Thursday, October 20, 2011

Johnson Space Center Visit

I recently was invited to teach a week long RTEMS class to 14 people at Johnson Space Center (JSC) . Multiple projects are considering using RTEMS and two are being the trailblazers which bring RTEMS to JSC. Before saying anything else, I want to thank the folks who invited me and were such good hosts. In addition to a self-guided tour of the Rocket Park, I got a field trip where I got to see a few of the interesting things at JSC.

A complete set of photos from my field trips are in a Facebook album. My field trips included seeing the Saturn V rocket, space suits that had been to the moon, Morpheus lunar lander, and the infamous Building 9 where the ISS and space shuttle training modules, CanadARM, and zero-gravity practice facilities. It also includes a small area of cool projects that didn't make the cut including Robonaut and the movie-scary Spidernaut. Everything I saw was impressive but much of it leaves you with an unsettling feeling of sadness when you realize it has been almost forty years since man went to the moon and, with the end of the shuttle program, we have no ability to put a person in orbit. Big science is not cheap and takes years of effort, but without it, we quit learning more about our universe, getting insight into basic physics, and solving the hard problems.

The Morpheus lunar lander is one of the two projects taking the leap and switching to RTEMS. It has already had multiple successful test flights and at least one “interesting” one (videos). Morpheus uses a PowerPC based computer system and is built using the Core Flight Executive from Goddard Space Center. CFE has long supported RTEMS and as more applications are based upon it, I am sure we will see at least a few of those applications use RTEMS.

DownMASS is a small automated capsule that can be filled with contents that need to be shipped from the International Space Station (ISS). It is being designed to hold approximately 100 pounds (43.5 kg) of cargo. When filled and released from the ISS< it will reenter the Earth's atmosphere and eventually deploy its parachutes. The hardware configuration for prototyping is using a ruggedized embedded PC-104 system.

I am thrilled to see more space applications using RTEMS – especially since have applications at Johnson opens a potential path to having man-rated applications using RTEMS. Thanks to Morpheus and DownMASS for giving RTEMS a chance.

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