Applications and cFS

Airbus Cockpit at night


Projects across the aerospace industry can benefit greatly by using the Core Flight System (cFS) or similar architectures. This has been recognized by NASA, industry, Department of Defense, US intelligence community, CCSDS, and the European Space Agency (Reference Similar Activities document). Note that cFS developers are actively involved with these other organizations to achieve a broader level of standardization and adoption of such systems. The cFS has introduced a reusable, product-line approach for development of aerospace flight software and to the best of our knowledge is the first mature (TRL8-9) architecture deployed with the potential to provide competitive advantage to US industry (as recognized by Moon Express).

Aerospace projects/missions require the use of specialized, radiation tolerant hardware specific to the mission. Specialized hardware requirements in turn depend upon specialized software. The traditional software development approach at GSFC and across the industry was to review the requirements from previous missions and find software that had similar requirements to the new mission. The software from a previous mission would then be used as a starting point for developing the new software. Porting the software from a previous mission to the new hardware platform would require extensive, laborious, error prone, and costly software requirement and design changes. The conventional means of developing flight software for a mission was both schedule and resource intensive. cFS was created at NASA/GSFC to directly address these inefficiencies.

The cFS was designed as a reusable, platform independent software product line. “This makes the architecture accessible to a range of missions from low-cost technology demonstrators to major science missions.” The cFS simplifies the flight software development process by providing a fully qualified and tested software infrastructure along with reusable artifacts. Users of the cFS need only focus on the software and artifacts exclusive to the mission reducing cost, schedule and risk. Several NASA centers have embraced the cFS architecture creating the potential for the cFS to become a de facto standard for flight software development across NASA. Formulating a standard approach to aeronautical flight software development will promote the sharing of lessons learned and proficiency across the NASA centers and commercial space agencies. GSFC, JSC, and APL have chosen the cFS for all future embedded flight software projects. The number of NASA centers and commercial space agencies requesting use of the cFS on future aerospace projects is steadily growing. GSFC has been contacted by multiple organizations with an interest in the cFS including APL, Moon Express and the Korean Aerospace Research Institute. The existence of a NASA flight software product line with agency level support could have a large impact on the aerospace industry itself with NASA as the leader. Both NASA and its commercial partners will benefit from the cost savings, schedule relief, and reduced risk of flight software development opening the doors to increased missions and technological breakthroughs.

The JSC’s Morpheus Lander is an example of how a technology demonstration with a challenging schedule could be met using the cFS architecture. A GSFC Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate (AETD) monthly message article states “With the Morpheus team able to build and demonstrate the Lander in under a year, the Code 582 developed cFE/cFS flight software has garnered considerable praise at JSC. JSC upper management has stated “how impressed we are at JSC with the Goddard Core Flight Software (cFS)”… “the high quality code base (and architecture) of cFS has been a major enabler”.” The GSFC AETD received a project Morpheus award from JSC for the benefit and support received from the cFS and GSFC AETD. The award plaque states “We could not have made the rapid progress we have without the quality, professionalism, and expertise provided by the GSFC Software Engineering Division and Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate.”


The cFS architecture is suited for use in any embedded software command and control computing system. The Core Flight System (cFS) architecture easily infuses and supports technological advances in hardware. The reusable, adaptable nature of the cFS architecture provides a foundation for producing an increase in science and technology projects and missions, requiring embedded software, at a lower cost and faster development rate. Users of the cFS architecture are able to focus on development of the science and technology with the software infrastructure already in place. This aspect raises the level of innovation and advancement in science and technology in general.


The Core Flight System (cFS) provides a foundation for producing an increase in science and technology projects and missions at a rapid rate. In a time of budget reductions, by lowering cost, schedule, and risk, the cFS becomes an enabler for generating a greater number of successful missions at a faster pace. These are the missions that affect all aspects of life, our curiosity about our world and the universe, and our economic wellbeing. The increase in data generated from environmental missions will help furnish complete global coverage for analyzing the earth’s climatic changes such as global warming, weather predictions, and monitoring for natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The increase in earth and space science data collection will help in answering NASA’s big questions: is there life on other planets, how is the global earth system changing, how did the universe originate and evolve to produce the galaxies, stars, and planets we see today. Increasing space science knowledge will present a clearer understanding of space weather, the solar system, and deep space allowing human beings to travel where they have not gone before. Even the discovery of asteroids maybe heading our way. The increase in technological data will support new advancements in robotics, as well as, earth and space vehicles such as automobiles, rovers, landers, submarines, ships, military vehicles, rockets, launch vehicles, airplanes and helicopters.

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