VPX eyes new frontiers

On my way home from the March VSO meeting held in Melbourne, Florida, and hosted by the Harris Corporation, I took some time to stop by the Kennedy Space Center. VITA Technical Director Jing Kwok and I boarded the bus to tour around the space center for the afternoon. I have taken this tour two previous times, first in 2000 and most recently in January 2012 as part of the Embedded Tech Trends media tour. In 2000, when I went with my family, the center was bustling with activity, wrapping up the day with the nighttime launch of the Opportunity Mars rover.

During my 2012 tour, the space center was quiet. The shuttle program had recently shut down, and they were in the process of relocating the shuttles to their permanent resting places in museums around the country. There was still launch activity, but the energy level was down, and SpaceX renovations were in the early stages.

Fast-forward to March 2015 and you can easily see the changes. The energy is back! Pads 39A and 39B of shuttle fame are in varying stages of rebuilding. 39A is nearly done, and 39B is ready for the new launch frame to be installed. NASA has been busy issuing contracts for services to further study, rehabilitate, modernize, and develop new and existing civil infrastructure and facilities at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and other NASA assets, including launch or landing sites worldwide.

We stopped by the new Atlantis shuttle display at the Kennedy Space Center. This was my first up-close encounter with a shuttle, having only seen it from afar sitting on its 747 carrier at Edwards Air Force Base in 1982. It is an amazing, must-see exhibit.

We had the chance to talk to a docent working the shuttle display. While examining the Canadarm we wondered about the extension that was mounted to the cargo bay. The docent explained that NASA had added the extension after the Columbia explosion so that the shuttle could undergo an extensive Flight Day 2 self-inspection of the external tiles and heat shields. This led to a discussion on the whole incident with our guide who was on the team assigned to gather data for the report.

If you like space travel, this report makes for great reading. The level of detail in the report is amazing, especially if you like space science. You will learn a lot about the incident and how NASA works in general. For more information, see www.nasa.gov/columbia/home/CAIB_Vol1.html.

This all brings me back to one of our features in this issue, SpaceVPX: Ready to launch. While Jing and I were admiring Atlantis, we started discussing what a SpaceVPX system might look like and what it might do on space missions. With commercial space travel ramping up and the SpaceVPX Systems specification now published, we may soon get a chance to see VPX in action on an upcoming mission. Read the feature to get a better understanding of what has been accomplished. We are already making plans to return to the Kennedy Space Center after the March 2016 VSO meeting.

What is even more exciting is the fact that other segments of the defense industry are looking at a VPX base platform for their mobile applications. VITA’s newest sponsor member, the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, more commonly known as CERDEC, is interested in developing specifications for a converged architecture during the FY14-17 timeframe. This promises to be innovative times for VPX applications.

Also in this edition of VITA Technologies is the announcement of the latest round of inductees into the VITA Technologies Hall of Fame. Read how these innovators and technologies are contributing to the success of our industry. Be sure to submit your own nominees for consideration in 2016.

Jerry Gipper jgipper@opensystemsmedia.com