Aerospace Networks & Communications

Contact Information

Myron Moodie
Intelligent Network Systems
(210) 522-5557

Michael Moore
Staff Engineer
Software-Defined Radio
(210) 522-5944

Robert Klar
Principal Engineer
Space Internetworking
(210) 522-5052

Image of example of network-based instrumentation time synchronization

Example of network-based instrumentation time synchronization


image: Example of space internetworking: sample spacecraft-switched local area network

Space internetworking: sample spacecraft-switched local area network.


With more than 15 years of experience in the research, design and development of networks and network-based systems and an extensive background in networks, coupled with real-time systems focus, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is a pioneer in bringing networking technology to airborne and space platforms. SwRI is also conducting research and development in reconfigurable communications architectures for space applications.

Aircraft Vehicle Networks and Flight Test Systems

SwRI engineers apply networking technology to aircraft and aviation flight test systems using innovative combinations of open standards. Some features and capabilities of systems developed by SwRI include:

  • Real-time data acquisition, recording and telemetry
  • IEEE-1588 precision network-based time synchronization
  • 10/100/1000 copper/fiber Ethernet
  • Multicast UDP/IP data transport
  • Total sensor data rates exceeding 500 Mbps
  • Automated and centralized network management systems
  • Integrated health and status monitoring
  • Flight-ruggedized equipment

Precision Network-Based Time Synchronization

Variable transport latencies and inadequate time synchronization have hindered the deployment of network-based solutions in applications that require real-time response. The very high precision time synchronization capabilities provided by emerging standards such as IEEE-1588 have made the advantages of network-centric designs available to real-time and high data throughput applications. Advantages to network-based time synchronization include:

  • Requires only one additional Ethernet cable and switch port to add the time source to the network
  • Does not require a separate legacy time synchronization bus (e.g., IRIG-B) connection to each device
  • Provides for sub-microsecond network-wide time synchronization

Space Internetworking

SwRI is well-positioned to provide space-based networking solutions, based on extensive experience and core competencies in:

  • Network-centric systems and network security
  • Flight software development
  • Radiation-hardened space avionics design and fabrication

An area of growing importance in space communications is the use of standard networking software to support integration of spacecraft systems with external networks. SwRI engineers are developing integration protocols for SpaceWire, a new standard for onboard switched networks. SwRI has already developed the SpaceWire Link Interface Module (SLIM), a rugged cPCI module suitable for harsh space environments. SpaceWire has many potential applications including:

  • An enabling technology for responsive space (e.g., support for rapid integration of components)
  • Vehicle network for manned spacecraft such as NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV)
  • Networking infrastructure for lunar surface research habitation modules
Image of chart showing research results of flexible software-defined radio communication designs

SwRI is a leader in researching flexible software-defined radio communication designs for space applications such as space-borne communications.

Software-Defined Radio for Reconfigurable Communications

During the last decade, programmable digital radio systems have been replacing fixed analog radio systems as programmable hardware components have become more capable, inexpensive and available, and wireless communications applications have demanded reusable, reconfigurable and flexible radios. Consequently, an evolving technology known as Software-Defined Radio has emerged.

  • Traditional digital radio systems used application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and digital signal processors (DSPs).
  • A software-defined radio system implements many internal (baseband) operations with software or firmware.
  • As hardware components evolve, future software-defined radio systems may also allow programmable radio frequency (RF) bands within the RF section.
  • Software-defined radio technologies allow fewer devices to support communications requirements, reducing size, weight and power.
  • SwRI has developed software-defined radio platforms, waveforms, transceivers, and software-defined radio satellite communication terminals.

Related Terminology

network-based instrumentation  •  aircraft vehicle networks  •  flight test systems  •  precision network-based time  •  synchronization  •  space internetworking  •  software-defined radio  •  reconfigurable communications  •  networking technology

Benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.