C++ and Corba are at the heart of Europe's first lunar space mission

A £400,000 software package will determine the success or failure of Europe's first mission to the moon.

A £400,000 software package will determine the success or failure of Europe's first mission to the moon.

Scheduled for launch last Saturday (27 September), the European Space Agency's Smart-1 probe will be used by scientists to search for water on the moon. The spacecraft will also test a new form of ion propulsion system that could be used to power interplanetary missions.

The SCOS 2000 mission control software took five man-years to develop. It had to be flexible and adaptable enough to cope with the uncertainties of a novel propulsion system.

The system, written in C++ and Corba, runs on Sun workstations and servers. Up to 24 mission control staff will man the work stations to continuously monitor the health of the spacecraft and each subsystem during its take-off.

John Aurburn, director of space at software firm, SciSys, one of three companies that developed the package, said that thorough testing was essential. "You test at every level: unity testing, system testing and then six months' of testing before launch in a spacecraft simulator," he said.

Data from the mission will be beamed back to earth and distributed to scientists over the web.

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