191 votes

What computer and software is used by the Falcon 9?

SpaceX uses an Actor-Judge system to provide triple redundancy to its rockets and spacecraft. The Falcon 9 has 3 dual core x86 processors running an instance of linux on each core. The flight software ...
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114 votes
Accepted

What computer and software is used by the Falcon 9?

In this AMA by the SpaceX software development team, they wrote: We've been getting a lot of questions about how C#/MVC/etc have to do with rockets. They don't. About their development they said: ...
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81 votes
Accepted

What makes Ada the language of choice for the ISS's safety-critical systems?

This Wikibooks link lists its strong points, some of which are: An extremely strong, static and safe type system, which allows the programmer to construct powerful abstractions that reflect the ...
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  • 811
71 votes
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What operating system(s) were used in the space shuttle?

I was a NASA contractor working on the same contract, but with 3 different companies, writing GN&C code for the space shuttles from 1989 until 1995. Initially, it was Ford Aerospace, then Loral, ...
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  • 1,357
59 votes
Accepted

What language is software running on the ISS written in?

Almost all of the safety critical software that runs on the US side of the Space Station is written in Ada. I wrote "almost all" rather than "all" because there are probably some low level device ...
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  • 63.2k
59 votes

What makes Ada the language of choice for the ISS's safety-critical systems?

Timing. Ada was developed in the 1970s and 80s with the intent of replacing the plethora of languages used in the US Department of Defense's realtime systems. NASA (and also organizations from Europe) ...
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  • 63.2k
49 votes

Why wasn't the Mars Climate Orbiter's fatal error caught prior to launch?

NASA formed a board to investigate the loss of the spacecraft and reached some high level conclusions. The board cited a number of contributing factors, which I have filtered to include the ones most ...
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  • 18.7k
40 votes
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Given small computational resources, how was navigation implemented? (Not samples of old guidance software)

In many of the early probes, up until close to Apollo there were not true computers on space probes. All computing was done on Earth and the onboard electronics was known as a sequencer, for Pioneer ...
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39 votes
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What was the nature of the known bugs in the Space Shuttle software?

Although the Space Shuttle flight software was of outstanding quality, it's completely incorrect to think that there was only one bug. There were many known bugs in the flight software (FSW). Here are ...
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38 votes
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How often, if ever, was "software" updated in the shuttle orbiter?

"Rigorous tests" doesn't begin to describe the process used to make sure there are no bugs in the Shuttle software. This massive article details how the process works. A few salient points: The ...
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  • 121k
34 votes

Does the Voyager team use a wrapper (Fortran(77?) to Python) to transmit current commands?

In 2015, the last original Voyager engineer still on the project, retired. NASA specified that his replacement would have to know FORTRAN. The software was updated regularly after launch: The ...
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  • 121k
27 votes

Given small computational resources, how was navigation implemented? (Not samples of old guidance software)

(originally answered to "Samples of old guidance software") The first that comes to mind is the Github repository of the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer (AGC). The repository has both Command Module and ...
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  • 11.9k
26 votes

Why wasn't the Mars Climate Orbiter's fatal error caught prior to launch?

There were a good number of chances to catch the error after launch, which is what most of the reports on the mission focus on. To look specifically at what testing was done before launch this paper ...
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  • 7,086
23 votes
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Does anybody work on a "spacecraft linux"?

Updates: Added Astro Digital and Planet Labs at bottom. There isn't a specific Linux distribution for spacecraft. At least not yet. I have heard of groups that basically took Buildroot to build only ...
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21 votes
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How is the software for scientific space missions developed?

No, scientific spacecraft are not developed by scientists on the science team. They may develop their instruments, but not the spacecraft. The spacecraft are developed by professional spacecraft ...
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  • 57.5k
20 votes
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Operating system of New Horizons spacecraft

I am guessing VxWorks but I haven't found any sources to validate this. Close, but no cigar. If New Horizons flight software was built by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), then I guess Wind River's ...
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  • 75.3k
20 votes

What makes Ada the language of choice for the ISS's safety-critical systems?

I remember taking Computer Science courses in the late 90s. The professor of CS explained to our meager group of CS majors that he was going to teach us C, rather than COBOL or Ada, because it would ...
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  • 6,610
16 votes

What are the choices today for orbital mechanics simulation software?

Orekit is the best space mechanics tool I know. Developed in Java (cross-platform), Orekit is a space dynamics open source library, based on Common Apache Math. Despite the fact it has no ...
16 votes
Accepted

What computer programs does ITAR say I can or can not write, or share, or use in the US?

With the exception of model rockets made of paper, wood, or breakable plastic, that are passively stabilized, that have low thrust and low delta V, and that do not have guidance software, launch ...
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  • 63.2k
16 votes

What makes Ada the language of choice for the ISS's safety-critical systems?

From the website: AdaCore tools can be used to meet verification objectives including coding standard compliance, code accuracy (prevention of errors such as buffer overrun, integer overflow, ...
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15 votes

What language is software running on the ISS written in?

There are a lot of programs involved in running the ISS. The exact details are difficult to discern, a lot of NASA's software is available via this site, with some restrictions, but here is what I can ...
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  • 118k
15 votes

Given small computational resources, how was navigation implemented? (Not samples of old guidance software)

I am a software developer and with all the resources available today I cannot fathom where one could even start such an endeavour. There are plenty of computer-based systems to this day that have to ...
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  • 63.2k
14 votes
Accepted

How did NASA remotely fix the code on the Mars Pathfinder?

Specifically, for the Mars Pathfinder priority inversion problem, this is explained in detail in Mars Pathfinder: Priority Inversion Problem, Report for the Seminar Series on Software Failures, Risat ...
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  • 75.3k
14 votes
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Besides retarded gravitation, anything else to worry about when calculating MU69's orbit from scratch?

This is not a complete answer. It is instead an extended comment to the following: I understand I will have to retard the gravity from each source by its particular light-time, as well as correct ...
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  • 63.2k
13 votes

Does anybody work on a "spacecraft linux"?

Kubos corporation (disclosure: I work at Kubos) have a cubesat-specific Linux distro and a real-time operating system (RTOS), for cubesats with tighter power and processing budgets, since, as noted by ...
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13 votes

What is the most popular programming language in space?

I wrote code that flew on 3 spacecraft that went to Mars, one to the Moon, one to a comet and back, and a few Earth-orbiting satellites, the last of which was about 10 yrs ago. All of them used C. It'...
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  • 516
13 votes

Does the Voyager team use a wrapper (Fortran(77?) to Python) to transmit current commands?

The Voyager spacecraft are not reprogrammed anymore, so the language in which they are programmed is largely irrelevant. The uplink is only 16 bits/second, just enough to send (simple) commands. How ...
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  • 11.9k
12 votes

What operating system(s) were used in the space shuttle?

For the flight control computers, aka General Purpose Computers (GPCs) there is a good writeup on this topic in the ever-useful Shuttle Crew Operations Manual page 2.6-20. DPS in this quote stands for ...
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12 votes

Transitioning into space software engineering

Developing software to help with space stuff doesn't just mean building big complex C/C++ engines, or even analytical engines, to use the data. Remember that a significant part of public outreach is ...
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  • 118k
12 votes

Does NASA use any type of office/groupware software and which is that?

NASA's standard desktop office computer configuration is Windows 10 with Microsoft Office. This software is provided agency-wide by the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC). Here is an excerpt from the ...
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