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Over 20 Years in Space

For nearly 25 years, Wind River® has provided NASA with the most proven software platform to bring dozens of unmanned systems to space, resulting in some of the most significant space missions in history. Wind River is proud to have collaborated with NASA to advance our understanding of the world and beyond.

Wind River Celebrates Nearly 25 Years with NASA

Choose Your Mission

Wind River Space Missions 2018–1994

2018 INSIGHT
2016 JUNO
2014 GPM
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INSIGHT
2018

InSight is a robotic lander designed to study the interior of the planet Mars. The spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was designed, built, and tested by Lockheed Martin Space.

Mars InSight’s avionics system is based on VxWorks, and the flight software, written in C and C++ on top of VxWorks, monitors the status and health of the spacecraft during all phases of the mission, checks for the presence of commands to execute, performs communication functions, and controls spacecraft activities. VxWorks will run on a radiation-hardened BAE RAD 750 (PowerPC) at a whopping 115.5 megahertz processor speed.

During InSight’s entry, descent, and landing (EDL) operations, the lander will transmit information in the UHF radio band to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) flying overhead. MRO will forward EDL information to Earth using a radio frequency in the X band. MRO is another VxWorks design win, and is critical for communications of NASA/JPL operations on the Red Planet.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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JUNO
2016

After a 5-year, 1.7-billion-mile journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn. The confirmation was received on Earth on July 4, 2016.

NASA’s Juno autonomous satellite used VxWorks to help get scientists closer than ever to the fifth planet from the sun. VxWorks handled the mission-critical aspects such as guidance, navigation, data transfers, engine burns, communications, and more.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM)
2014

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is an international network of satellites that provide the next-generation global observations of rain and snow. The GPM concept centers on the deployment of a “core” satellite carrying an advanced radar and radiometer system to measure precipitation from space and serve as a reference standard to unify precipitation measurements from a constellation of research and operational satellites.

GPM improves the precipitation measurement capability from space using a combination of active and passive remote-sensing techniques. These measurements are used to calibrate, unify, and improve precipitation measurements from a constellation of research and operational satellites with microwave sensors to create a global dataset of precipitation measurements. The primary GPM instruments are the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) and GPM Microwave Imager (GMI). The DPR makes detailed 3D measurements of rainfall, while the GMI uses a set of 13 optimized frequencies to retrieve heavy, moderate, and light precipitation measurements.

VxWorks is the software platform for the Command and Data Handling Subsystem (C&DHS). The C&DHS is in charge of command reception and execution, payload system operations, housekeeping operations, and spacecraft control. The real-time operations include pre-emptive priority-based multi-tasking, message queues, semaphores, interrupt handling, exception handling, and file systems and shell management. GPM uses a space wire, 1553 data bus and an analog RS-422 system for data transfer within the spacecraft. Housekeeping data and science data is stored in a solid-state recorder before downlink or is processed and downlinked in real time.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2014 LADEE
2013 Cygnus
2013 IRIS
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LADEE
2014

LADEE was a robotic mission that looped around the moon to study its atmosphere and attempted to solve the puzzle of whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface. Studying the moon's atmosphere will give scientists insight into the thin atmospheres of other small bodies in the solar system, as well as information about how to establish a long-term human mission in deep space. VxWorks was the operating system that controlled the rocket motors, managed course corrections to keep LADEE's orbit correct, and enabled the spacecraft to return data from the onboard science instruments to Earth. At the end of the mission, the system ensured that the spacecraft successfully crashed into the far side of the Moon, avoiding all historic lunar landing sites. This mission—designed, built, and managed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California—was originally planned to last 160 days, and managed its fuel resources so well it flew for an additional 28 days.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Cygnus
2013

The Cygnus spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft developed and tested by Orbital Sciences Corporation as part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and is now part of the Commercial Resupply Services Contract to the ISS Program. The purpose of the spacecraft is to transport supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) following the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle. Since the first rendezvous with ISS in September 2013, Cygnus has completed two resupply missions and delivered nearly 6,080 pounds of science, supplies, and spacewalking gear. Additional items included food, life support equipment, thermal control hardware, and photography and video gear. The next resupply launch of Cygnus atop the Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket is currently scheduled for October 2014. A total of eight missions will be flown by Cygnus to the station through 2016. VxWorks runs the main flight computer that controls the avionics in guiding the craft to the ISS.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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IRIS
2013

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a NASA Small Explorer Mission to observe how solar material moves, gathers energy, and heats up as it travels through the Sun's lower atmosphere. Tracking how material and energy move through this region is a crucial part of understanding the dynamics of the Sun. VxWorks runs the main flight computer, guiding the spacecraft to the Sun.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2012 Van Allen Probes
2012 Mars Curiosity Rover
2011 Robonaut
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Van Allen Probes
2012

