How Yamcs sets the pulse of mission control
Central to any space mission is the support of an efficient and reliable mission control software framework.
While mission operations serve as the eyes and ears on ground, mission control software (MCS) is the central nervous system that enables their commanding, monitoring, automation and control. MCS drives communication between spacecraft and ground, and provides a platform to monitor the data generated ensuring a successful and safe mission.
Hitting the nerve centre of missions
The essence of mission control involves two actions: commands and telemetry. Commands uplink to the spacecraft or astronaut to receive and give information such as software updates for on-board computers, or controls on the spacecraft’s performance. Telemetry downlinks to Earth and allows receipt of the data produced by the spacecraft so it can be decoded for analysis, display, distribution and eventually storage. This data can be about the position, direction and present condition of the craft, but also includes the scientific data gathered by the craft.
Evidently, it is impossible to ensure safety, communicate with ground, collect data, monitor craft behaviour, implement emergency procedures without reliable software to support mission operations. It is a vital cog in the whole mission architecture. Space Applications Services serves that need through a full software framework known Yamcs.
The communication in 1969 made from the Moon by Neil Armstrong to an anxious crew on ground at the Johnson Space Center is enough proof that mission control is an indispensable part of space missions. While at that time, they used the most powerful computers they could build, it is a little bit different now with the advent of advanced technologies and knowledge.
What is Yamcs?
Yamcs has set itself apart as an open-source software framework for command and control of spacecrafts, satellites, payloads, ground stations and ground equipment. It is lightweight, easily configurable and not hardware dependent.
Its major unique characteristics are that it is flexible, scalable and open source. This makes it cost-effective while remaining non-compromising on performance and functionality. While Yamcs is open source, Space Applications Services also offers enterprise support to end-users to support the integration and operations of Yamcs during the preparation and the execution of the mission.
Yamcs serves a range of purposes, with the primary being telemetry reception, telecommand sending, alarm generation and replay processing. All this is supported by a comprehensive user interface that allows an operator to quickly access all Yamcs data functionalities.
As a Suite it offers a bouquet of services consisting of a server, application, studio and much more. The Yamcs Server provides the archive, a storing system for inspection and data retrieving. The Yamcs Application, a set of extended tools used to augment the Yamcs Server, is quite special in that it lowers the dependence on commercial off-the-shelf software and facilitates the tailoring of a generic mission control software to specific mission needs. This decreases risk, and improves mission success and economy, with no compromise to reliability. Yamcs Studio is the graphical user interface framework that provides capabilities for building synoptic displays, monitoring and commanding.
Exploring Yamcs’s Portfolio
Yamcs serves three markets: payloads, free-flying craft and vehicles.
In support of commercial and institutional human spaceflight & exploration, Yamcs is currently being used in support of multiple experiments on board the International Space Station such as the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space (ACES) and the ICE Cubes Service.
Yamcs has multiple space robotic applications including robotic arms and lunar rovers, such as the European Robotic Arm, the NASA Viper Lunar Rover, MBRSC Rachid Lunar Rover and the Iris Lunar Rover by Carnegie Mellon University.
In the last few years, a number of companies in the domain of LEO satellites comprising Pixxel & CONTEC among others, have selected Yamcs for their ground segment.
The mission control software framework is popular in space exploration missions. It has also been used by Astrobotics Peregrine M1 Lunar Lander, and for electronic ground support equipment (EGSE) for the NASA Space Place Dream Chaser CRS2.
In the Small Launchers market domain, Yamcs is applied as the main EGSE checkout system, with potential extension to the flight mission control system once the launcher development is completed; serving customers like Reaction Dynamics & Sidereus Space Dynamics.
Due to the open source nature of the software license, many additional users are building their mission around the software without specific knowledge from Space Applications Services.
All in all, this extensive portfolio is an adequate demonstration of how Yamcs works for a variety of applications in different domains of the space industry; and how it sets the pulse for mission control.
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