Gateway will be critical to establishing a sustainable lunar presence and will serve as a model for future missions to Mars. Credit: NASA
Exploration Systems Project, CIS 

Goddard Leverages Core Flight Software for NASA’s Lunar Gateway

By Katherine Schauer

December 3, 2020

Experts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are leveraging award-winning core Flight Software to help create and certify essential software for Gateway - a lunar orbiting platform.

Through the Artemis program, NASA plans to return humanity to the Moon and establish a sustained lunar presence. This will be achieved, in part, through NASA’s Gateway, which will allow astronauts to live and work in lunar orbit.

With humans aboard, every system on Gateway must be at a high standard that ensures astronaut safety. Class A certification assures that all of Gateway’s systems meet these rigorous requirements.

Gateway is being developed by multiple NASA centers, industry partners, and international space agencies. Goddard’s Exploration and Space Communications projects division’s technology and exploration offices and the Software Engineering Division are collaborating with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to development Gateway’s flight software and to certify it as Class A - suitable for human-rated vehicles.

This flight software will be essential to Gateway’s day-to-day operations. It will act as the brains of the spacecraft, allowing all instruments and modules to operate properly. The software will be the core of the spacecraft’s systems, able to maintain base functions under any circumstance.

Gateway’s software builds on the Goddard-developed core Flight Software (cFS), which is an independent, reusable software framework. cFS’s dynamic development environment and component-based design makes it adaptable for reuse on numerous NASA missions. Its flexible, layered architecture allows engineers to rapidly assemble a significant portion of a software system for new missions. This results in cost and time savings, as mission teams can avoid developing brand new software for each mission.

NASA has employed cFS on missions like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission, the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, and more. The software recently won NASA’s Software of the Year award. Because of Goddard’s success with cFS and Johnson’s expertise in human spaceflight Class A certification, the center-to-center partnership is an ideal combination of skills for Gateway's software development.

Currently, the Goddard software development team is certifying the cFS by testing it to make sure it meets the requirements set forth by the agency. After testing, it will be delivered to Johnson for additional testing, possible modifications for Gateway-specific features, and final implementation.

Gateway is a key part of the Artemis program and will allow NASA to have unprecedented access to the lunar surface. The Class A-certified flight software for Gateway will ensure all systems operate properly and that NASA’s astronauts have a safe environment to live and work.