Masten Space Systems partners with AdaCore to land at the Moon’s South Pole

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Masten Space Systems partners with AdaCore to land at the Moon’s South Pole

Press release from: Masten Space Systems
Posted: Tuesday September 21 2021

When Masten Space Systems won a contract from NASA to land science payloads on the moon, the company chose to work with AdaCore’s software development and verification tools for its XL-1 Lunar Lander spacecraft. Masten Space Systems will use the Ada and SPARK programming languages, AdaCore’s GNAT Pro integrated development environment, and SPARK Pro static analysis verification tools as part of this exciting exploration project.

Masten Space Systems won NASA’s $ 75.9 million contract to transport scientific research payloads to the Lunar South Pole in April 2020. The NASA Lunar Payload Commercial Services (CLPS) project contract ) encompasses everything from initial lab work to transport to the moon’s surface and a landing will take place in late 2023. There will also be a host of payload services after landing. The terrain at the lunar South Pole is of great geological interest, but also very rugged, making it difficult to land a spacecraft and explore with a rover. Once in orbit, the Masten lander must navigate the polar region, figure out where to land, and navigate several potential hazards – all on its own.

Masten’s XL-1 Lunar Lander has many small on-board computers called Electronic Control Units (ECUs) that turn various components on and off, control engines and thrusters, and interface with sensors. The development of software for these small, highly constrained computers presents a number of challenges. The software will operate in a “bare metal” configuration, and it must be extremely reliable and easy to maintain. Code should also be modular and reusable, to avoid duplication of effort and reduce development costs and time.

“We are delighted to see the Ada and SPARK programming languages ​​adopted by one of the most exciting lunar spacecraft projects today,” said Quentin Ochem, Business Development Manager at AdaCore. “We look forward to helping Masten meet the unique reliability challenges of the mission with the innovative approach to developing officially proven software” Abhimanyu Ghosh, Avionics Software Engineer at Masten Space Systems added, “Masten is already seeing substantial value. in the capabilities of Ada, SPARK and AdaCore’s products and support have brought to their embedded project. We plan to achieve a reduction of at least 20-30% in verification and validation time and overall development costs and times, as well as a 20-30% increase in code reuse.

SPARK is a language plus a set of tools. The SPARK language is a formally parsable subset of Ada – a modern programming language used worldwide for the development of critical software. The SPARK toolset brings mathematical confidence to software verification through the use of formal methods. GNAT Pro is AdaCore’s complete development environment for producing software systems where efficiency, reliability and maintainability are essential. It includes a suite of tools and libraries for large critical applications.

While the XL-1 Lunar Lander project is still in development, Masten already sees substantial value in the capabilities that Ada, SPARK and AdaCore’s products and support have brought to their integrated project.

Access the full case study here.

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