To create nine total test systems (with three unique designs) for electric power system (EPS) components simultaneously as the components were being designed and built for a fast-growing NewSpace application. The test systems needed to be able to evolve with additional functionality as the component designs matured into prototypes.
Genuen was contracted by a NewSpace reusable launch vehicle manufacturer to develop a test solution for design verification testing of an EPS. Since the EPS team was very early in the design process, neither a complete test plan nor many system interfaces had been detailed. The vehicle-level requirements had been drafted but were still in flux. The system hardware and software interfaces had been identified, but development had only just started. There were standard verification test profiles developed for the vehicle, but they had not yet been tailored for the EPS system. For traditional aerospace programs, it was too early to define a specific test solution, but this was New Space and concurrent development is essential to meet program schedules.
Because of the concurrent development and limited firm initial requirements for verification, the test software utilized on the test system hardware was developed under time and materials (T&M) pricing. The activity was divided into three unique phases. The first phase was focused on the test hardware itself and contained all the software interfaces drivers along with self-test and calibration procedures to verify the test hardware correct operation in dependent of the unit under test. The second phase focused on the specific interfaces to the unit under test defined in Interface Control Document (ICD) and developing interface software to control and received status from the unit. The third and final phase of the test system software focused on verifying functional requirements of the unit with development of test procedures/scripts utilizing the above-mentioned Test Plan and TCDs along with the test software phase 1 and 2 foundational components.
Genuen started with a discovery phase to collaborate with the EPS team to develop test system architectures for each of the major EPS components. The focus was on the envelope of the component performance so that test instrumentation with adequate capability could be selected. We then shifted to identifying a flexible software architecture that could support additional functionality in iterations as the test needs changed.
Using the architecture documents that were developed during the discovery phase, Genuen was able to provide a firm-fixed price for the test system hardware and a T&M estimate for automating the test plan. We found the hardware estimates were very close to actual costs. Due to the evolving nature of the test plan, the test automation estimates were revised as the test plan requirements were finalized during component design.
The test system hardware designs were finalized quickly after the discovery phases,+ thanks to the thorough conceptual and preliminary design work done during the development of the architecture document. Due to concurrent design of the EPS components and the test systems, changes to the test hardware were necessary after component design was finalized and being built. These changes were handled as scope changes and incorporated into the systems as they were being built, and also as modification kits created after the first test systems were in use. Once the test system design had completed, the team developed a self-test and calibration routine that validated the performance of the test system hardware. As with the test system design, changes were handled through scope changes and incorporated as the build progressed.
While the test system hardware was being built, our focus shifted to automation of the test plan. Again, this was a collaborative effort between the EPS team and Genuen. One of the components had mature test requirements with test case descriptions (TCDs) drafted and the test scripting started while the test hardware was being built and tested. Other components needed test plans to be drafted with automation requirements defined before TCDs could be effectively started. As the component requirements became clear, we added detail to the test plan, developed more TCDs, and created test procedures/scripts.
In a fast-growing industry such as NewSpace, where being the first to market can make or break your reputation, product development at light-speed is essential. Rigorous testing is imperative and working with a test solution provider that is a true partner, who serves as an extension of your team with added testing and validation/verification expertise, can help you streamline your product design. Partnering with the right test solution provider early in your product development cycle enables you to develop component designs and test systems concurrently, ultimately, helping you to accelerate your product design.
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