Some of you may know that I am an avid Open Source fan. Not that I don’t like Mac’s or Windows, I just find Linux works for most all of my needs and the things that I need Windows for, I run a copy in a virtual machine. My current favorite distribution is ZorinOS, looks like Windows, acts like Ubuntu (without that strange interface). The point is that Linux is customizable. Heck, you can even make your own operating system and distribute it to everyone.
This week the people at Steam gaming announced that they are making a distribution for gaming that you can customize in an infinite number of ways.
So it comes as no surprise that new commercial space ventures, like Planetary Resources, are looking to the Penguin for cost effective, modifiable and stable components for their race to space.
Planetary Resources wants to mine asteroids in the most cost effective manner possible. Like NASA and other governmental entities, including the military, the company plans to use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware to make low cost, highly reliable spacecraft.
The plan is to basically make off the shelf spacecraft that can be customized easily with a modular design. This allows the craft to be updated without the need to start from scratch.
One of the main costs of current spacecraft is the computer system(s) used in command and control. Most spacecraft today use a radiation-hardened 133Mz PowerPC RAD750 with 128MBS of RAM, and 256K of EEPROM memory that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Planetary Resources thinks that they can use something like an 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 processor at 1/200th the cost.
Using Linux and open-source software will also save the company costs by developing reusable components for many basic system functions. Systems today can cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to develop and each craft basically has its own unique operating system for each spacecraft.
The company also want to introduce virtualization to spacecraft. This removes the hardware from the software making the software controlling the hardware more secure and fault tolerant. Also, if a version of the software crashes or becomes corrupt, ground control can just copy a new virtual machine over the corrupted one and presto, you are back in business. Hardware failures will still be an issue, but one thing at a time.
The company wants to begin asteroid prospecting in 2014 using its ARKYD series of robot spaceships that I have discussed before on this blog.
Now you can actually see a Penguin fly…just not the animal kind.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +