wiki/ PSAS Avionics Team

Avionics Home Page

The Avionics team is currently working on 'AV4' class hardware and firmware for the Launch Vehicle No. 2c airframe. The AV4 hardware is run by an Intel Atom-based PCI-104 flight computer (FC) attached to various sensor and actuator nodes using Ethernet as a low-latency safety critical bus and USB as an easy, non-time-critical bulk-data bus. The sensors and actuators include a GPS, IMU, power system, and the beginnings of a control system.

If you're new to the avionics team, or you want some information on a previous system, please see our Introduction to PSAS Avionics Page. Then figure out how you want to "jump in" to a ridiculously complicated project by choosing one of our many current projects, listed below.

AV4 Current Projects

The AV4-NEXT section shows what we want to fly on our next flight. This list is all the things we need to do to get there. Something sound interesting? Come to a meeting and we'll get you started.

Avionics System Documentation

We now organize our documentation according to avionics generation and launch in the format "generation-launch". Thus "AV3-L10" means Avionics Generation 3 that was flown on Launch 10.


This is the next system planned to fly on our, next flight, "L11", sometime in summer 2014. Although things have only incrementally changed since AV3, AV4 denotes the full move to Ethernet and the trend for smaller systems in order to eventually fit the CubeSat form factor.

The planned ground system:

AV3-L10 (June 2013)

This was the first launch of our untested and mostly not-ready avionics system. We moved to an Intel Atom flight computer, with a mix of USB and newer Ethernet nodes. The flight was successful, but a FC reboot 4 ms into the flight erased any useful data from the boost phase of the flight.

AV3-L10 diagram AV3-L10 Payload under assembly

The ground system was:

AV3-L09 (July 2011)

This was the first post-2005 avionics system that went beyond a single microcontroller. We had a PowerPC-based flight computer with USB-based ARM nodes. This system was launched, but never technically flew: the motor exploded on ignition, causing the rocket to be thrown 10-15 m in the air.

Block diagrams of the planned AV3-L09 avionics system:

What was actually "flown":

The ground system was also new:

L07 (June 2010) and L08 (October 2010)

These two launches were our first attempts at a control system: we use a servo-controlled set of small canards to control the vehicle's roll. It used a microcontroller-based control system to keep the control real time, simple and reliable. Both launches the avionics system worked perfectly, but roll control only worked with the L08 flight after the addition of a spin can.

L06 (May 2009)

This was our "return to flight" launch, and was primarily a test of the L2.3 airframe. The avionics suite was limited:

AV2-L05 (August 2005)

AV2 was arguably the most sophisticated amateur rocket avionics planet for its time: an x86 flight computer running Linux and using WiFi for telemetry, a GPS, an IMU, an entire ground-based telemetry network, and even open source Java-based launch control and telemetry viewing system. The avionics performed flawlessly, but was destroyed when the recovery system gas generator failed to operate. The telemetry ground systems worked, but failed to record the flight video despite two redundant systems.

There was also a sophisticated ground system to launch and receive telemetry:

L3 (September 2002) and L4 (September 2003)

These flights were airframe-only flights to test our new "LV2" class airframe. They used COTS amateur rocket flight computers to deploy the recovery system.

AV1-L2 (October 2000)

This system was an upgrade to our AV1 system. We added a GPS receiver, commercially made PCBs, better batteries, and reworked the entire system. The ground station software was our first use of open source software. It flew successfully, and was the last of our 8-bit avionics systems as we realized it was time to seriously upgrade our system.

AV1-L1 (April 1999)

A new avionics system, based off a slightly more powerful 8-bit microcontroller and a dawning desire to understand rocket dynamics. In 1999, this may have been the first amateur rocket with a 6 DOF solid-state IMU. The PCBs for this system were design on CAD and hand-etched at a volunteer's house. Flew successfully.

AV0-L0 (June 1998)

Our first avionics system, based on a small 8-bit microcontroller soldered on a protoboard. Flew successfully, except for a short in the telemetry data downlink.

Sponsored projects

These projects are undergraduate engineering capstones that PSAS has sponsored:

Misc other stuff!

Deprecated and unorganized subsystems:

Avionics Hardware Tools

Avionics Software Tools

Other Advanced Amateur Avionics Systems

[Off Topic]

From Spencer Webb of AntennaSys:

Avionics Team Meeting Minutes

To add a new entry, please use the data as the name of the page in the form YYYY-MM-DD. Don't forget to uncomment the avionics news tag!

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2013-12-03 - Tuesday updates + digital video, compression and streaming

2013-05-29 - Battery pack shenanigans, FC cart

2012-05-21 - FCF Design for Summer 2013 Launch

2013-02-10 - Avionics planning for Summer 2013 launch

2013-01-27 - Ethernet latency testing

2012-12-18 - 2nd capstone meeting

2012-12-14 - First meeting of 2012 ECE Capstone project

2012-10-28 - Umbilical release test

2012-09-28 - Discussion of battery charging and power control

2012-09-14 - Successful quarter-scale comms test (~ 1 km)

2012-09-11 - More USB Testing

2012-09-05 - WiFi works - now we're REALLY ready for the comms test

2012-08-31 - First comm test on AV3

2012-08-24 - AV3 communication gear bringup (but no testing yet)

2012-08-21 - Can't get enough of USB Latency Testing?

