Next Generation Space Avionics
An Interview with: John Schaf | Section Head, Space and Launch Vehicle Electronics
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, education, and work at Moog?
I have been working at Moog for the past 23 years. My efforts here have been focused in the engineering design of electronics for high reliability applications. For the last 10 to 12 years, I have been focused on avionics and electronics for launch vehicles and spacecraft. My education is in electrical engineering where I have earned both Bachelor and Master degrees from the University of Buffalo. The focus of my graduate work was in high speed digital logic design for microprocessors and pipelined RISC processors.
2. Can you tell us more about Moog’s contribution to launch vehicles and spacecraft avionics?
Moog has been designing and producing thrust vector control (TVC) systems since the early Apollo days of NASA. These control systems have evolved over the years from hydraulic to electromechanical actuation and from analog to digital control electronics. Being the industry leader in TVC controls to the space launch industry, Moog has naturally developed adjacent products lines that serve the launch vehicle market with everything from electrical power management to stage control and propulsion control. The launch vehicle industry inherently brings difficult environments in which to operate. It is Moog’s heritage in high reliability design that allow its avionics to work flawlessly in hostile environments.
3. What makes Moog’s capabilities in that field unique?
There are numerous avionics suites available to the market that depend on loose interpretations of the shock, vibration and radiation environments in which they must operate. Moog has not ignored the reality of the space flight environment and has developed a range of high reliability avionics that work when performance really matters. In addition, we have utilized our vast experience in packaging design, EEE component selection and unique radiation mitigation techniques to meet customer cost targets, while at the same time providing high reliability avionics, electronics and control systems.
4. What kind of standalone avionics is Moog working on at the moment?
Moog has developed an extensible avionics suite called the Control Electronics Platform (CEP) that allows customers to pick and choose electronics cards to solve their launch vehicle application problems. This suite of cards is designed to provide solutions for propulsion control, thrust vector control, stage control, and even guidance and navigation control when paired with an appropriate inertial management unit (IMU). One enclosure houses all of these cards on a unique backplane that provides minimal latency and rugged interfaces to ensure operation during the toughest launch vehicle environments.
5. How do those avionics fit for a variety of launch vehicles?
Moog’s Control Electronics Platform (CEP) allows customization for different launch vehicle applications. A programmable CPU card allows the user to write software to solve his or her own unique launch vehicle application problems. A suite of cards with guaranteed and known performance allows the engineer to customize the interface. Together, this provides the user an open canvas to solve most launch vehicle applications. Preprogrammed solutions already exist for thrust vector control and propulsion control that are off the shelf and ready to be fielded.
6. Can you tell us a bit more about future projects related to launch vehicle and spacecraft avionics?
Moog is performing significant IR&D related to various aspects of launch vehicle electronics and survivability in the space radiation environment. Specifically, problems related to switching high voltage and current power sources and power management is an active research effort. Creating the next generation guidance, navigation and control architecture for launch vehicles is also being studied. Moog is focused on reducing the software development lifecycle while providing the lowest cost avionics platform in the industry. We are focused on getting from algorithms to hardware faster and cheaper than any current solution in the market place.