VxWorks plays a central role in the historic operation of the Mars science rover Curiosity by providing the core operating system for the spacecraft control system--from the second the rocket left Earth until completion of the mission. Curiosity will investigate whether Mars has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, and assess Mars’ habitability for future human exploration. Curiosity relied on VxWorks for the complex landing sequence called EDL (entry, descent and landing), which is being described as “seven minutes of terror” due to the absolute precision required for the spacecraft to survive the landing. While on Mars, Curiosity will depend on VxWorks to perform mission-critical tasks, such as ground operations control, data collection, and Mars-to-Earth communication relay.
Wind River has an extensive heritage of achievements in space working with NASA JPL, dating back to 1994, when VxWorks launched into space on the Clementine Moon probe. This was followed by the Mars Pathfinder Mission, which made VxWorks the first commercial operating system to go to Mars. Wind River technology also operates within the Mars Exploration Rovers and Stardust spacecraft, among others.