Vega Consolidation (Vega C), developed using the Ada programming language, is an evolution of the current Vega light launcher for missions in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Avio is prime contractor producing the entire new-generation launcher; the P120C Solid Rocket Motor, in cooperation with Ariane Group; and the Z40 SRM, part of the Vega C configuration as the second stage propulsive system. The P120C was derived from the P80 Vega launcher first stage and will be manufactured with carbon-fiber prepreg, material and filament winding technology. The rocket will carry about 143 tonnes of solid propellant, but the P120C was also designed to be used as a lift-off booster for the new Ariane 6 to guarantee absolute synergy between the European launchers.
Avio engineers implemented cost reduction strategies, rationalized the supply chain, and improved system architecture and design to enhance the launching performance and ensure design flexibility and versatility of the Vega C. “Technologies were identified during the strategic planning for Vega enabling future developments by focusing on improvements of its performance achieved by cost reductions, payload comfort and the consolidation of the system integration capabilities within the European industry,” AVIO officials say.
AVIO software engineers are using AdaCore’s GNAT Pro Assurance Ada Development Environment, including the GNATemulator host-based target emulation tool, for their work on the safety-critical flight software that handles guidance, navigation, and control of the Vega C.
“Reliability is the key factor in the launcher industry, and the 13 successful Vega launches demonstrate that AVIO has consistently been able to meet this requirement,” AVIO Engineering Director Paolo Bellomi explains. “We are confident that, with the help of AdaCore’s GNAT Pro Assurance, we will develop Vega-C launcher flight software that is reliable while also being easy to maintain and adapt based on the evolving demands of the satellites market.”
Specifically, AVIO is using the GNAT Pro Assurance Ada cross environment for certified and safety-critical development, hosted on Intel x86 Linux and targeted to LEON 2 ELF with the Zero Footprint Profile (ZFP) minimal run-time support library. The host environment includes the GNATemulator target emulation tool, which translates from target to host instructions on the fly and enables efficient and convenient functional testing, AdaCore officials say.
Scheduled for completion in 2019, the Vega C on-board software project includes certification of the ZFP run-time library at level B of the European Space standards ECSS-E-ST-40C and ECSS-Q-ST-80C.
AVIO software engineers recognize the benefits that AdaCore’s GNAT Pro Assurance offering can bring to their Vega-C project, including the availability of run-time library certification material, which could be used as the basis for the ZFP certification, affirms AdaCore Commercial Director Jamie Ayre. “Ada and AdaCore have a long and successful track record in the space industry,” he adds. “We look forward to supporting AVIO’s software efforts on this and other projects long into the future.”
AVIO software engineers chose Ada based on the language’s strong software engineering support, with extensive built-in compile-time and run-time checks, which makes a system easier to develop, verify, and maintain. Based on past experience, AVIO staff recognized that Ada can encourage and even force programmers to write good-quality code, while the language and compiler detect bugs long before they can cause safety hazards or vulnerabilities in the final deliverable.
The Vega application is expected to evolve over many years, and Ada’s readability and its support for modular and extensible design will make it easier to adapt the software as new requirements emerge, officials say. Other factors influencing the selection were AdaCore’s excellent support services, the convenience of GNATemulator’s testing approach, the availability of source code for the tools and libraries, the quality of the documentation, good feedback from previous ECSS run-time library certification, the fact that there is no need to manage license files (the tools can be installed on any project workstation), and the support for modern 64-bit Linux systems.
AVIO’s experience with GNATemulator has been especially positive. In contrast, previous unit and Monte Carlo testing was complicated in another Ada environment; e.g., some tests could be conducted natively, while others needed to be performed on the target, which required two different compiler configurations (native and cross) and produced a complex workflow. With the AdaCore toolsuite, AVIO can run all the unit and Monte Carlo tests directly on GNATemulator, using the same cross-compiler with the same options – significantly simplifying AVIO’s development processes.
GNAT Pro is a comprehensive, integrated software development environment, available for Ada and also C and C++ programming languages. Based on open-source GCC code generation technology, GNAT Pro produces high-quality object code across a wide variety of processors and operating systems, as well as bare metal target configurations. GNAT Pro Ada handles all versions of the language standard, from Ada 83 through Ada 2012, and includes a full-featured tool suite, graphical integrated development environments (IDEs) – GNAT Programming Studio and Eclipse-based GNATbench – and extensive companion libraries, backed by expert support provided by GNAT Pro developers.
GNAT Pro Assurance, the premium edition of the GNAT Pro tool suite, is targeted to long-lived projects and high-assurance systems. It comprises a complete Ada solution for projects with the most stringent requirements for reliability, long-term maintenance, and/or safety certification.
GNATemulator provides integrated, lightweight target emulation. Based on the QEMU generic and open-source machine emulator and virtualizer, the GNATemulator tool executes on the host platform, compiles code directly for the target architecture, and runs it on the host, through an approach that translates from the target object code to native instructions on the host. This method avoids the inconvenience and cost of managing an actual board, while offering an efficient testing environment.
AdaCore products have been used to field and maintain a wide range of critical applications in domains, such as commercial and military avionics, automotive, railway, space, defense systems, air traffic management/control, medical devices, and financial services.
AVIO boasts a 50-year history focused on space launchers and solid, liquid, cryogenic, and tactical propulsion. AVIO is a prime contractor for the Vega rocket program and a subcontractor for the Ariane program, both financed by the European Space Agency, placing Italy among the limited number of countries capable of producing a complete spacecraft, officials say.
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