COSI Flight Operations

We often refer to the term Flight Operations to mean the monitoring and controlling of COSI in flight.  Operations is a very crucial part of a successful flight, as it’s how we ensure COSI is working to the best of its ability throughout the flight.  Thanks to our various communications links, as outlined in Talking to COSI, we can monitor and control many aspects of COSI in real-time during the flight.

Monitoring COSI

After launching COSI, we’d like to know how it’s doing.  For this purpose, we have developed multiple tools to monitor instrument health and its progress in achieving scientific goals.

Interactive Real-Time Monitoring

For most of our real-time, interactive testing and monitoring, we use our Ground Support Equipment (GSE), which are computers running custom software that Clio wrote. Hopefully we’ll have time to write a separate post about the GSE Software, but, in essence, it decodes and displays live data received from COSI in an easy-to-read format. It’s a kind of dashboard for COSI – it tells us all the important things about the instrument to know it’s functioning well.  We can look at charts of recent histories of everything from temperatures, to voltages, to our GPS coordinates.  It’s a great way to observe trends as they are happening.

Screenshot - 04172016 - 10:22:10 AM

While we still have a line of sight to the instrument, and access to our high-speed L-Band radio link, and the majority of our data, we keep our eyes glued to the GSE Software to make sure everything is going smoothly.  It’s best for things to be stable by the end of this period, as we receive less diagnostic information after COSI leaves our line of sight.

Automated Real-Time Monitoring

While the GSE Software is fantastic, we don’t want to have to be staring at it 24/7 during the flight, especially if it lasts the potential 100 days!  I started with the brains behind Clio’s GSE Software to write the COSI Monitor, which is always running and alerts us if any of the data coming from COSI seems anomalous.  For example, if something gets too hot (or cold), it will alert us.

Our alert system now includes a slightly creepy computerized voice, a strobe light, and e-mail notifications.  Once we get back to the states, we will get text-messages as well to alert us wherever we are that something may be out of the ordinary.  The system, in addition to warning about possible dangers and failures also informs us of detected Gamma-Ray Bursts, one of our science objectives.

CryocoolerTempP_7dCryocoolerTempP_24hrsSince this system is designed to be on-the-go, we can check out the WebGSE that Abby and Alan designed, which is a web page that posts recent snap shots of the instrument health. This can be a good tool for us to use if we are unable to get to our computers immediately.

Historical Instrument Health Analysis

In addition to knowing the current state of the instrument, we probably will also want to know how it got there.  This is when historical analysis of the flight data comes to play. We can take our recorded data and “replay” it into the GSE Software.  This can be very useful to sit there and watch the data come in just as it did in real-time.

Sometimes, however, we don’t need to watch the data come in one by one, but instead would rather just see the history of it.  That’s outside the scope of the GSE Software, so we have a couple of tools to help with that.  First, the WebGSE shows us a selection recent
histories to display. This is great because it’s fast to look-up and can be accessed anywhere.

Additionally, Clio and I are working on software (shown in the image on the above) that can plot any data from COSI given a selected date and time range.  This will make it great to go back into COSI’s historical data to look at multi-hour or multi-day plots.

Controlling COSIScreenshot - 04172016 - 10:57:57 AM

Equally important to the monitoring of COSI is being able to control it.  Using our communications links, we can control pretty much every aspect of COSI other than its location and orientation (CSBF always points the solar panels to the sun so we can charge our batteries).  We can turn various parts of the instrument on or off, change some settings in our software, and modes of running the instrument.  We can do this through our Commanding interface in the GSE Software.

We will be keeping a close eye at the thermal situation.  Although we do extensive testing and modeling, the best test of our thermal model is flight itself.  We can monitor the temperatures of components across our gondola, and, if necessary, turn on/off heaters.  It may take a couple day/night cycles to know exactly how to set our thermostats to keep us within a comfortable operating range.

We will also be controlling our usage of the OpenPorts, by switching between a mode in which we automatically send as much data as possible, and a mode that allows us to log in to our flight computer and download specific files.

Analyzing COSI’s Scientific Data

In addition to monitoring COSI’s health, we can also run Realta, which is a Real-time Analyzer that can display reconstructed images of what COSI looks at in the sky.  Below is a reconstructed time-lapsed image of one of our radiation sources put on the end of a propeller and spun around.

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