2012-08-17 - AV3 comm system test day

2012-08-14 - Hacking USB latencies with Josh

2012-08-07 - Even further USB Latency Testing

2012-08-03 - Further USB Latency Testing

2012-07-25 - USB latency measurements

2012-06-20 - RF cabling, Getting WiFi and GPS working on the FC

2012-06-15 - All RF Parts Attached

2012-06-06 - GPS carrier works!

2012-05-15 - GPS carrier board almost ready, poking at the FC GPIO

2012-05-08 - Avionics update, more battery hacking

2012-04-27 - Atom FC kernel

2012-04-27 - Avionics hack day (FC, BQ3060, power measurements)

2012-03-06 - Using Linux 3.3-rc sbs-battery driver on the new FC

2012-02-21 - More mucking with SMBUS on the new FC

2012-02-07 - Testing SBS boards with the new Atom FC

2012-01-31 - New connection diagram for avionics system

2011-08-19 - Futzing with CPAs at the PSU EMAG lab

2011-08-13 - Testing CPA v4 at NW EMC

2011-08-05 - Avionics Team Meeting

2011-08-05 - Avionics Team Meeting

2011-07-26 - CPA v4 checkout on PSU VNA

2011-07-22 - CPA v4 construction party

2011-07-12 - Avionics team meeting

2011-06-10 - Restart v4 CPA work

2011-05-15 - Build of node5 prototyping boards

2011-05-03 - Firmware structure discussion

2011-03-29 - Lecture on soldering, FC to Node5 GFE USB Communication

2010-10-25 - Conference call with Spencer on CPAs

2009-07-21 - Avionics mounting structure

2009-06-09 - Next steps! And 802.11a adapters?

2009-02-17 - EAGLE CAD Workshop

2009-01-15 - The Universal Rocket Bus

2008-08-13 - Switched launch dates, airframe update, and avionics update.

2008-07-23 - New avionics folks, nosecone mold finished, OSCON

2008-07-02 - Standalone ATV System discussion and design start

2008-04-09 - Ad Hoc comm team meeting on communication system frequencies

2007-09-26 - Fire test of MJG Technologies J-Tek igniter

2007-08-08 - General meeting; ikiwiki demo session

2007-04-11 - Bruce gives a presentation on RTOSs for the LPC2148


2007-03-14 - Recovery Node discussion

2007-03-07 - Beginning to hand out projects for AV2c...

2007-01-03 - Where are we, where are we going

2006-09-06 - Notes up until this point

2006-02-15 - EAGLE CAD Workshop

2005-11-30 - More avionics architecture, PPC flight computer, and CAN vs USB discussions

2005-10-25 - Discussion of avionics architecture and PPC flight computer


20094-11-02 - LV2 Avionics Module complete!! With pictures!


2004-06-09 - APS (Avionics Power System) design: Li Ion battery charger choice

2004-05-30 - Critical path scheduling and APS


2004-02-01 - Chat with Professor Jim Binkley about 802.11b and Linux drivers

2003-12-30 - Magnetometers

2003-10-13 - Power measurements on each component of the avionics system

2003-10-07 - What's next, timelines, task lists

2003-08-26 - To do list, what's critical

2003-07-22 - Non-PDX tasks, Protocols, LTC, Rocketview API, Routers

2003-06-24 - Things to do by August 22nd

2003-03-11 - Recovery node design review

2003-01-28 - EAGLE PCB CAD Workshop

2002-09-10 - Hardware work @ Andrew's; Software @ FAB CS lounge: telemetry client works

2002-09-08 - ATV distro board and PicCore @ Andrew's; Software @ FAB CS lounge

2002-08-27 - GPS CAN node done; Clementine determined to be broken

2002-08-25 - ATV hardware & distro board designed. Jupiter boards programmed. Ate pizza.

2002-08-20 - PicCore lecture; James starts hacking FC software together

2002-08-13 - Overview of what needs to be done; James' notes on FC update

2002-08-11 - Paul and Andrew discuss GPS node processing

2002-07-21 - More to-do items; got LV1b 2m receiver to work, and tested it

2002-07-07 - Getting CAN nodes working w/PicCore

2002-06-25 - Paul and Nate's CAN node dev system finally up and running

2002-06-18 - Project timeline until the scheduled 8/3 launch

2002-05-28 - James hacks away on FC, Andrew on the beginnings of PicCore













2001-12-04 - OGI Lecture: Intro to Extreme Programming (XP)










2001-06-27 - Meeting with Jim Binkley of PSU CS on 802.11b

2001-05-29 - Avionics Meeting in PCAT 103

2000-01-18 - General Meeting in PCAT 103