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NewsForge: FlightLinux: Tux in space

Mar 15, 2001, 09:07 (21 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tina Gasperson)

"In Maryland, a group of developers is working on FlightLinux, a two-year project that runs through July, 2002, and is funded by NASA's Office of Earth Science, Advanced Information Systems Technology. Their goal is to make FlightLinux the perfect onboard (as in spacecraft) OS."

"Pat Stakem is a real rocket scientist -- the senior staff engineer for the QSS Group, a high-tech contractor that counts NASA and other government agencies as its biggest clients. "I'm the originator of the [FlightLinux] project," he says, "via a successful proposal to NASA [by Stakem and QSS], in response to a request for advances in onboard data processing." That was back in May of 2000. Today, Stakem says, all the tools are in place to get the job done...."

"At Goddard, Stakem is involved -- through the QSS Group -- in unmanned Earth-observing missions. He believes the FlightLinux distribution will fill the bill for onboard OS requirements because "it gives us a commonality between the ground-based applications and the spacecraft onboard ones, such that we can reasonably migrate programs onboard."

"Not only that, but Linux may be able to brave the dangers of space better than other operating systems. "The environment is not benign -- the radiation can fry a lot of electronics, the energetic particles can punch holes in material, it is either too cold or too hot, and power is in short supply. We have a theory, not substantiated yet, that Linux runs cooler than other operating systems, because it tends to halt for short periods when it has nothing else to do."

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