A lot has been going on in the past year, and while we have been busy with clients and flying customer payloads, the Masten Team has also been thinking about ways we could engage the broader community and increase accessibility to our VTVL vehicles. One of the largest barriers to entry for any technology developer seeking to conduct aerospace flight testing is access to a vehicle. Limited access to an integrated GPS/IMU navigation system, flight-rated computing platforms, and sensors present additional challenges to innovators. In the spirit of broadening access to aerospace resources, we have had a project cooking in the background called Prometheus.
Project Prometheus is a Masten program designed to foster the development of flight-test ready technologies by innovators in academic and research settings. By implementing a standardized interface between Masten vehicles and experimental software and hardware tools, Prometheus will provide a streamlined, efficient path for technology maturation throughout the course of tool conception, development and flight test. Access to uniform, flight-tested hardware and software development framework for innovators will ultimately reduce integration, development and other flight test costs.
Among other technology areas, the Prometheus program will provide a unique opportunity for rapid, streamlined development of tools relating to:
- Visual navigation
- Landing detection
- Mass Estimation
- Position/Attitude Estimation
In its initial formulation, Prometheus projects will primarily interface with Masten RLVs via a packet forwarder designed and built by Masten Guidance, Navigation and Control engineer, Scott Nietfeld. The preliminary packet forwarder utilizes a BeagleBone Black platform to create a one-way broadcast of a Masten RLV’s telemetry stream onto a dedicated payload network that ensures that hosted technologies are isolated from the vehicle network. Using the packet forwarder, real-time data such as GPS location, inertial data, and vehicle state information can be streamed to hosted technologies during an actual RLV flight. In addition to the packet forwarding, payloads can be remotely powered on and off via BeagleBone Black control of a dedicated payload relay board . Including the BeagleBone Black, the preliminary configuration of the Prometheus system will support Raspberry Pi and Arduino platforms.
The Prometheus program will enable new flight opportunities for the demonstration, and validation of both software and hardware innovations. Work on the implementation of development processes and interface standardization is ongoing – interested prospective participants are strongly encouraged to email us at email@example.com with input and questions about the program. Updates will be forthcoming as the program moves forward, but in the meantime, we are excited to to get the word out!