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Center Independent Research & Development: SSC IRAD

NDAS NASA Data Acquisition Software Suite- Version 2.0

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Current NASA propulsion test facilities include Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Plum Brook Station in Ohio, and White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. Within and across these centers, a diverse set of data acquisition systems exist with different hardware and software platforms. The NASA Data Acquisition System (NDAS) is a software suite designed to operate and control many critical aspects of rocket engine testing. The software suite combines real-time data visualization, data recording to a variety formats, short-term and long term acquisition system calibration capabilities, test stand configuration control, and a variety of data post-processing capabilities. Additionally, data stream conversion functions exist to translate test facility data streams to and from downstream systems, including customer systems. The primary design goals for NDAS are flexibility, extensibility, and modularity. Providing a common user interface for a variety of hardware platforms helps drive consistency and error reduction during testing. Also, with an understanding that test facilities have different requirements and setups, the software is designed to be modular. One program may require real-time displays and data recording; others may require more complex data stream conversion, measurement filtering, or test stand configuration management. The NDAS suite allows test facilities to choose which components to use based on their specific needs. The NDAS code is primarily written in LabVIEW, a graphical data-flow driven language. Although LabVIEW™ is a general purpose programming language, large-scale software development in the language is relatively rare compared to more commonly used languages. The NDAS software suite also makes extensive use of a new, advanced development framework called the Actor Framework. It provides a level of code reuse and extensibility that has previously been difficult to achieve using LabVIEW.

The test complexes at John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC) require reliable and accurate data acquisition in order to analyze the results of rocket engine tests.  Acquisition systems include high-speed data, low-speed data, event monitoring, and video feeds.  In order to obtain accurate data, routine calibrations must be performed on each channel, which can be defined as a single data stream to be collected, including the entire hardware chain from signal acquisition by a transducer to signal conditioning by an amplifier and digitization by an Analog-to-Digital converter.

Low Speed Data Acquisition System (LSDAS) is utilized to provide real time display and recording of data.  This data includes both analog and discrete measurements including but not limited to transducers, transmitters, thermocouples, test stand status monitoring, and valve commands and positions.  NDAS must be able to correctly process data from the sensors and convert the data to engineering units.

NDAS is a data acquisition system designed for use on all NASA test stands.  It replaces the current outdated systems including but not limited to: the Stennis Data Acquisition System (SDAS), and the Digital Data Acquisition System (DDAS).  Its flexibility and modularity enables it be used with any hardware at any test facility. 

The NDAS project developed an architecture that would provide:

  • Adaptability: Hardware abstraction layer adaptable to different acquisition systems with minimal effort,
  • Modularity: Functional areas designed as separate modules to simplify maintenance and life cycle support,
  • Extensibility: Displays and data output files can be customized via a standardized plug-in architecture,
  • Flexibility: Innovative hierarchical and self-referential database architecture allows for flexibility to deploy to any facility,
  • Unified System Configuration: The system, measurements and calibrations are managed and configured within a common user interface, and
  • Streamlined Operations: Run-time processing and analysis minimizes post-test data processing turnaround time


NDAS is written using an object-oriented approach with extensive use of an advanced development framework called the Actor Framework.  In this approach, actors serve as the logic units of concurrent computation. In response to a message received, an actor can perform a specific task, send messages, and determine how to respond to messages.  The major components of the NDAS software suite are as follows:

  • NIRD - A central database which stores measurement configuration information for running the NDAS software,
  • NOSS - A central system configuration interface for engineers to configure measurements in the NDAS software,
  • NOPS - This function acquires, scales, and propagates all measurement data to client applications,
  • NDIS - A client application for real-time data graphing, tabular displays, and event monitoring,
  • NLOG - A client application for data logging and data file conversion.
  • NGATE - A gateway between NDAS and downstream systems, converting customer data streams to NDAS data streams and vice versa. 
  • NCAL - This function performs short-term and long-term system calibrations.
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