Wind River Powers NASA's Space "Lifeboat"
The X-38 resembles a smaller, sleeker version of the NASA Space Shuttle. It will be affixed to the outside of the ISS, acting as a "lifeboat" in case the men and women aboard the ISS need to abandon ship. The crew will enter the X-38, close the hatch and hit "Go." The entire operation of the X-38 will be automated, requiring no input from the passengers. Since these space scientists have not been trained as pilots, they would not have the skills needed to fly the X-38 from the ISS to the Earth. They will have to rely on the sophisticated systems and software to bring them home.
The complexity of the X-38 places many demands upon the VxWorks operating system. "This is a vehicle that's got to fly like a spacecraft, then in the atmosphere, like an airplane, and it's got to deploy a parachute and fly like a skydiver," says John Muratore, NASA's X-38 project manager. "And that means that we've got to fly in many different modes. Those modes all have events that happen on a very regular basis, very fast, and that's why the operating system is so critical."
This week's test, scheduled for Thursday, is important to the future success of the X-38 as well. "If the operating system and the flight computer system don´t perform the way we programmed them to in the lab and the way we tested them, we either lose the test vehicle or we lose somebody's life in the actual operational vehicle," says Muratore. "So it's absolutely critical that the operating system perform the way we had planned it to."
In this test, the X-38 will be strapped to the underside of a B-52 bomber. The test vehicle will be taken to an altitude of approx. 45,000 feet before being released. It will then glide to landing at Edwards AFB.
In addition to controlling every aspect of the flight of the X-38, the VxWorks operating system will also be responsible for the precise operation of all communication and life support functions. It's a responsibility that is not taken lightly at Wind River. "The reason NASA chose VxWorks is the same reason that many of our other customers have chosen it," says Wind River chairman and co-founder Jerry Fiddler. "We provide them with a very reliable keystone. They need us so they can concentrate on their other critical areas."
The ISS is the largest scientific cooperative program in history, drawing on the resources and scientific expertise of 16 nations: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
About Wind River
Wind River is a worldwide leader in embedded software and services for creating connected smart devices. Wind River provides software development tools, real-time operating systems, and advanced connectivity for use in products throughout the Internet, telecommunications and data communications, digital imaging, digital consumer electronics, networking, medical, computer peripherals, automotive, industrial automation and control, and aerospace/defense markets. Wind River is How Smart Things Think™. Founded in 1983, Wind River is headquartered in Alameda, California, with operations worldwide.
Wind River Systems, the Wind River Systems logo, VxWorks and How Smart Things Think are trademarks of Wind River Systems, Inc. All other names mentioned are trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks of their respective companies.
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