The twin Van Allen Probes were launched to help us understand the sun's influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the mechanisms that create and drive Earth's Van Allen radiation belts. Powered by VxWorks, the instruments on the Van Allen Probes provide measurements that have been used to validate theories about plasma physics, and have revealed new features and structures in the belts.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Mars Curiosity Rover
2012

NASA is using VxWorks for the most technologically advanced autonomous robotic spacecraft and geologist set ever to be deployed by any space venture. VxWorks powered the craft's controls from the second the rocket left Earth on November 26, 2011, to its successful landing in the Gale Crater on Mars on August 5, 2012, and continues to support Curiosity's exploratory capability throughout the life of the mission. Curiosity is celebrating its second year on Mars, equivalent to one Martian year.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Robonaut
2011

Robonaut 2, or R2, which launched to the International Space Station on the space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission, is the first dexterous humanoid robot in space. The computing environment chosen for the Robonaut project includes several state-of-the-art technologies. R2 uses the VxWorks RTOS to support varied development activities.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2010 Solar Dynamics Observatory
2009 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
2009 Kepler
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Solar Dynamics Observatory
2010

Since 2010, The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been observing the Sun with the goal of understanding the influence of the Sun on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously. The VxWorks operating system controlled the rocket when getting SDO into its orbit, and keeps SDO communicating with Earth. It relays data from the science packages back to earth.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
2009

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched in 2009 in collaboration with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), is a robotic spacecraft that is orbiting the Moon. The data collected by LRO has been important in planning for NASA's future human and robotic missions to the moon. LRO’s detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies. VxWorks powers the flight computer running on BAE RAD750 that is housed within the high-performance, modular, and state-of-the-art Command and Data Handling (C&DH) system.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Kepler
2009

Kepler is a space telescope designed to survey a portion of the Milky Way galaxy in search of Earth-size planets, including those where liquid water, and possibly life, might exist. VxWorks runs the main flight computer, controlling various avionics packages to keep the craft pointing at the right part of the sky, and returning images from the array of camera chips on the craft. It is critical that this craft remain pointed in the right direction to detect when planets cross in front of stars, which is how we detect which stars have planets, what kind of orbit the planets have, and how large they are.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2007 Mars Phoenix Lander
2007 Dawn
2006 STEREO
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Mars Phoenix Lander
2007

The Mars Phoenix Lander was a spacecraft sent to the surface of Mars to search for evidence of past or present microbial life. Powered by VxWorks, the main computer controlled the flight to Mars as well as down to the surface. This lander used retrorockets, built into the craft, to land on the surface. There were a handful of science experiments included on board, designed to analyze the soil for evidence of water and chemistry that might have indicated if Mars could have been habitable at one time. VxWorks controlled aspects of the science performed on Mars.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Dawn
2007

Having already explored the giant protoplanet Vesta and currently heading to explore dwarf planet Ceres, the Dawn spacecraft is designed to conduct an in-depth and up-close study of these two celestial bodies, believed to have formed early in the history of the solar system. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt, the extensive region between Mars and Jupiter, and also home to many other smaller bodies. Dawn is planned to arrive at Ceres in Spring 2015. The spacecraft computer runs VxWorks, which handles communications with Earth and is vital for other spacecraft systems, ensuring that the ion propulsion system keeps Dawn on course and on schedule, and that all photos and other measurements are made. Thanks to its ion propulsion system, this is the only spacecraft ever capable of orbiting two destinations beyond Earth.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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STEREO
2006

Launched in 2006, the STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission is providing insight on the structure and origins of coronal mass ejections, the violent eruptions of matter from the sun. STEREO's onboard computer systems are based on the Integrated Electronics Module (IEM), a device that combines core avionics in a single box. Powered by VxWorks, the two nearly identical observatories—one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing—have traced the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
2005 Deep Impact
2005 Deep Impact EPOXI
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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
2006

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has studied the Red Planet's atmosphere and terrain from orbit since 2006 and also serves as a key data relay station for other Mars missions, including the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. VxWorks is the software platform that controls the avionics.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Deep Impact
2005

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft traveled about 268 million miles of deep space in 172 days to reach out and touch comet Tempel 1. Running on VxWorks, Deep Impact successfully completed an intended hyper-speed collision, the first of its kind, with the spacefaring iceberg. It used an updated version of the AutoNav software that operated on Deep Space 1.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Deep Impact EPOXI
2005

The EPOXI mission recycled the Deep Impact spacecraft, which had formerly visited comet Tempel 1, to visit a second comet, Hartley 2. The VxWorks operating system served as the software platform for the flight operations as well as the telescope on board.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2004 SORCE
2004 MESSENGER
2004 Gravity Probe B
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SORCE
2004

