Avionics System Architecture for the NASA Orion Vehicle 2009-01-3276
It has been 30 years since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) last developed a crewed spacecraft capable of launch, on-orbit operations, and landing. During that time, aerospace avionics technologies have greatly advanced in capability, and these technologies have enabled integrated avionics architectures for aerospace applications. The inception of NASA's Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) spacecraft offers the opportunity to leverage the latest integrated avionics technologies into crewed space vehicle architecture. The outstanding question is to what extent to implement these advances in avionics while still meeting the unique crewed spaceflight requirements for safety, reliability and maintainability.
Historically, aircraft and spacecraft have very similar avionics requirements. Both aircraft and spacecraft must have high reliability. They also must have as much computing power as possible and provide low latency between user control and effecter response while minimizing weight, volume, and power. However, there are several key differences between aircraft and spacecraft avionics. Typically, the overall spacecraft operational time is much shorter than aircraft operation time, but the typical mission time (and hence, the time between preventive maintenance) is longer for a spacecraft than an aircraft. Also, the radiation environment is typically more severe for spacecraft than aircraft. A “loss of mission” scenario (i.e. - the mission is not a success, but there are no casualties) arguably has a greater impact on a multi-million dollar spaceflight mission than a typical commercial flight. Such differences need to be weighted when determining if an aircraft-like integrated modular avionics (IMA) system is suitable for a crewed spacecraft.
This paper will explore the preliminary design process of the Orion vehicle avionics system by first identifying the Orion driving requirements and the difference between Orion requirements and those of other previous crewed spacecraft avionics systems. Common systems engineering methods will be used to evaluate the value propositions, or the factors that weight most heavily in design consideration, of Orion and other aerospace systems. Then, the current Orion avionics architecture will be presented and evaluated.