And behold Perseverance entered the atmosphere of Mars at nearly 19,300 kilometers per hour and just seven minutes later, NASA landed its latest Martian rover smoothly and smoothly. On board the one-ton mobile science lab is her tiny flying companion, the Ingenuity drone helicopter .
If all goes well, the Ingenuity 1.8kg drone will be the first vehicle to fly in another world than ours. 11 light minutes from Earth, no one will fly Ingenuity 's double helix with a controllerdrone. Instead, it will fly on its own using a combination of Linux and a program built by NASA based on the open-source framework F ' (pronounced F prime) from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
It will not be an easy task. No one has ever tried to fly on Mars, whose atmosphere is only one-hundredth the density of Earth's air. It's true that Mars also has only a third of Earth's gravity, but Ingenuity's engineers will still be happy if they can get Ingenuity off the ground properly.
Ingeniosity is a technological demonstration
Indeed, Ingeniosity is concretely a daemontechnological ration . The drone is not designed to support the Perseverance mission, which involves looking for signs of ancient life and collecting rock and soil samples. Its mission is to show that it is possible to fly on Mars using professional hardware and free software.
In an interview with IEEE Spectrum , Timothy Canham, JPL embedded flight software engineer, explained that the helicopter 's motherboard is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 running at 500Hz, not MegaHertz, but Hertz. While it may sound awfully slow and dated, it 's way faster than Perseverance processors.
This choice is dictated by the fact that NASA processors and chips must meet the standards.mes de radiation High-Performance Spaceflight Computing (HPSC) from NASA. These specific processors require years of design and testing work before they are certified for spaceflight. For example, NASA's latest general-purpose processor is a variation of the ARM A53 which you may know because it is embedded on Raspberry Pi 3. Ingeniosity on its side, because it is a demo project, can use a processor more ordinary, and therefore more modern.
You can make your own drone with NASA software
In fact, Canham explains, "we literally ordered spare parts from SparkFun . It's commercial hardware, but we'll test it, and if it works fine, we'll use it ".
As for the software, Mr. Canham said, "This is the first time we will be using Linux on Mars . We are using a Linux operating system. The software framework we use is a framework that we have developed at JPL for CubeSats , and we put it in open-source a few years ago. So you can get the software framework embedded on the Martian helicopter and use it for your own project. It 's kind of a victory for open-source because we are flying operating system and software framework for theft open-source as well as commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you want to do this yourself someday ".
This open source software is " F ". is a component-driven framework that enables rapid development and deployment of spaceflight and other integrated software applications. F has already been successfully deployed to several space applications on numerous occasions. suitable, but not only, for small-scale space flight systems such as CubeSats, the SmallSats and now a self-guided helicopter.
- An architecture that breaks down the flight software into discrete components with well-defined interfaces
- A C ++ framework that provides basic functionality such as message queues and discussion threads
- modeling for component and connection specification and automatic code generation
- A growing collection of out-of-the-box components
- Test tools for testing flight software at the level of unity and integration.
NASA and open source, a long history
There are, of course, many other NASA programs in open source. There are over 500 open source software projects under the 3.0 license from NASA. Long before the concepts of free software and open-source were articulated, NASA shared much of its code freely as part of the COSMIC program .
NASA has long used Linux on the International Space Station (ISS). The courseLinux to supercomputer dominance began at Goddard Space Flight NASA Center (GSFC) ) with the first Beowulf supercomputer.
Like Ingenuity, the first Beowulf cluster was built with COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware . It was built using 16 Intel 486DX processors and a 10Mbps Ethernet bus for just a few thousand dollars. While its speed was only a few gigaflops, Beowulf showed that you can build supercomputers on a paltry budget. And Linux. Today, Ingeniosity shows that great things can still come from cheap hardware coupled with Linux and open sourced software.e.