Explore the open source software powering NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter


Aadil Rizvi, flight software manager for Lunar Flashlight and NEA Scout at JPL, says that F Prime provides an out-of-the-box solution for several flight software services, such as control, telemetry, parameters and sequencing for the spaceship. There is also some sort of “auto-coding” tool that makes F Prime highly portable for use in all missions.

“This makes it quite easy to insert a software component from something like Mars Helicopter into the flight software of another mission such as Lunar Flashlight or to make the component available for open source use by anyone else using F Prime.” , said Rizvi. “And it’s pretty cool that a significant portion of the software used on the Mars helicopter is identical to the software on another spacecraft going to the moon, or an asteroid, or sitting on a student’s desk. “

Universities Discover the advantages of F Prime

Since its open source debut, F Prime has gradually started to gain traction as a useful flight software option for college and student projects.

At Georgia Tech, a team has incorporated F Prime into their GT1 CubeSat, intended to serve as an education exercise that will carry an interactive and automatic amateur radio payload.

“We chose F Prime after evaluating a handful of flight software frameworks, including the ability to write our own from scratch,” said Sterling Peet, Georgia Tech research faculty and head of software. for GT1. “We don’t have the resources to create all this code from scratch, use it and test it to ensure the necessary levels of reliability internally. But by using F Prime, we can build on the legacy it has and also contribute our testing and the benefits associated with the community and the F Prime project. “

A team led by students from Carnegie Mellon University chose F Prime to operate its Iris Lunar Rover, a small robot designed to prove the feasibility of nano-rovers in planetary exploration. “It was a viable option with a direct link to the creators, so we decided to use it ourselves,” said Raewyn Duvall, deputy director of the Iris program.

F Prime will control the rover while recording data and monitoring its health.

“Being open source gave us a wide range of examples to base our own modules on and allowed us to use the forum to get quick responses without having to worry about potential help desk fees. just to get answers to any questions we may have had. “said Duval.

JPL’s Small-Scale Flight Software Group Supervisor Jeff Levison sees academic partnerships like those with Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon as a two-way street: end up bringing their talents and a practical understanding of F Prime to begin with. a career at JPL.

“F Prime is not an easy architecture to learn, so a student who can master it and create a solid working project clearly has incredible potential for an organization like JPL,” said Duvall of Carnegie Mellon. “Many of our students working on Iris who learned about F Prime have expressed an interest in applying to JPL, which I think proves the value of F Prime as a recruiting tool.”


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