Flying to Jupiter with OSGi
Tony Walsh, software engineer with the European Space Agency (ESA), will be the keynote speaker at the OSGi Community Event this year (Ludwigsburg October 23-25, 2018). The keynote will highlight how ESA is using OSGi technology for a project that tracks and controls spacecraft .The first mission this system will be used for is JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) launching in 2022. This looks to be a great and interesting keynote. Mike Francis from the OSGi Alliance was pleased to have the opportunity to ask Walsh a few questions which we hope will whet your appetite.
Tony Walsh is a software engineer working for the European Space Agency. He has over 20 years of experience in the development and management of software within the space domain. He is currently technical / system manager for the adoption of the EGS-CC at the European Space Operations Centre. Walsh has a degree in Astrophysics from the University of Edinburgh and a masters in Space Engineering and Astronautics from Cranfield University.
Mike Francis: Can you give us a little background on the European Space Agency and the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) where you work?
Tony Walsh: The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international organization comprising of 22 European Member States and growing. Its purpose is to coordinate the financial and intellectual resources of its members in order to undertake programs and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. ESA has around 2,200 staff and an annual budget of €5.6 billion. However, the vast majority of the work is performed by our industrial partners working together across the whole of Europe, so our success is only possible as a result of a real team effort! ESOC is ESA’s center for satellite operations from which we have operated during the last 50 years around 60 space missions spanning science, Earth observation, orbiting observatories, meteorology and space physics.
OSGi is being used for the JUICE – JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission scheduled for 2022. Can you tell us a bit about JUICE?
Walsh: JUICE is the first large-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. Planned for launch in 2022 and arrival at Jupiter in 2029, it will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. These three moons are especially interesting as they are now believed to harbor internal oceans which could be a potential habitat for life.
So your specific project is a European-wide initiative called the European Ground Systems Common Core (EGS-CC). Can you provide background on this project – objectives, timescales, who is involved, etc.?
Mike Francis is the OSGi Alliance VP of Marketing and Chair of OSGi Community Event Program Committee 2018. As Sales and Marketing Director at Paremus Mike has been involved with the OSGi Alliance and OSGi technology since 2006. You can follow @OSGiAlliance on Twitter for news and announcements and if you have any questions you can contact OSGi Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walsh: The EGS-CC is a European initiative to develop a common infrastructure to support space systems monitoring and control in pre- and post-launch phases for all space mission types. This is hoped to bring a number of benefits, such as the seamless transition from spacecraft Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) to mission operations, reduce cost and risk, support the modernization of legacy systems and promote the exchange of ancillary implementations across organizations. The initiative is being performed as a collaboration between ESA, European National Space Agencies and European Industry. Development started at the end of 2014 and initial deliveries are now being integrated and tested by various stakeholders. Here at ESOC, we are planning to use it for the JUICE mission and once successfully adopted, it will become the baseline for all our future missions. As the JUICE mission will continue to be operated well after 2030 then you can appreciate the timescales of the monitoring and control systems we have to support!
What are you using OSGi for?
Walsh: We are using it as the basis for implementing the core server side functions of the monitoring and control applications . These functions are split between core Kernel functionality required by all missions and what we call “reference implementation” functions which are adapted or extended for the particular needs of a mission. A modular system which could be adapted and extended for different space mission types and different phases of the mission was crucial to us. The support for modularity in OSGi was therefore very attractive to us.
Did you consider any technologies other than OSGi? Why did you choose OSGi over other options to implement your project?
Walsh: There was an analysis of technologies in the early phases of the project and there was already experience on the use of CORBA/CCM and some investigations of the Service Component Model (SCA). An early decision was made that EGS-CC would be Java based. A number of criteria were then defined, such as support for modularity, maturity, strength of developer community, compatibility with our licensing needs, etc., against which the technology would be selected. It soon became clear that OSGi was a good fit for our needs and became the baseline for the development.
How did you come across OSGi as a potential candidate solution? Where did you find it?
Walsh: Our industrial partners have a wide range of experience developing large software systems, both inside and outside of the space industry and we were able to leverage on their experience in helping identify potential solutions. This was a great help in the selection of the most suitable technologies such as OSGi. At ESOC we had some limited experience of OSGi through the use of Eclipse for our User Interface developments, so we already had some confidence in it.
What are your roles within the project? Can you provide a little background on your involvement with ESA and your role in the project?
Walsh: I’m a software and technical manager within ESA for the development and maintenance of our ground data systems, including complex simulation systems used for testing and the training of the operations teams. I work within the group responsible for the development and maintenance of the data systems software infrastructure used across all our missions, such as the JUICE mission.
Has your team found any specific resources from the community or elsewhere to be invaluable as you have learned about OSGi?
Walsh: We found good resources available on the web, including mature open source implementations such as Felix and Equinox which was central to the selection of the technology.
Any recommendations or comments for anyone thinking about adopting OSGi for a project?
Walsh: This is very hard to say and we still consider ourselves very much “newbies” in the world of OSGi so I would be reluctant to give advice. Perhaps there are things we could have done better if we’d had more experience. We made decisions such as implementing our own Distributed OSGi which we will see if it was the right thing to do. We took a lot of time in the early phases to select the technology which I think was a good decision. Our industrial team is very large and includes around 20 companies, so changing the technology approach later in the project was something we needed to avoid and so far we are happy with our choice of OSGi.