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Portable data station increasing test throughput, providing benefits for all AEDC testing

Joseph Mann, AEDC instrumentation, data and controls engineer, works at the U7 portable data station in one of the arc-heated test cells at Arnold Air Force Base. Members of the Test Support System Division at Arnold AFB designed and built the portable data acquisition system to setup and prepare instrumentation between and during testing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Deidre Ortiz) (This image has been altered for security purposes)

Joseph Mann, AEDC instrumentation, data and controls engineer, works at the U7 portable data station in one of the arc-heated test cells at Arnold Air Force Base. Members of the Test Support System Division at Arnold AFB designed and built the portable data acquisition system to setup and prepare instrumentation between and during testing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Deidre Ortiz) (This image has been altered for security purposes)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --

Members of AEDC Test Support Systems Division at Arnold Air Force Base designed and built U7, a portable data acquisition system that allows instrumentation, data and controls (ID&C) engineers to set up and prepare instrumentation between and during normal test operations.

U7 consists of a portable rack of servers along with instrumentation hookups and testing equipment selected to check out and stage the third-party digital temperature scanners (DTS) and digital voltage scanners (DVS) used to obtain test data.

These units are the front end of eSTARR, the AEDC enterprise system for test data acquisition, recording and redistribution, which interfaces directly with both AEDC and customer-supplied instrumentation to obtain critical data used for aerospace testing.

“A DTS takes temperature measurements,” said Joseph Mann, an enterprise systems ID&C engineer at Arnold. “It takes a temperature and turns it into a digital signal which can be processed by computer software.”

DTSs are used along with DVSs, which gather measurement readings from instrumentation during testing, such as ones reading strain gauges and pressure transducers.

The Space and Missiles (S&M) Combined Test Force identified a need for this type of portable system due to the increasing test loads and the increasing need to streamline test installations.

Bob Stanford, a project engineer for the S&M CTF, noted the benefits of having the portable data station.

“It’s important for throughput,” he said. “Now you don’t have to tie up the control room, it allows for control room and test operations to continue, while also bringing the test facility back online.”

According to Mann, the checkout station also gives his team the ability to test malfunctioning instrumentation on a mockup data acquisition system.

“You can identify the problem and then return that DTS to service,” he said. “Plus, it reduces the turnaround time on putting a DTS back into service; and it’s ready to be deployed when it’s needed to support a test.”

Another benefit to having a portable station is that it can support other CTFs.

“It’s small, was relatively inexpensive to put together and it’s versatile,” Mann said.

The checkout station was funded under the S&M CTF, but test facilities base-wide will be able to take advantage of it.

“There are future plans to use the DTS checkout station in the Aeropropulsion and Flight CTFs as well,” Mann said.

While there is only one portable eSTARR system, the DTS and DVS units have been used for testing for over five years. There are now almost 500 scanner units used across AEDC’s Arnold AFB and White Oak sites, and accurate records and staging have become paramount to efficient operation between all four CTFs.

Stan Cheek, S&M CTF capital project manager, added, “All work on the DTS station was managed as a replace and improve project to increase test throughput in the arc heater test facilities.”

Although the project’s primary intent was to improve hypersonic test capability, it has proven to positively impact multiple test facilities and their operations.

Cheek said, “It feels very rewarding to know that a simple system like the DTS station can have such a big impact on AEDC test operations.”