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NASA Orion + Keysight Eggplant Help Make Space Travel Safer

By Mike Hodge

NASA Orion + Keysight Eggplant Help Make Space Travel Safer

By Mike Hodge

Published 03-31-23

Submitted by Keysight Technologies

An astronaut in a space suit in outerspace, a space station behind them.

Space. The final frontier... 

You don't have to be a Trekkie for those words to spark the imagination. There's something about space that sets dreams aloft — even if we never get there ourselves. But application developers and software test automation specialists need not despair. One day, their work may well wind up among the stars.

And for a lucky few working on NASA’s Orion spacecraft projects, that dream has already become a reality.

Keysight Eggplant test automation software enables safer space travel

The centerpiece of NASA's Artemis missions, the Orion spacecraft is an engineering wonder. It's a symphony of software — with all systems operating in perfect harmony to shuttle passengers and payloads safely through the cosmos. And when it comes to essential software systems, few things are more crucial than the cockpit displays the astronauts rely on. A veritable nerve center for the spacecraft, they control everything from thrust vectoring to status-check monitoring.

Long before the first Artemis mission lifted off, NASA needed to ensure its highly complex software systems — including the cockpit display software — were ready for the rigors of spaceflight. That's why they selected Keysight Eggplant test automation platform to test the Orion spacecraft's three cockpit displays.

By using software test automation to emulate complex user behaviors — such as the hand motions used by the astronauts to display essential cockpit data — the Eggplant software helped NASA save precious time during development while minimizing the risk of human error. 

NASA adds real-world astronaut experience and expertise to the Orion team

NASA's software team needed someone with firsthand astronaut experience and subject matter expertise, so they enlisted the help of now-retired NASA Chief Astronaut and Navy SEAL Chris Cassidy to help develop and test the spacecraft's cockpit software. 

"I don't think I was really appreciative of the level of effort and technical challenges that go into robust testing," Cassidy said. "Problems are a lot easier to solve on the ground. That's where you can take time to solve them, where you're not going to hurt somebody."

But that's not all he has to say on the subject. Not by a long shot.

In an upcoming webinar, Mach Speed Software Testing for Safe Space Travel, Cassidy will share stories about his real-world experiences in spaceflight and software test automation.


Mach Speed Software Testing for Safe Space Travel 
with retired NASA Chief Astronaut and Navy SEAL Chris Cassidy 
Tue, Mar 21, 2023 · 12:00 PM | Eastern Time (US & Canada) (GMT -4:00)

Joining him are Keysight's own Greg Patschke, General Manager of Aerospace, Defense, and Government Solutions, and Jay Epps, Solutions Engineering Manager. Boasting nearly a hundred years of combined experience across the aerospace, defense, and engineering sectors, the trio will answer a wide range of questions. Here are just a few.

• What are the best practices in software test automation for critical missions in space and defense? 
• How do you test for extremes and anticipate the human side of software use? 
• How will digital twin technologies put a communication network on the moon? 
• How do you test complex integrations for mission-critical 5G and satellite communications?

Humankind’s ongoing leaps into space will rely on software and test automation

It's tempting to look at Orion as our next giant leap into the cosmos. But it's just a small step towards the Artemis mission's ultimate goal: Mars. Eighty-one million miles stretch between Earth and the red planet. But that's nothing compared to the technological leaps needed to make the journey.

Although it's fun to daydream about what those bold new technologies will look like, the truth is much more realistic. Systems like navigation, decision-making, and communications depend on software. As long as that remains the case, any future mission to Mars will rely — at least in part — on software test automation to help ensure safe space travel and mission success.

After all, you can't afford to take shortcuts when lives are on the line. That's why it's so important to test early and often.

Sign up for the Mach Speed Software Testing for Space Safe Travel webinar here.

Read the NASA report: Software Verification of Orion Cockpit Displays. 

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Keysight Technologies

Keysight Technologies

At Keysight (NYSE: KEYS), we inspire and empower innovators to bring world-changing technologies to life. As an S&P 500 company, we’re delivering market-leading design, emulation, and test solutions to help engineers develop and deploy faster, with less risk, throughout the entire product lifecycle. We’re a global innovation partner enabling customers in communications, industrial automation, aerospace and defense, automotive, semiconductor, and general electronics markets to accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world. Learn more at Keysight Newsroom and

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