New satellite may put Linux in space
Linux may be an operating system synonymous with a flightless bird, but if some Sydney research students have their way, it could be orbiting the Earth controlling a space satellite within two year.
The Bluesat microsatellite is a joint project of the Mechanical, Electrical, Telecommunications, and Computer Systems engineering departments at the University of New South Wales. The students have spent several years designing a 10kg microsatellite, including its structure and flight computer.
“What we’ve got is fairly powerful for a satellite computer so we may put Linux in space,” Ashley Butterworth (the project’s chief technical officer) told.
“We can port the Linux subsystem and what is missing from L4 to the StrongARM processor,” he said.
Butterworth said that, because Linux is open source the team can review all the code and verify that it works and can “strip it down” and use the L4 microkernel. The team is designing and building the satellite’s computer. It comprises a StrongARM SA 1100 embedded system and the team designed the printed circuit board.
Not content with just having Linux and L4 available, the team will also develop their own operating system for Bluesat, apply coined BluesatOS, as part of a thesis for one of the students.
Bluesat is an amateur radio communications satellite, which will act like a “flying FTP server” so people can share information. The satellite will also conduct a UV radiation shielding experiment to test the suitability of a lightweight material which could be used for space suits.
Bluesat is slated for take off in November 2005.
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