New Sponsor: National Instruments

We’re happy to say that National Instruments is joining our growing list of sponsors and supporters. Welcome to the team!

National Instruments

National Instruments is the industry leader in automated test equipment and virtual instrumentation software. They make software and hardware tools used by scientists and engineers all over the world to acquire and process experimental data and to automate industrial processes.

This year they’re kindly giving* us an exciting gadget called a myRIO. It’s essentially a small embedded computer running a flavour of real-time Linux, with a host of exciting features like:

  • A dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor at 667MHz, which gives us a decent amount of processing power.
  • A Xilinix Z-7010 FPGA – this chip can be reconfigured to carry out a complicated operation of your choice in a single clock tick. Using an FPGA would usually involve learning esoteric languages like VHDL, but the myRIO’s FPGA can instead be programmed using NI’s graphical programming tool LabVIEW.
  • A total of 48 digital I/O lines and a total of 10 analog input lines – the latter can sampled at up to 500 kilosamples/second. While the 12-bit ADC doesn’t quite have the resolution of the ADCs found on dedicated DAQ boards, it won’t be a limiting factor in what we’re using it for this year.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity: the option of one fewer cable to trip over!
  • A button.

Shiny new myRIO, plugged in and ready to do some serious rocket science.

It’s a very powerful (but heavy – it’d be half the vehicle’s mass!) option for Hummingbird’s flight computer. Since it can handle both control and data acquisition, it’ll also be useful for test-firing the torch igniter: the test team can set everything up, leave the lab, and command it from a safe distance to begin a test-fire and save data to internal memory, all while relaying important information to us.

We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do with this new piece of hardware – and in the longer term, we look forward to continuing to work with National Instruments on exciting spaceflight-related projects!

*Strictly speaking it’s on loan for as long as we find it useful, but I don’t think we’re going to run out of uses for it any time soon

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