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NASA keeps faith with Wind River's operating systems in launching the new "rover" to Mars

Avi Blizovsky

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The two automatic research vehicles (Mars Exploration Rovers) that were launched during the months of June and July for a geological investigation on the planet Mars are based, like the space vehicle that reached Mars six years ago (Mars Pathfinder), on the operating systems and software of the Wind River company. It should be noted that these systems are also the basis of the Israeli "Arrow" missile produced by the aerospace industry.

The exploration mission to Mars was launched this time in two launches that were carried out one after the other at the beginning of the summer. The launches carried to the planet innovative space vehicles that constitute geological research laboratories, and are able to report their findings to Earth. The "brain" of both vehicles is based on VxWorks, the real-time operating system (RTOS) produced by Wind River, and developed with the help of the Tornado development environment, also produced by Wind River. Thanks to Wind River's technology, these vehicles are able to perform the complex and essential tasks of the journey to Mars, which include, among other things, identification of the landing site, navigation and landing at the selected site on the surface of the planet, activity on the ground, data collection, communication from Mars to Earth.

In 1997, NASA set a precedent when it decided to abandon the development of unique operating systems for the Pathfinder vehicle that set out on the first journey to Mars, and instead rely on commercial systems produced by Wind River, which have proven absolute reliability in real time. Wind River is the world's leading company in the field of operating systems for embedded systems.

This time the trip to Mars was planned in two adjacent launches of "twin" robots that set off and are supposed to land on the planet at two different landing sites after a journey of more than six months, in January 2004.

The chairman of Wind River and the company's founder, Jerry Fiedler, who visited Israel last year, said that NASA's choice to choose Wind River's technology to operate the landing vehicles for Mars for the second time is a certificate of honor for the high level of performance of the company's software systems , for the reliability of the technology and the quality of the service.

For the purpose of building the research vehicles, Wind River developed a special version of the Tornado development environment, a debugger while updating the VxWorks operating system from version 5.1 to 5.5.
The flexibility and adaptability of Wind River's software allowed NASA engineers to build leverage into the vehicles for future projects, prevent malfunctions and even assess the possibility that the laboratory's tasks would need to be changed from millions of kilometers away during the execution of the mission.

Wind River, since its establishment in 1981, is considered a certified consultant in the aviation and security industry. Wind River's technology is also used in other important space industry projects, including NASA's "Rescue Boat" for the International Space Station, NASA's Deep Space One satellite, and the European Space Agency's PROBA satellite.

The mission of the research twins to Mars is part of NASA's robotic laboratory project planned to explore the entire solar system. The project is the center of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Ydan Mars

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