Embedded Systems in Space Exploration - Page 2
The Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) forms the main structural housing of the JWST. The four main functional components (Mid-Infrared Instrument; Near-Infrared Camera; Near-Infrared Spectrograph; and Fine Guidance Sensor) will be contained within the ISIM. These four systems are heavily reliant on embedded systems.
For example, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph will require the use of microshutter arrays comprised of 250,000 shutter combinations that allow the spectrograph to focus on 100 objects at the same time. The synchronization of the shutters is highly delicate, and controlled by a magnet passing over the arrays.
However the JWST embedded systems will not be using fiber optics to communicate between components, because fiber optics is not yet ready for the rigors of space travel. Instead the JWST will be using a copper system designed by the ESA called SpaceWire. It utilizes a microchip that can communicate at greater than 200 megabits per second.
NASA and space exploration have spurred research and innovation around the world for the past forty or more years. Researchers have needed to design embedded systems that work in a vacuum, without gravity, and in extreme temperature and radiation conditions. Engineers have also needed to design embedded systems with artificial intelligence so unmanned flights can repair themselves. Space exploration will continue to drive innovation as man seeks more resources, and scientific answers.
Photo source: Hubblesite.org