CHICAGO The trend to adopt real-time versions of embedded Linux got a boost last week, when aircraft engine builder Pratt & Whitney revealed that it used a Linux-based software kernel to test its new F135 engine, which will power the U.S. military's Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
Following an announcement of the engine's first test run to full afterburner power last Monday (Feb. 2), Pratt & Whitney engineers said Linux, long considered ill-suited to real-time applications, played a key role in highly deterministic, real-time tests. They said that a Linux-based product known as RTLinuxPro served in the development and testing of software for the engine's full-authority digital electronic control, as well as handling "facility control" of test stands at the company's West Palm Beach, Fla., engine plant.
The company's engineers added that they were not concerned about any possible real-time shortcomings of the Linux-based product. The product, made by FSMLabs Inc. (Socorro, N.M.), runs Linux as a task atop a real-time operating system in a dual-kernel approach, allowing developers to assign real-time capabilities to desired applications.
RTLinuxPro was used in the process of reading up to 10 channels of streaming data from jet engine and fan control systems, across IEEE 1394 data buses, said Dean Anneser, a Fellow in software engineering for Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, Conn.).
"Our engine simulation is huge," Anneser said. "We record a lot of data, and we need very good performance."
The Pratt & Whitney application could give pause to many embedded developers who have previously shied away from Linux for real-time applications. The Joint Strike Fighter program, a major Pentagon initiative for defining next-generation aircraft weapons systems for the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines, has been a focal point of tremendous engineering effort among contractors the past few years.
"Applications like this show that [real-time Linux] can be done," noted Victor Yodaiken, CEO of FSMLabs.