Deployment of robots will revolutionize space exploration in the coming years, both for manned and unmanned missions; however, the success of these robots is linked as much to advances in sensors, manipulators, and AI algorithms as it is to the robustness of the underlying computational architectures that support the software & hardware. Most space missions require the use of specialized--computationally limited--radiation tolerant hardware, which in turn depends upon specialized flight software (FSW). This is as true for robots as it is for the ISS or Gateway. Because of this specialization, FSW has traditionally been developed via “clone-and-own” processes, where software from a previous mission is copied and adapted. This requires time- and money-intensive design changes that are prone to errors. Similarly, it is difficult to parallelize development, or to share components between organizations, despite the fact that many common elements exist across space missions,
An alternative approach, increasingly accepted by the space-flight community, suggests that developing and sharing component-based, reusable software will facilitate the number, scope, and innovation of space missions. This will require that complex robot and flight software is developed through the use of a common framework of shared libraries and tools. In the Phase I of this work, TRACLabs and the JHU/APL investigated the role of ROS2 in flight systems and how it might be integrated with NASA’s cFS to leverage the advantages of each. In Phase II, we propose to develop a toolkit of utilities that can help FSW developers to integrate ROS2 into their missions. We call this the BRASH (Bridge for ROS2 Application to Space Hardware) toolkit. Specifically, we aim to develop a series of ROS-to-FSW bridge utilities for message translation & conversion, networked communication, time synchronization, parameter and event management, and integration into TRACLabs' PRIDE electronic procedure application software.
The proposed BRASH software would be applicable to a number of NASA center and projects that wish to integrate the advanced robotics capabilities of ROS2 developed by the robotics community with the flight software critical for mission and safety success. These projects include:
VIPER, Gateway, OSAM Missions such as Restore-L, Orbital Debris Mitigation, Artemis, Lunar Surface Science Mobility System, Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), Space ROS, and Mars rover systems.
With the advent of so many commercial space missions, the BRASH software could also serve to enhance a number of non-NASA systems. Specifically, our toolkit could potentially help Blue Origin, Axiom, Astrobotic, Motiv Space Systems, Tethers, Honeybee Robotics, Oceaneering, Research Institute partner APL, and any other company developing advanced robotic systems for space operations.