Keeping track of sequences onboard a spacecraft is challenging. When reviewing Event Verification Records (EVRs) of sequence executions on the Mars Exploration Rover (MER), operators often found themselves wondering which version of a named sequence the EVR corresponded to. The lack of this information drastically impacts the operators’ diagnostic capabilities as well as their situational awareness with respect to the commands the spacecraft has executed, since the EVRs do not provide argument values or explanatory comments. Having this information immediately available can be instrumental in diagnosing critical events and can significantly enhance the overall safety of the spacecraft.

This software provides auditing capability that can eliminate that uncertainty while diagnosing critical conditions. Furthermore, the Restful interface provides a simple way for sequencing tools to automatically retrieve binary compiled sequence SCMFs (Space Command Message Files) on demand. It also enables developers to change the underlying database, while maintaining the same interface to the existing applications. The logging capabilities are also beneficial to operators when they are trying to recall how they solved a similar problem many days ago: this software enables automatic recovery of SCMF and RML (Robot Markup Language) sequence files directly from the command EVRs, eliminating the need for people to find and validate the corresponding sequences.

To address the lack of auditing capability for sequences onboard a spacecraft during earlier missions, extensive logging support was added on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) sequencing server. This server is responsible for generating all MSL binary SCMFs from RML input sequences. The sequencing server logs every SCMF it generates into a MySQL database, as well as the highlevel RML file and dictionary name inputs used to create the SCMF. The SCMF is then indexed by a hash value that is automatically included in all command EVRs by the onboard flight software. Second, both the binary SCMF result and the RML input file can be retrieved simply by specifying the hash to a Restful web interface. This interface enables command line tools as well as large sophisticated programs to download the SCMF and RMLs on-demand from the database, enabling a vast array of tools to be built on top of it. One such command line tool can retrieve and display RML files, or annotate a list of EVRs by interleaving them with the original sequence commands.

This software has been integrated with the MSL sequencing pipeline where it will serve sequences useful in diagnostics, debugging, and situational awareness throughout the mission.

This work was done by Thomas W. Starbird, John R. Morris, Khawaja S. Shams, and Mark W. Maimone of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-48080


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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