Complex telescope systems such as interferometers tend to rely heavily on hard real-time operating systems (RTOS). It has been standard practice at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and many other institutions to use costly commercial RTOSs and hardware. After developing a real-time toolkit for VxWorks on the PowerPC platform (dubbed RTC), the interferometry group at JPL is porting this code to the real-time Application Interface (RTAI), an open source RTOS that is essentially an extension to the Linux kernel. This port has the potential to reduce software and hardware costs for future projects, while increasing the level of performance.
The goals of this paper are to briefly describe the RTC toolkit, highlight the successes and pitfalls of porting the toolkit from VxWorks to Linux-RTAI, and to discuss future enhancements that will be implemented as a direct result of this port. The first port of any body of code is always the most difficult since it uncovers the OS-specific calls and forces “red flags” into those portions of the code. For this reason, It has also been a huge benefit that the project chose a generic, platform independent OS extension, ACE, and its CORBA counterpart, TAO. This port of RTC will pave the way for conversions to other environments, the most interesting of which is a non-real-time simulation environment, currently being considered by the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) and the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) Projects.