Test & Validation Services

NGC offers test and validation services for guidance, navigation and control (GNC) algorithms and software. These services can be provided using NGC’s high-fidelity simulators or using the NGCLAB, NGC’s hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) facility.

Simulators

The development of Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS) software for space missions requires extensive on-ground validation prior to implementation on-board the spacecraft. The Real-World Software (RWSW) simulator is the main instrument used by NGC for the design and validation of the GNC/AOCS software. NGC’s real-world software has been validated in the past PROBA flight programmes and has become a reliable tool in predicting the behaviour of the satellites in orbit. It is regularly used to predict the effect of parameter changes before they are implemented in the flight software.

The RWSW is the high-fidelity representation in a computer simulation environment (MATLAB/Simulink or MATRIX-X/SystemBuild) of the sensors, dynamics and actuators of the spacecraft as well as the dynamics or kinematics of other bodies (Sun, Earth, Moon, etc.) that have an impact on the dynamics of the spacecraft. The dynamics modelling of the spacecraft also includes the environmental perturbations acting on the spacecraft translation and attitude: non-spherical gravitational field of the Earth, gravity gradients, solar radiation pressure, air drag, Moon/Sun gravity, etc.

NGC has an extensive library of RWSW modules (sensor, actuator and dynamics models). These components can be used to efficiently create a simulator customized for a given mission. NGC’s RWSW library supports a large selection of sensors (e.g. star tracker, IMU, Lidar, camera, magnetometer, Earth horizon sensor, Sun sensors) and of actuators (e.g. reaction wheels, thrusters, magnetic torquers).

In addition to supporting the development and validation of Earth orbiting satellites AOCS/GNC software, NGC uses its high-fidelity RWSW for the GNC software validation of planetary exploration missions (orbiters, landers and rovers). The simulator models all mission phases from Earth orbit to entry, descent and landing on the target body (e.g. Moon, Mars). NGC’s simulators are also used to simulate orbital rendezvous.

NGC’s simulator supports both the execution of specific test scenarios and Monte-Carlo simulations. The validation process is highly automated and very efficient. For example, NGC’s latest simulator tools allow generating the test scripts directly from the test plan and executing the test(s) from a single command.

NGC Laboratory

In addition to software simulators, NGC has a hardware-in-the-loop facility referred to as the NGCLAB.

The NGCLAB, developed and operated by NGC, is located in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. It houses several high-tech instruments which make it possible to test space systems in a realistic environment, the final objective being the validation of their performance before use in space. The NGCLAB came into existence in April 2007 when one of its critical components known as the Landing Dynamic Test Facility (LDTF) was developed as part of the LAPS-3 project funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

The NGCLAB totals 3,360 square feet and is composed of an elevated control station, four work stations and a computer park of 4 PCs, 1 flight-like microprocessor and 1 laptop computer. It includes a high-tech security system which is compliant in every regard with the norms established by the Canadian Standards Association for operating industrial robots.

The NGCLAB includes two main equipment: the Landing Dynamic Test Facility (LDTF) and the rendezvous 3-DOF actuator.

Overview of the NGCLAB

LDTF

The Landing Dynamic Test Facility (LDTF) aims at bridging the gap between computer simulations and expensive helicopter or rocket-based flight tests. As such, the facility serves as a real-time, hardware-in-the-loop and software-in-the-loop, intermediate validation facility between pure numerical simulations and flight-tests. It reproduces the last phase of a planetary landing scenario in a controlled environment and with high repeatability.

This facility was originally designed to validate Lidar-based descent guidance, navigation and control algorithms for Mars landing scenarios. Since then, the facility has been extended to camera-based terrain relative navigation applications and has been adapted to other types of landing scenarios (Moon) and sensors (camera). It is also designed to interface with space qualified microprocessors containing the coded GNC algorithms to be tested with high fidelity.

The LDTF uses a KUKA KR 30-3 industrial robot on a 15-metre linear axis fully operated by a real-time computer station to reproduce spatial and time-scaled landing tests. Scaled models of the surface of Mars and of the surface of the Moon are also integral parts of the LDTF. This reproduction of the surface of Mars and of the surface of the Moon makes it possible to validate both hazard avoidance soft landing algorithms and horizontal velocity determination algorithms.

NGCLAB

NGC’s Landing Dynamic Test Facility – LDTF

Rendezvous

The NGCLAB is equipped with a 3-DOF actuator which may be used in combination with the industrial robot to simulate close range orbital rendezvous.

NGCLAB Orbital Rendezvous Equipment

NGCLAB Orbital Rendezvous Equipment