NASA's Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite has been providing data on the sun's irradiance for over 10 years. SORCE measures electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun and the power per unit area of that energy on the Earth's surface. The mission of SORCE was to collect a continuous record of the sun's total solar irradiance (TSI) and spectral solar irradiance (SSI). The SORCE spacecraft carries four observational instruments: Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM), Solar Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE), Solar Irradiance Monitor (SIM), and soft X-ray Ultraviolet Photometer System (XPS). SORCE is controlled entirely by VxWorks.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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MESSENGER
2004

NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) probe became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury in March 2011. It was designed to map the surface composition and study the magnetic field and interior structure of our solar system's innermost planet. The flight computer that has guided its path for more than 10 years runs VxWorks.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Gravity Probe B
2004

Gravity Probe B (GP-B), developed by NASA and Stanford University, was a physics mission to confirm Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity. It used four extremely delicate and sensitive gyroscopes and a telescope. The telescope was used to keep the satellite pointing in the right direction and keep "drift" to a minimum. The gyroscopes were used to measure how much "frame-dragging effect" was exerted by Earth on the spacecraft. Powered by the VxWorks operating system, GP-B performed course adjustments as needed and took measurements of the gyroscopes. VxWorks served as a "lab assistant" in space.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2003 Spitzer Space Telescope
2003 Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity
2003 Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
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Spitzer Space Telescope
2003

The Spitzer Space Telescope was designed to study the early universe in infrared light. This is the first telescope to see light from a planet outside our solar system. Spitzer has also made important discoveries about comets, stars, exoplanets and distant galaxies. VxWorks is used to control where the telescope is pointing, collect data from the cameras, and return it to Earth.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity
2003

VxWorks has powered the flight computer that managed everything from getting Opportunity to Mars to moving it across the surface of Mars once it arrived. The Mars Exploration Rovers have had remarkable longevity because their software was upgraded several times. The autonomous navigation package powered by VxWorks was updated and changed, allowing the rovers to analyze pictures taken to identify features and rocks that might be more interesting to the scientists, and also to identify photographs of dust devils, allowing the mission to return more compelling data to the scientists. Opportunity is solar powered and has now run well over 10 years and is still going strong.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
2003

Spirit, and her identical twin Opportunity, are the epitome of extended missions. There are a variety of science instruments on each rover, some on robotic arms, all of which require management from the main computer running the VxWorks RTOS. For these Mars Exploration Rovers, the computer had the added complexity of landing the craft on the surface of Mars without damaging the rovers, then deploying the rovers to do their main science missions on the Red Planet.

After a long-running extended mission, one of the front wheels malfunctioned, well after the 90-day prime mission. In order to minimize the impact this would have on rover operations, changes were made to Spirit's software to allow it to continue driving—in reverse. Although it was designed to run for 90 days, Spirit's mission lasted six years.

The creativity of the engineers and the flexibility of the operating system also allowed ground controllers to debug problems with the data storage memory that had not been anticipated when the craft was first launched, enabling the team to find a way to recover full operation of the rover.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2003 Galaxy Evolution Explorer
2001 WMAP
2001 Mars Odyssey
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Galaxy Evolution Explorer
2003

Galaxy Evolution Explorer was an orbiting space telescope that made many discoveries involving different types of objects that light up our sky with ultraviolet light—catching black holes, spying giant rings of new stars around old, presumed dead galaxies, and independently confirming the nature of dark energy. The mission captured a dazzling collection of snapshots. During the final year of the mission, NASA lent the spacecraft to the California Institute of Technology, which operated it until it was decommissioned in June 2014. Galaxy Evolution Explorer used VxWorks to run its flight computer.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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WMAP
2001

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in June 2001, is a NASA Explorer mission designed to make fundamental measurements of cosmology—the study of the properties of our universe as a whole. This mission reveals conditions as they existed in the early universe by measuring the properties of the cosmic microwave background radiation over the full sky. WMAP creates a picture of the microwave radiation using differences in temperature measured from opposite directions. The content of this image tells us much about the fundamental structure of the universe. WMAP is powered by VxWorks on a Mongoose V MIPS R3300 based CPU.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Mars Odyssey
2001

With more than 11 years in orbit and counting, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent more time in orbit around the Red Planet, collecting data on Mars' climate and geology, than any other spacecraft in history. From the moment the rocket launched from Earth until the craft reached orbit around Mars, VxWorks controlled the flight operations. Along with running its primary mission of mapping Mars and monitoring climate, it has acted as a data relay node—receiving data from Mars rovers and other landers, and relaying it to Earth, enabling much more data to be returned than would otherwise have been possible.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

2001 Genesis
2000 Earth Observing -1 (EO-1)
1999 X-38 – International 01 Space Station
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Genesis
2001

The Genesis mission sent a spacecraft to collect pieces of the Sun, called solar wind, and return them to Earth for detailed analysis. VxWorks was the core operating system for the spacecraft control system, as well as the science package, which opened the lid of its science canister to start catching samples, and later closed and sealed the canister. It then performed something that has never been done before—it flew back by Earth, releasing the sample return capsule to descend with its cached samples.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Earth Observing -1 (EO-1)
2001

Earth Observing -1 (EO-1) is a small satellite the size of a small refrigerator. EO-1 was only supposed to last one year and was developed and operated on a shoestring budget—yet it lasted 17 years. With more than 1,500 research papers generated and more than 92,000 images captured, the EO-1 satellite has exceeded expectations in its technology, research goals, and longevity.

