"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."