Shuttle Discovery’s new software – from OI-32 to Windows XP

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle Discovery will be flying a new upgrade to her onboard software during next week’s STS-120, with the OI-32 Flight Software modification increasing the safety of orbiter operations.

Noted in last week’s Space Shuttle Systems Engineering and Integration Office Flight Readiness Review (FRR), it has also been revealed that the laptops onboard Discovery have also been upgraded – to Windows XP.

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Discovery/STS-120 Processing Latest

Discovery is continuing to enjoy a smooth pad flow in preparation for launch on October 23. Despite no contingency time remaining, no issues have caused a deviation to the processing bar chart that leads to the start of S0007 operations – better known as the start to the launch countdown.

‘Orbiter Aft Closeout CTS was performed Friday and ops continue this week,’ noted processing information on Monday. ‘OMBUU Mate and leak checks were successfully completed Friday. Three tankers were offloaded Friday in support of LH2 Storage Tank replenishment.

‘Discovery was powered on Friday with powered testing again Sunday in support of S5009 and remains powered at this time. S5009 Range Safety System testing, PIC tests, and final ordnance connections are complete. Team continues to work PIC Resistance Testing and S&A Rotation this morning.’

The next milestone relates to paperwork, with the full Agency Flight Readiness Review (FRR) taking place on Tuesday. The main topic of conversation will be the issue relating to the coating on three of Discovery’s RCC (reinforced carbon-carbon) panels, a concern raised by NESC (NASA Engineering and Safety Center). The all-powerful NASA Safety and NASA Engineering departments are currently reviewing the data, ahead of presentations at the FRR.

The bulk of FRR work was completed during the Space Shuttle Program FRR that took place over October 9-10. In part 2 of this site’s FRR review, we overview the new OI-32 software that will debut with Discovery during STS-120. Click here for part 1.

Space Shuttle Systems Engineering and Integration Office FRR

The new software load OI-32 (Operational Increment number 32) includes a variety of increased safety modifications that will help Discovery complete her mission without a hitch.

The new OI-32 load has been included into the Primary Avionics Software System (PASS) – with processes data from all control activities – including main engine firing and throttling, RCS (Reaction Control System) jets and guidance commands for landing.

In the event of a PASS failure, there is a backup system (BFS – Backup Flight Software). However, due to the reliability of the orbiter’s computers, this has never been required in the history of the shuttle program.

Noted as ‘major new capabilities’ in the 47 page Space Shuttle Systems Engineering and Integration Office FRR presentation, eight pages of their overview is dedicated to the new software addition.

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‘PASS and BFS: First flight of Operational Increment 32 (OI-32). Standard capability release including changes for: Enhanced crew safety and situational awareness. Improved Mated Control of ISS. Other enhancements for ground and flight operations and safety

‘MEDS (Multifunction Electronic Display Subsystem): First flight of OI-32 compatible Integrated Display Processor1 (IDP) FSW (VI 5.00). Standard capability enhancements to support OI-32.’

OI-32 includes a long-awaited upgrade to the BFS, notably bringing it up to pace with the PASS capabilities. Previous to OI-32, many capabilities would be lost in the unlikely scenario that all four PASS computers failed, and the crew were forced to use the BFS.

Prior to this modification, the crew would lose a number of displays and display drivers via BFS, including the loss of the HUD (Heads Up Display) overlay that can be seen on videos of approach and landing.

Via a BFS landing – as the crew train for in simulation – the Commander and Pilot would have to rely on the PAPI and BALL BAR – losing the HUD cues, such as airspeed, altitude, glide slope, velocity vector. This is no longer the case.

‘Enhanced crew situational awareness: Added phase tailored PASS 6X Traj Displays. Creates first stage, second stage, and RTLS trajectory displays similar to BFS to replace the current PASS 6X Traj display. Provides a PASS capability to assess trajectory performance throughout the ascent powered flight phases.

‘Added BFS Head Up Display (HUD) Capability. Adds HUD functionality to BFS Flight Software for use post BFS engage during MM305 and MM603. Provides the crew with a runway overlay allowing rapid assessment and correction of navigation errors and insures consistency between PASS and BFS flight techniques.

‘Enabled Alpha Mach Indicator (AMI) and Altitude Vertical Velocity Indicator (AVVI) for BFS Ascents. Allows BFS to display AMI and AVVI data on the MEDS A/E Primary Flight Display (PFD) during powered ascent to provide the same composite flight instrumentation data and information as PASS.’

Other modifications include the ability for Discovery to ‘shout out’ if she’s got a problem, while the crew are onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

‘Enhanced crew safety: ISS Alarms: Improves a Shuttle crews ability to detect critical Shuttle faults while on ISS by facilitating ISS annunciation of the selected Shuttle Alarms. Shuttle capability to remain disabled pending availability of ISS compatible software (target 2008).’

‘Reduce Risk of Aft Overpressure in Premature Shutdown Scenario. Separates SSME LH2 Pre-valve times to create separate closure times for pre-MECO (cut-off quickly) and post-MECO shutdown cases (open longer),’ added the notes on the improvements gained via OI-32.

‘Automation of Single Engine OPS 1 Abort Procedures. Eliminates the need for manual throttle back and manual MECO procedures that are required to prevent catastrophic SSME shutdown during OPS1 single engine aborts. Reduce Risk of Combustion at ET Separation during Aborts. Removes an ignition hazard by deadfacing the SRB interface prior to ET Separation.’

Other improvements include: Improved GPS FSW Robustness. New MEDS ‘White Cornering’ Display. Improved On-Orbit Flight Control to Extend Shuttle Ability to Control ISS Attitude. Improved Ability to Dock with ISS.

Often seen on the flight deck of the orbiters, modern day laptops are used for a variety of tasks, from downloading and uploading imagery, mission documentation, and even the ability for the crew to send e-mails to friends and family in their spare time on orbit.

Windows has been the preferred operating system for NASA, and this continues with the upgrade of the laptops from Windows 2000 to Windows XP, which makes its debut on Discovery with STS-120.

‘STS-120 Will Be the Seventh Space Shuttle Flight of the IBM ThinkPad A31p PGSC and Associated 28V DC Power Supply (Emerald brick). First flight of Windows XP Operating System.

‘A 2nd 760 XD laptop; its Docking Station, with OCA Rev0 board installed; and appropriate cables have been requested to be added to STS-120. Rationale: Provides backup support for downlinking Crit 1R Imagery Data. This 760 XD combination has successfully flown as a certified set on numerous past missions. Last flight this combination used was STS-118.’

More reviews of the FRR documentation will follow this week.

L2 members: All documentation and quotes – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.

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