Speakers' Corner - Tamar Cohen

NASA uses Eclipse RCP applications for experiments on the International Space Station

Tamar work for SGT, Inc. on a subcontract at NASA. She does not speak for NASA — the interview only describes work being done at NASA.

1. What types of experiments are done on the International Space Station using Eclipse?

  • The 2 ISS experiments that our group, the Intelligent Robotics Group, are doing this year as part of the Human Exploration Telerobotics program are the only current ISS experiments which will use Eclipse. This will be the first time that Eclipse RCP applications will run on the ISS and be operated by astronauts.
  • The first experiment is using an Eclipse RCP application to control SmartSPHERES on the ISS, a free flying simple robot with an Android Smartphone attached to it. We simulate an inspection of an ISS module with the SmartSPHERES.
  • The second experiment is using an Eclipse RCP application to control the K10 rover at NASA Ames Research Center. This will be the first time that a robot on Earth will be controlled by an astronaut on the ISS.
  • The various NASA centers collaborate via Eclipse plugins; having a framework for RCP applications that comply with the ISS standards sets the stage for future experimental work.

2. Can you tell us more about the experiments that will be done with the K10 rover on Earth?
The Surface Telerobotics experiment is an engineering test of a human – robot operational concept for future deep-space human exploration missions. Specifically, we are simulating deployment of a telescope on the far side of the moon, where the moon obstructs communication with Earth. (We are using NASA Ames Research Center as a stand-in for the moon, since the ISS is orbiting the Earth). The experiment is broken into 3 phases:

  • The astronaut will control the K10 rover to scout the terrain, to find areas suitable for deploying the telescope. As such it will use LIDAR (using lasers to measure distance) to build up a model of the terrain, and it will capture panoramic images.
  • The astronaut will control the K10 rover to deploy an arm of the telescope, by rolling out Kapton (polyimide) film behind it. The full telescope would consist of 3 separate “arms” but in the experiment we will deploy only one.
  • The final phase is inspection of the deployed telescope arm, to look for flaws or wrinkles in the film.

3. Does NASA use Eclipse RCP for other purposes?
Absolutely. My presentation discusses only the 2 RCP applications that we are developing for the ISS. As mentioned, NASA has a major Eclipse collaboration project. Together, we develop various plugins that various teams use to support the following:

  • VERVE for 3D visualization and situational awareness of various remote rovers
  • Maestro is the planning software used by MER scientists. Science operations for Opportunity, as well as Spirit when it was operational, are encompassed in plans. Plans may include where the rover will drive, when to take pictures, and what instruments to use.
  • MSLICE for MSL / Curiosity scheduling and planning, similar to the Maestro software.
  • Antares, for MSL / Curiosity modeling of camera views in 3D for scientific imaging
  • SCORE for ISS Scheduling
  • PIGI, predictive driving interface for rovers in 3D
  • Aerobot Workbench, for control of a free-flying robot
  • ISS Solar Panel modeling
  • RAPID Workbench, for developing the NASA DDS implementation for robots
  • There are probably others that I am not aware of!

4. Have you been looking at Eclipse 4? Do you have any plans to use it?
Yes, I have been following the E4 development since the beginning, and I have done a little experimentation with it. Given that the bulk of our plugins are developed, tested and deployed on the 3.7.x platform and we have to maintain compatibility among dozens of RCP applications using shared plugins, we will have to move to E4 very carefully. I hope to work on that this summer. It is unlikely that stable, released products will make this migration, but it will be interesting to see how changes in E4 make it easier for us to develop applications.

5. What are you looking forward to for EclipseCon 2013?
It is always wonderful to reconnect with other Eclipse developers and meet new people! Every time I attend EclipseCon I learn nuggets of information that I would not have thought to look for outside of the conference.

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