Under the hood of the “7 minutes of terror” on Mars

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Q. What are the challenges you face when controlling a sequence millions of miles deep in space?
A. For our OS, the challenges are much the same as any remote autonomous system: our OS has to perform as promised. For the scientists and engineers creating space-bound craft, not only do they have all the hard requirements of earthbound industrial and medical robots, but their systems are not going to be available for inspection or debugging once they are deployed, and they have to operate in a radiation filled vacuum under extreme temperature variations after being placed under unimaginable acceleration and vibration! These conditions are actually impossible to completely simulate, yet it is the conditions under which these robots must operate perfectly.

Q. How do you test the reliability of your software and make sure they function properly when needed?
A. Testing is a complex subject. Wind River uses a variety of tests, including automated test suites we have developed and maintained for over two decades. Tests cover various areas including proper functions, as well as handling error conditions. With the automated tests, results are collected and compared against expected results, and reports are generated. These tests are separated out into tests specific to the hardware interface functions (the BSP part), and general operating system and programming interface testing. Since we support two compiler chains, several architectures of computer processors and dozens of different computer boards, our testing is fairly complex and complete.

We are also accredited by standards committees who test our software with their test suites. This includes certifications by bodies such as POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface )and IPV6 (Internet Protocol Version 6).


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