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Lunar CubeSat

Vermont Technical College’s Lunar CubeSat, measuring only 10 × 10 × 10 cm and weighing 1.1 kg, was launched into a 500-km earth orbit. The small satellite will remain in orbit for about three years to test the systems that will be used for an eventual lunar mission. The CubeSat project is part of NASA’s ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nano-satellites) IV program. The CubeSat’s navigation and control software was developed in SPARK/Ada using AdaCore’s GNAT Programming Studio (GPS) IDE and GNAT Pro compiler; the SPARK toolset from Altran, headquartered in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, proved the absence of runtime errors.

A team of Vermont Technical College students developed the software. Although they had no previous knowledge of SPARK or Ada, the undergraduates came up to speed quickly and were able to use SPARK’s various annotations to produce robust code.

“We specifically chose to write the control program for our CubeSat in SPARK because it offers increased reliability over the C language software used in almost all CubeSats to date,” said Professor Carl Brandon, the project leader from Vermont Technical College.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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