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Tim Atkins - Winner of the NASA Edwin F. Connors Award

on Wednesday, 29 April 2020.

Tim Atkins - Winner of the NASA Edwin F. Connors Award

In April, Jacobs management recognized Tim Atkins’ technical accomplishments by announcing him a winner of the Edwin F. Connors Award for work reported last year.  The Jacobs Space Exploration Group (JSEG) gives this award at the end of each year for outstanding contributions by an individual or team that improves the quality of NASA support.  Tim was nominated by his peers for this award, and was one of ten recipients selected by the JSEG Awards Committee.

The Challenge

In SLS avionics labs, the test system captures data transactions and analog signals from hundreds of SLS interfaces, then immediately timestamps each one using a very accurate lab time source.  This lab time is the main reference in all data queries from the test data archive.  The lab time is used to measure SLS data latencies and errors, but users had no way to accurately align it with the SLS timescale.  A common, accurate, and automated time reference was needed for analysts to correlate SLS events in the simulated environment with real-time data transactions along the lab timescale.

The Solution

Tim developed an algorithm to derive the time of the lab clock when SLS flight computer clocks cross T-0, with sub-millisecond accuracy (needed for precise data analyses).  He designated this lab time reference “Lab T-0”.  Leveraging the relationship between timestamps on MIL-STD-1553 buses, he initially prototyped the algorithm as a macro, tested it among a small NASA group, and obtained buy-in from NASA leadership.  Afterwards, Tim led Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC) and SLS Propulsion engineers to automate the solution as the standard reference for all test reports.  He also communicated the solution to over 100 users.


This solution automatically provides a consistent reference time for avionics test datasets from the various SLS avionics labs.  It allows users to isolate test data around selected time intervals within the SLS countdown and flyout, greatly reducing query time and report size.  It eliminated the need for training and processes formerly used to roughly align SLS with lab measurements, and continues to eliminate confusion on the definition of T-0 itself.  In late 2018 the SLS avionics test manager said:

“Many times, we don’t want to convert all the pre-launch data.  We just want the data starting at (a specific SLS time).  Now that we have the Lab T-0 time, we don’t have to guess anymore.  That is a huge help in allowing us users to only pull the data we need.  Especially since we have gone to a T-6700s command schedule.”

Over the past few years, more than 100 analysts from various SLS disciplines have generated more than 50,000 test reports.  Standardizing and automating Lab T-0 has saved thousands of hours annually, thus expediting SLS avionics test analyses and requirements verification.