Dr. Robert Zee
Manager, Space Flight Laboratory
UTIAS

“We approached Altium because they have the best DSP563xx compiler and debugger on the market, which is essential to a mission this critical to the Canadian Space Program.”

The Company

As the premier research institute, the Space Flight Laboratory of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) is overseeing the development of Canada's first space telescope. The mission: to determine the age of the universe.

The Challenge

With a first flight scheduled for 2002, UTIAS needed a strong set of development tools to develop firmware for custom electronics with rigorous deadlines. Readily available GNU tools didn't provide the functionality or ease of use that researchers needed

The Solution

The TASKING DSP56xxx software development toolset provided a quantum leap in multiplatform support as well as providing memory control and intrinsics that eased development and increased productivity.

The Results

The TASKING DSP56xxx toolset satisfied the firmware design requirements of the space telescope-satellite. Programmers reduced the code size and execution time by about 40%.

Technology Designed to Reach into the Future

The University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory collaborates with business, government and academic institutions on spacecraft projects and the developmentof new space technologies. Its aim:

  • To promote the testing of new and commercial technologies in space
  • To train graduate students to strengthen the Canadian skill base in space systems engineering
  • To participate in high-profile missions, such as the Microvariability and Oscillation of STars (MOST) space astronomy microsatellite

Through the MOST project, Canadian researchers study and analyze acoustic modes in sun-like stars to better determine the ages of metal-poor stars and set a stronger lower limit on the age of the universe. The MOST satellite, although having a modest aperture of 15 cm, is Canada's first space telescope and is designed to return unprecedented photometric precision and to monitor stars for weeks at a time.

Sophisticated, Yet Easy to Use

The University of Toronto's Space Flight Laboratory holds an aggressive development schedule, targeting an early 2002 flight. Critical to meeting this goal is the development of firmware for custom electronics. As Dr. Robert Zee, manager of the Space Flight Lab, observes,

“Software development tools are a key component of any development project, and MOST is no different.”

The Motorola DSP563xx is critical to the MOSTonboard computer system, the brain of the satellite.

Because of the tight academic budget, the Space Flight Lab began the project using free GNU development tools. But the team quickly found the GNU tools too limited in functionality and difficult to use for the Lab's advanced level of development. According to Zee, poor development tools were holding the team back,

“Our programming productivity was suffering. We needed something better.”

TASKING's Intrinsics Eliminate Clumsy Assembly Code Workarounds

Realizing the need for superior development tools, the SFL team switched to the TASKING DSP56xxx software development toolset. Daniel Foisy, Spacecraft Computer Engineer at the Space Flight Lab, praised the multiplatform strengths of TASKING tools because of the impact it has made on the project.

“The ability of the TASKING DSP563xxx Family C cross-compiler to easily support various hardware configurations is highly desirable. Even simple things like the ability to place a variable in a specific memory space and at a specific memory location greatly improves the productivity of our programmers. The availability of intrinsics opens up the full capability of our DSP system without resorting to clumsy assembly code workarounds.”

40% Savings in Code Size and Execution Time

As a direct result of switching from the GNU tools to the TASKING tools, the UTIAS/SFL programmers reduced code size and execution time approximately 40%. As Dr. Zee puts it,

“We found the TASKING compiler to be highly optimized, greatly contributing to more efficient code. The added bonus: the intuitive and easy-to-use TASKING DSP56xxx Embedded Development Environment. It gets our programmers up-to-speed very quickly, greatly minimizing the learning curve for new team members.”