Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading defense and space company, has selected Tuxera Reliance Nitro™ and FlashFX Tera™ for use in civil spaceflight equipment.

Mission-critical video data recording for the International Space Station

The Columbus Solid State Disk Video Recorder (COL-SSD) project replaces the old video tape recorders on Columbus, the European science laboratory module that is part of the International Space Station (ISS). The system records High Definition and Standard Definition video, but is also capable of storing high-rate data bit streams from scientific payloads prior to transmission on a downlink to a ground station.

The challenge

In the center of the COL-SSD, a 32-bit SPARC processor controls an array of 128 GB raw NAND-flash memory through which (video) data is streamed in real time. The memory is key to the flawless operation of the recorder over its expected lifetime use in ISS. In order to maximize NAND-flash lifetime, the data needs to be spread evenly across all memory cells. Since raw NAND-flash relies on a flash media driver to take care of this, as well as performing bad-block management, it puts a load on the CPU. Since the data potentially needs to be stored on the SSD, a reliable file system is an additional requirement. The selected file system must not steal cycles from the CPU and must not cause the system to enter an undefined state after a sudden power loss.

The Logic solution with Tuxera products

As the customer discussed their needs and requirements with Logic Technology, an authorized reseller of Tuxera products, Logic suggested our FlashFX Tera flash media driver software in combination with our Reliance Nitro high performance file system. These solutions fit seamlessly into the VxWorks operating system used by the customer. Further it supported the necessary storage size and the requirements with respect to reliability – especially the requirements regarding file system integrity under all circumstances, even if power fails during a write operation. The software was also configurable and could be tailored to the needs of the COL-SSD’s very special hardware architecture.

The results

The solution fulfilled the customer’s expectations. Extensive testing (as it is usual for spaceflight equipment) proved that all requirements have been met or exceeded. Especially the all-time file system integrity was “impressive,” according to the customer’s own assessment.

Video and data captured during ISS scientific experiments are of very high value, as many experiments can be carried out only once due to a limited number of samples or crew time (the samples have to be uploaded by space vehicles which are quite limited). Thus, under any circumstances, the scientific data must not get lost or corrupted. A reliable data recorder is therefore a crucial ingredient of any data management system used on board the ISS. According to a representative from Airbus, “The solution products have been very beneficial in achieving these challenging requirements. The product behaved as required. The close cooperation between our local development team, the Datalight* support team and Logic Technology during the entire project was another factor that contributed to our joint success.”

* This customer success story has been updated July 8, 2020. Datalight was originally mentioned as the software provider in this story. As of 2019, Datalight Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Tuxera Inc. Tuxera now owns all of Datalight’s former products, including the ones mentioned in this project. Tuxera is dedicated to providing superior technical know-how in data storage challenges and responsive customer support.

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