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NI Showcases Satellite Link Emulation in Cooperation With Ansys

NI, which for decades has helped the aerospace and defense industry optimize its test strategies to meet increasingly complex requirements, is demonstrating a Satellite Link Emulator (SLE) at the Farnborough Air Show 2022. This novel SLE is intended to validate next-generation satellite communication links with a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) approach that delivers maximum test fidelity and flexibility, emulating real-world system behavior and channel effects in a laboratory setting. The Ansys Systems Tool Kit (STK) is integrated with NI PXI hardware and LabVIEW FPGA, enabling communication links between satellite and ground stations to be validated against accurate and realistic channel parameters in real-time.

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“Ansys STK is the world-leading software for digital mission engineering”

The rapid commercialization of Low Earth orbit (LEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO) has led to the introduction of modern satellite-based applications like non-terrestrial networks (NTN) and high-resolution remote sensing and imagery. The satellite constellations, ground equipment, and supporting launch vehicles designed to support these new services create new challenges in design, system validation, and production test. NI’s Satellite Link Emulation Demonstrator helps engineers to effectively address these challenges.

“Time to market and risk mitigation are critical for designing and validating high-complexity systems like satellite constellations,” said Luke Schreier, SVP & GM, Aerospace and Defense Business Unit at NI. “Industry experts need to work together to make our mutual customers successful, and that’s exactly what NI and Ansys are demonstrating with this satellite link emulation capability. Combining high-fidelity simulation with high-performance, real-time instrumentation yields better designs, faster cycles, and ultimately greater capability.”

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“Ansys STK is the world-leading software for digital mission engineering,” said Shashank Narayan, senior director, R&D at Ansys. “It helps model sophisticated satellite missions that include air and ground platforms and their RF communications payloads. STK’s approach to digital mission engineering and NI’s Satellite Link Emulation capabilities ensure that critical mission requirements are thoroughly designed, validated, and tested early and throughout the life cycle, helping to ensure mission success. RF payload modeling in STK can also include high fidelity electromagnetic physics by linking to Ansys HFSS antenna system models, which can incorporate host platform interaction effects and RF co-site interference assessment.”

NI’s demonstrator consists of COTS modular hardware and flexible software tools to address RF signal fidelity, system-level validation, and digital system test requirements. The system is built on the PXI modular test platform, which can be customized to meet specific I/O requirements. In the demo, the NI Vector Signal Transceiver (VST) RF instrument transmits and receives TT&C and SATCOM data link signals, while performing key signal fidelity measurements such as modulation accuracy, transmit power, and more. The VST is augmented with a FlexRIO FPGA co-processor that hosts channel models and other DSP IP, processing 1 GHz of RF bandwidth in real time. With the addition of a co-processor, the VST is transformed into an RF channel emulator—unlocking the ability to do full system-level validation.

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