Open Source for Open Frontiers

01 Dec 2017

After the successful launch of a CubeSat that circled the Earth for just over two years, The Vermont Tech CubeSat Laboratory is continuing their dedication to exploring the stars with a lightweight application framework, CubedOS.  Schools and organizations everywhere are programming, building, and launching their own CubeSats and CubedOS will provide an open-source platform on which others can program these miniaturized satellites.

CubedOS is written in SPARK/Ada, a software development technology specifically designed for engineering high-reliability applications.  It consists of a programming language, a verification toolset and a design method which, taken together, ensure that ultra-low defect software can be deployed in application domains where high-reliability must be assured. CubeSats have varying missions, depending on the sending organization. Certain missions will require certain modules.

Modules can be designed separately by anyone and tacked onto the existing CubedOS framework. This “plug-and-play” functionality offers flexibility in design. “The intent is for CubedOS to be general enough and modular enough for many groups to profitably employ the system,” says Dr. Carl Brandon, the Principal Investigator for the CubeSat Laboratory at Vermont Tech. “CubedOS will serve as both a kind of operating environment and as a library of useful tools and functions,” Dr. Peter Chapin added about the software’s key functions.

The potential impacts of the CubedOS project are to increase software reliability, reduce satellite program cost, and ensure success of the mission.

Dr. Brandon has headed up this project along with Dr. Peter Chapin as the Software Director.  The Vermont Tech part of the team is responsible for designing, writing, and testing the software. The College’s partner at NASA oversees that the design contains all the proper functionality for their deep space mission and the design for the mission instruments so the software can be designed and written for use by other deep space small spacecraft missions.

A demonstration of the system is expected in December of 2018. In addition, Drs. Brandon and Chapin are proposing a new deep space mission with a NASA Jet Propulsion Lab partner and Drs. Craig Damon and Jeremy Ouellette, three Vermont Tech Software Engineering graduate students, and four Software Engineering undergraduate students. The Vermont Tech CubeSat Laboratory continues to explore new frontiers, providing students more coding opportunities in real-world space exploration projects.