate with the electric motor and the valve position sensor.

Lunar Numbat plans to test its new valve controller design on AUSROC 2.5, a sounding rocket currently being developed by the Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI). The valve, gear assembly and electric motor are shown in the picture.

The Arduino board will run embedded C++ software and use a modular event driven protocol called Aiko. Aiko embodies the embedded controller and device side of a modular framework and generic event-driven communications protocol. There will also be a host-side design and implementation of that protocol. The valve controller will interface with the rest of the control system via a CAN bus.

Video Compression

Lunar Numbat is working on an idea to use JPEG2000 for rapid on-the-fly video compression. JPEG2000 offers certain advantages compared to other data formats in that it makes it possible to compress the data stream by dropping layers. Lunar Numbat envisions an approach based on concurrent data prioritization, optimized be a 'task based' approach.

Already Lunar Numbat has found in experiments have shown that a 3MB image can have its sized reduced by a factor of four in just half a second. In the near future Lunar Numbat will post an example of the video compression to the internet.

Radar Altimeter

The Chandryaan-1 Moon Impact Probe (MIP) inspired Lunar Numbat to look into developing a simple radar altimeter based on commercial technologies. The MIP featured a Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave radar altimeter capable of measuring the altitudes up to about 5km above the lunar surface.

Lunar Numbat aims to use software defined radio technology to implement its solution and hopes to test the altimeter on a cheap flying vehicle such as a balloon or remote control aircraft.

About Lunar Numbat

Lunar Numbat is a distributed organization based in Australa and New Zealand, which was created to develop open source hardware and software solutions for the White Label Space GLXP team. A number of Lunar Numbat members are also members of the Melbourne-based Connected Community HackerSpace, another more general open source group, which allows Lunar Numbat to build upon experience from hardware and software developed for non-space applications.

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