Aerospace & Defence

VxWorks off to Mars on another NASA/JPL mission with InSight

8th May 2018
Anna Flockett

Very recently on the 5th May, NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission  was launched using a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

Guest blog written by Chip Downing.

InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3pm EST 26th November 2018 where it will conduct science operations until 24th November 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

This is the beginning of another Mars success story for Wind River’s VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS). The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was designed, built and tested by Lockheed Martin SpaceMars InSight rover’s avionics system is based upon VxWorks, and the flight software, written in C and C++ on top of VxWorks, monitors the status and health of the spacecraft during all phases of the mission, checks for the presence of commands to execute, performs communication functions and controls spacecraft activities. 

VxWorks will run on a radiation-hardened BAE RAD 750 (PowerPC) at a whopping 115.5 megahertz processor speed. The computer software section for the Mars InSight mission is described here. 

During InSight’s entry, descent, and landing (EDL) operations, the lander will transmit information in the UHF radio band to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) flying overhead. MRO will forward EDL information to Earth using a radio frequency in the X band. MRO is another VxWorks design win, and is critical for communications of NASA/JPL operations on the Red Planet.

Figure 1: NASA/JPL Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Wind River is thrilled to be part of this groundbreaking mission, and to have the first and only RTOS on Mars. Click here for more information on the many Wind River successes in space.

Courtesy of Wind River.

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