Tom Nolan, Operations Engineer
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

“Sample Analysis at Mars is a suite of three instruments: a gas chromatograph, a tunable laser spectrometer, and a quadrupole mass spectrometer, together with a number of supporting subsystems, including vacuum pumps, pyrolysis ovens, and a robotic sample manipulation system that handles solid samples from the planetary surface.

“I wrote the on-board software, which consists of about 20,000 lines of C code, and runs on top of the µC/OS-II platform. The software resides in nonvolatile memory inside the instrument, and boots up when power is applied. The on-board computer is all custom electronics built to space flight standards, and the CPU is a radiation-tolerant ColdFire processor. I adapted the Micrium ColdFire board-support package for use on this computer, but other than that, the operating system is off-the-shelf.”

Embedded Software for Aerospace

Micrium is pleased to be part of the ongoing success of the Mars Rover, Curiosity.

Micrium's kernel, uC/OS-II, was chosen to control one of the analytical labs called SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars).

Mars Curiosity Rover

Mars Curiosity Rover

The SAM lab is designed to investigate the chemical and isotopic composition of the Martian atmosphere and soil. It conducts a sensitive search for organic compounds and measures the isotopic composition of carbonaceous material extracted from powdered solid surface samples. SAM's investigations support the mission goal of quantitatively assessing the habitability of Mars, an essential step in the search for past or present life on Mars, with investigations in Gale Crater.

"This is the first time that our RTOS Kernel, µC/OS-II has left the earth's gravity and been trusted with such an important mission," said Jean Labrosse, Micrium's President and CEO. "We are proud that the reliability and stability of one of our key products has earned it a place in NASA's toolbox. We are confident that these qualities are also key selection criteria for embedded engineers making everyday products here on Earth."

“This is the first time that Micrium has left the Earth’s gravity – but it won't be the last,” Labrosse added.

Video: SAM Sniffs Mars' Atmosphere

The Curiosity rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) uses spectrographic instruments to sniff the atmosphere of Mars, and measure the mix of gases in the Martian air. This short video explains what these instruments do.

Video: The Rainbow and the Stars

Spectrometry is a science that goes back two hundred years. How does a spectrometer determine what gases are made of? This short video explains how the study of spectra (rainbows) led to an understanding of what the stars are made of.

Reliable. Efficient. Trusted.

Micrium's µC/OS is ideal for aerospace systems that require safety certification. It is a full-featured RTOS with complete networking and file system services.

µC/OS features support for TCP/IP, USB, CAN bus, and Modbus, and includes a robust file system with a graphical user interface.


Learn more about µC/OS RTOS