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Case Study: NASA Orion Spacecraft

by Eggplant, on Mar 31, 2020 11:03:08 AM

Read NASA Paper


For the first time in a generation, NASA is building a Spacecraft to take humans further than they’ve ever gone before, from the Moon and Mars.

This is a new era of space exploration, with NASA's Orion Spacecraft and its crew planning on unlocking the mysteries of space as they venture to another world. 

But long before this Spacecraft goes out on a mission, it must be tested to make sure it is infallible and safe for those on-board. This involves rocket launch testing, testing parachutes and the software that monitors and controls the aircraft.

Three main cockpit displays monitor and control NASA's Orion Spacecraft and need to be tested to ensure they operate without faults. To conduct such testing, the Rapid Prototyping Lab (RPL) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center along with the University of Texas at Tyler employed Eggplant’s test automation solution.  

Software Verification Tool Selected

Eggplant was chosen by the RPL as one of its software verification tools to test NASA Orion’s cockpit display simulation software.

According to NASA's Research Paper entitled 'Software Verification of Orion Cockpit Display', “The advantage of Eggplant is that it can be automated to run tests of simulated user interactions on the system under test (SUT) without actual human / physical actions. To do this, Eggplant connects remotely to the SUT and runs programs known as scripts which are a series of commands within a file that is capable of being executed without being compiled.”

“The scripts emulate user interactions on the system such as mouse clicks and keyboard entries. Advanced image recognition technology in Eggplant allows testers the ability to create decision structures that can mimic complex user behaviors. Using the built-in image recognition functions, Eggplant can be scripted to react as the user would to certain events in the software, or to verify if the SUT is acting in accordance with expected results.”

Automating the creation of these Eggplant suites and scripts was a means of reducing time and increasing efficiency.

Eggplant can be automated to perform several iterations of testing and verification. Test automation results in a quicker turnaround time for the RPL, giving them more time to stress-test their software systems and ensure functionality in the event of a change or update to the underlying software.

Results and Future Work

Eggplant and their proprietary scripting language SenseTalk, proved to be highly useful tools for automating the testing of the Orion cockpit display simulators.

One of the main goals in NASA’s testing process was to write modular, re-usable code that can be applied to the different displays and enumerations that one encounters.

“The framework standardizes the way in which we code and simulate user inputs, and the Common Eggplant Functions can be used repeatedly in tests of other displays.”

“Moving forward, we hope to use the tools that we have created to test the other displays and popup types. We also want to run repetitive tests to prove that our scripts are functional and obtaining the correct results. Moreover, this iterative testing will validate reliability and consistency of the Orion cockpit display simulation software performance.”

Read NASA Paper  View NASA powerpoint

Topics:Aerospace & Defense

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