May 07, 2018 Aerospace and Defense

VxWorks Off to Mars on Another NASA/JPL Mission with InSight

By Chip Downing (@ChipDowning)


On May 5, 2018 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. InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, 2018 where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 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 Space. Mars 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 at:

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.

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