EO-1 was one of the first satellites to capture the scene after the World Trade Center attacks and the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. High-quality satellite imagery of these scenes and many others were captured by EO-1 and quickly provided for use in major news outlets reporting on the events.

EO-1 was among the first satellites to be programmed with a form of artificial intelligence (AI) software. Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) software was developed by NASA JPL and uploaded to EO-1 three years after it launched. ASE software allows the satellite to make decisions based on the data it collects. For instance, if a scientist commanded EO-1 to take a picture of an erupting volcano, the software could decide to automatically take a follow-up image the next time it passed overhead.

VxWorks runs on two Mongoose M5 processors on EO-1. VxWorks manages the EO-1 command and data handling functions. In addition, VxWorks powers the Wideband Advanced Recorder Processor (WARP), a large mass storage device, which runs the ASE software.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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X-38 – International 01 Space Station
1999

VxWorks was chosen for NASA International 01 Space Station's X-38 "lifeboat" spacecraft, an experimental emergency crew return vehicle, or lifeboat, for the International Space Station.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

1999 Stardust
1999 Stardust NExT
1999 SeaWinds
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Stardust
1999

Stardust was the first spacecraft to return to Earth a cometary sample and extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the Moon. The computer on board ran VxWorks on a radiation-hardened RAD6000 32-bit processor card, and helped store data when the spacecraft was unable to communicate with Earth. After Deep Space 1 proved that AutoNav worked, a portion of the software was transmitted to Stardust, which was already in space. Stardust used it on the VxWorks platform to help acquire images of the comet it flew by. Stardust also caught samples of dust from its comet, as well as samples of gas and even dust from outside our solar system.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Stardust NExT
1999

Stardust-NExT was a follow-on mission that repurposed the Stardust spacecraft for a close re-encounter with comet Tempel 1. VxWorks enabled the software on Stardust to be updated, taking on new missions such as NExT that weren't originally planned.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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SeaWinds
1999

SeaWinds, an instrument that flew on NASA's Quick Scatterometer or QuikScat satellite, measured winds at the surface of the oceans on Earth for a decade following its launch in 1999. SeaWinds leveraged the bring-up methods used by VxWorks to make the computer ready to run the SeaWinds software.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

1998 Deep Space 1
1996 Mars Pathfinder
1994 Clementine
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Deep Space 1
1998

Deep Space 1 was a ground-breaking mission in many ways, testing high-risk advanced technologies on an operational interplanetary mission. One of the most important was ion propulsion, which proved itself to be 10 times more efficient than conventional chemical propulsion, allowing much more ambitious missions. Deep Space 1 also was a test-bed for software called AutoNav that enabled it to find its own location in deep space and perform its own course corrections. After the successful primary mission, the spacecraft used its ion drive, AutoNav, and other advanced technologies to visit comet Borrelly, returning NASA's first close-up pictures and other information from a comet. The entire mission was powered by VxWorks.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Mars Pathfinder
1996

The Mars Pathfinder mission was designed to demonstrate a low-cost method for delivering a lander and a free-ranging robotic rover to the surface of Mars. The Mars Pathfinder lander was the heart and brain of the mission, and transported the Sojourner rover safely onto Mars. The computer on Mars Pathfinder controlled the flight to Mars, the landing on Mars, and all the operations on the surface of Mars—including relaying orders to the Sojourner rover and getting science back from the rover. This was the first use of the IBM RAD6000 running VxWorks in deep space. The Mars Pathfinder lander operated so well that NASA decided to double the rate at which it sent data back to Earth. This revealed a bug in the software, which was debugged on Earth, and a software fix was sent up to Mars Pathfinder, enabling it to return more data than had been planned.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL

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Clementine
1994

Clementine was designed to test sensors and spacecraft components under extended exposure to the space environment and to make scientific observations of the Moon and the near-Earth asteroid 1620 Geographos. Observations included imaging at various wavelengths, including ultraviolet and infrared, laser ranging altimetry, and charged particle measurements. The VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) runs the star tracker camera and image processing algorithms, serving as the “eyes” of the system and allowing it to figure out how it was pointing and where it was going in space.

Images and videos courtesy of NASA and NASA/JPL