RTEMS helps Perseverance rover land on Mars

Wednesday, 03 March, 2021

RTEMS helps Perseverance rover land on Mars

Following years of preliminary work by NASA and a traversed flight distance of 472 million km, the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars on 19 February 2021 at around 7.55 am AEDT. The Mars mission will search for signs of primeval microbial life, and will be the first mission to collect and store Martian rocks and regolith (broken rocks and dust).

The rover will also analyse the geology of the planet and the climate of earlier times. Subsequent NASA missions, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), will send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for analysis.

The two main computers on board, the Command and Data Management Unit (CDMU) and the Altitude Control Computer (ACC), were controlled using the open-source real-time operating system RTEMS 4.5.0. The SMU processes module was built around a SPARC V7 processor, the TSC695F, and an application-specific I/O IC. RTEMS has ensured the long-term availability and stability of the software platforms for real-time operation since 1995.

The open-source system platform relies on a worldwide developer and support community. It is supported in Europe by the system developers of embedded brains from Puchheim. Due to its reliability, RTEMS is suitable for applications certified for high safety requirements according to IEC standard 61508 or the US standard DO-178 of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Thomas Dörfler, Managing Director of embedded brains, said the Mars mission, with the help of the Perseverance rover, will provide a new view of the universe’s past and prepare Mars for human exploration.

“RTEMS offers ‘hard’ real-time capability and high scalability compared to other open-source operating systems with real-time capabilities. Minimal boot times, very high reliability and long-term robustness with low resource consumption are further plus points,” said Dörfler.

The sum of its properties makes RTEMS suitable for use in the aerospace sector, in engine control and driver assistance systems in the automotive sector, and for safety-relevant industrial applications such as driverless transport systems.

RTEMS is available with numerous ports for most common hardware architectures, including Intel x86, MIPS, Coldfire, Renesas V850, Sparc, PowerPC, ARM and Risc-V. Radiation-hardened Sparc processors are particularly relevant for aerospace applications.

embedded brains supports RTEMS customers throughout Europe and offers user-specific concept development, development support, porting, and driver and software development for RTEMS. The company also offers technical RTEMS training, standard support for experienced users and project-specific support for R&D teams.

Image credit: NASA JPL-Caltech.

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