Nolan Engineering











Tom Nolan has been writing computer software of exceptional quality for 40 years.  For much of that time, he has been creating software for instrumentation -- commanding, control, sensing, data acquisition, and telemetry.  Typically, these instruments operate in remote locations, under adverse conditions, with low-bandwidth communications.  They need to have a high degree of independence, with localized decisionmaking, and they must be highly reliable. 

Here are just a few examples.

In 1988, the Gamma Ray Imaging Spectrometer was launched from Alice Springs, Australia.  It was carried to a height of 120,000 feet by a high-altitude balloon, and made measurements of gamma ray spectrum lines from Supernova SN1987A.  Tom's software controlled the precision pointing system, captured the data from the gamma ray detectors, and formatted the information for transmission by radio link to the ground. 

Fifteen years later, the Nightglow instrument was launched from the same location, carried aloft by one of the first long-duration balloons. The instrument was designed to measure the ultraviolet glow from the atmosphere at night.  The computer system was an 80386 CPU in a PC-104 form factor, inside a pressure canister, running DOS.  The software, written in C and assembly language, controlled the motion of the telescopes, computed observation times from GPS position and real-time clock information, and captured and stored the observed information.

Tom designed the software for two of the eight instruments making up the scientific payload of the Wind spacecraft --a cosmic ray instrument known as Energetic Particles Acceleration, Composition and Transport (EPACT), and the Transient Gamma Ray Spectrometer (TGRS).  The software for EPACT ran on a multi-processor system, with mutiple UTMC 1750 RISC processors collecting and reducing the data to identify particles and their energies, and a Harris 8086 formatting the telemetry and handling commands.   TGRS used a similar architecture. Wind was launched in 1994.