"A Plug-and-play Concept for Spacecraft"

Jim Lyke1, Don Fronterhouse2, Denise Lanza3, and Tony Byers3

1Air Force Research Labs, Kirtland AFB
2Scientific Simulations, Inc.


There is tremendous pressure to build space systems quickly, in response to the rapid pace of warfighter needs and increasing reliance on space systems to provide militarily useful services. Unfortunately, spacecraft take years to create. Even when pre-built components are used, however, the development of wiring harnesses and custom bridging hardware / software represent significant barriers to the fast development of useful space systems. AFRL, working with the aerospace community, is developing standards for aerospace plug-and-play (PnP) interfaces. These "space plug-and-play avionics" (SPA) standards exploit a self-organizing mechanism analogous to the PnP used in personal computing. In fact, familiar technologies, such as the universal serial bus (USB) and ethernet, form the physical transport backbone in two of the three concepts under development (SPA-U and SPA-E standards, respectively). A third SPA concept, based on Spacewire, addresses scalable networking with fully non-blocking crossbars. In addition to supplemental "facilities" for high-power handling (up to 20A at 28V) and synchronization, the SPA standards provide a powerful middleware concept (called the "Satellite Data Model"), which is based on the extraction of service descriptions from all components. The service descriptions are based on an embedded XML-based Transducer Electronic Data Sheet (XTEDS). It is an eventual object of the SPA initiative to construct headless avionics and provide innovative alternatives to traditional wiring harnesses through the use of reconifigurability.


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