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Dave Baker | January 12, 2017

5 Mistakes in Aerospace and Defense Test System Design

Aerospace and defense test is a complicated business. A lot goes into ensuring helicopters stay in the air, spacecraft stay pressurized, and passenger airplanes land safely every time. It’s a business full of complex elements—custom test fixtures, multiple technical compliance guidelines, and a ton of customer requirements. After more than two decades of designing hundreds of aerospace and defense test systems at G Systems, we have learned a thing or two about what it takes to design a successful mission-critical system… and seen some key design mistakes that nearly guarantee failure when designing aerospace and defense applications.

Here are 5 of these mistakes you should avoid:

1. Don’t design your test system for the long haul.

At the most basic level, it is important to choose automated test equipment (ATE) from a well-known vendor and to objectively analyze the abilities of your staff to design, develop, and maintain your critical test systems to determine if you need to work with a qualified integrator, such as G Systems. More specifically, you should avoid first-generation test equipment and opt for more mature solutions that have fewer bugs, while also avoiding equipment that is nearing its end of life. Additionally, you should use hardware that is easily scalable or reconfigurable if a technology refresh is required.

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  1. A complex test system shown with accompanying self-test loop-back adapter

  2. 2. Make self-test an afterthought in your ATE.

Oftentimes, ATE systems for aerospace and defense applications have more than 1,000 I/O points that all need to function correctly for the system to work properly. Thus, when designing your system, it is important that automated self-test functionality is included.

3. Don’t document where the parts used in your system are coming from.

A variety of industries are experiencing issues with counterfeit parts making their way into the supply chain. This can be a big problem when it comes to developing mission critical systems because counterfeit parts often have inferior specifications and quality that could lead to hazardous situations.

4. Don’t worry about putting a configuration management plan in place.

When applied over the life cycle of a system, configuration management can provide visibility and control of a system’s performance and functional and physical attributes. A good configuration management plan starts with strong documentation on how future system changes, upgrades, and maintenance will be handled.

5. Don’t prepare for cyber security threats.

Today, cyber security attacks continue to increase in frequency and sophistication, especially in the aerospace and defense industry. Any piece of equipment connected to a computer can be susceptible to cyber security threats. Protection against cyber threats starts with your vendor selection.

Avoiding these mistakes will help ensure your success. Designing an aerospace and defense test system can be a massive undertaking. Ensuring your system is secure and built to last for decades adds even further complexity to an already intricate task. This is why it is important to mitigate as many risks as possible up front and select an integrator with a proven track record of success in building ATE systems for the aerospace and defense industry.

Learn more about how G Systems addresses these five critical issues when developing aerospace and defense test systems by downloading this white paper.