This is the framework on which the code of the Nasa Mars drone is based

Derrick Santistevan

Mars -Landing of the NASA rover. (Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The framework on which the code of NASA’s youngest Mars envoy is based is open source and Multi-platform compatible and thus also runs on your Raspberry PI.

Mars has a visitor: Perservance, as the NASA robotic vehicle is called, is safely on the red on Thursday evening after a 472 million kilometer journey Landed planet. The drone carried out the complex landing on the surface of Mars exactly as NASA had planned. What you might not know: The underlying code is based on an open source framework called F ‘(F Prime).

Written in C ++ with testing tools in Python

F Prime is a component-based framework for the development of so-called embedded software. Originally developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the framework is behind the code of several space applications. It is tailored to small space systems such as CubeSats, SmallSats and instruments, but is also used in larger systems. Most of the framework was written in C ++, with smaller parts being based on Python. According to the Security Code Analysis Platform LGTM, the code of the framework is of outstanding quality: The part written in Python was evaluated with A ++, the larger “C ++” part with A.

The framework consists of several elements:

  • An architecture that divides the flight software into separate components with clearly defined interfaces; a “C ++” framework that provides core functions such as message queues and threads;
  • Modeling tools for automatic code generation and for the specification of components and connections;
  • A growing collection of ready-to-use components and
  • Testing tools for carrying out unit and integration tests that make up the Python part.

Cmake, Git and at least Python 3.5 required

The installation of the framework requires cmake, Git and Python 3.5 or newer. The Readme of the associated repo on GitHub also recommends installing F Prime’s Python Dependencies – preferably in a virtual Python environment to avoid problems at system level. The complete installation instructions can be found in the project under Here are the most important commands:

  git clone
cd fprime
pip install --upgrade wheel setuptools pip
pip install Fw / Python Gds /

The repo includes two example deployments: A standard application that shows how the components should be put together and one for the Raspberry PI. The standard application is compatible with Linux or MacOS, so you can try out the framework even without embedded hardware. The Raspberry PI application offers start-up help in an embedded software context. You should clone and run at least one of them – if only to make sure that you have installed the framework correctly.

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