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Flight Software & Embedded Systems Framework

The Discerning User’s Guide to F´

F´ is an embedded systems framework developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for use in space based missions. Its goal is simple: make development of flight-quality embedded software simple, easy, and fun. F´ reduces the complexity and overhead to develop such systems.

This guide is intended to expose the features of F´ and seek to allow users and developers to take advantage of all F´ has to offer. It is broken down into five documentation sections:

  • Getting Started
  • User’s Manual
  • Best Practices
  • Developer Documentation
  • API

The Getting Started section points initiates to all the items needed to get up and running with F´. Since these are often needed before a user searches for a user’s guide, this section merely links to the stand-alone version of those items.

The User’s Manual section helps users of this framework understand the concepts of F´ and build more complex projects using the Framework. It is where users should go to understand more about what is possible in F´.

The Best Practices section collects best practices and patterns many projects use while developing F´. Users who consult this section will learn how to organize F´ projects and implementations to solve problems using standard and recommended techniques.

The Developer Documentation is intended for developers who want to use some of the advanced features of F´, understand how the framework is organized internally, and otherwise dig deep into F´ concepts and implementation. Anyone who wishes to extend or change F´ should consult this section. This section is divided into three sub-sections:

  • Ground Data System Tools (GDS)
  • Full Development Guides: technical details for full F´ implementations
  • Advanced F´ Topics

The API documentation section contains the automatically generated documentation on F´.

Note: currently this documentation is being assembled. Please feel free to contribute!

Table of Contents

F´ Source Tree F´ Out of the Box Items

The rest of this page will cover various items provided by F´ out-of-the-box. Most of these items have more complete documentation linked above.

Framework and Service Components

F´ ships with a core framework and service code enabling the construction of F´ applications using standards. Specifically, the service (Svc) components provide most of the basic functionality to command, and communicate with an embedded system such as a spacecraft.


Autocoder automatically adds ports for registering commands, receiving commands and reporting an execution status. F′ defines an Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema that users can use to specify a model of a FSW application. The model describes the application at a high level in terms of the components, ports, and topologies of the F′ architecture. The F′ autocoder translates the model into the C++ classes to greatly reduce the boiler plate code required to build an embedded system.

Operating System Abstraction Layer

An operating system abstraction layer (OSAL) provides implementations of an application programming interface (API) for real-time operating systems (RTOS) and non-real-time operating systems in a generic way such that the code using the OSAL layer can easily swap to another OS without modification.

The F′ framework OSAL includes C++ classes that provide abstractions of common operating systems features. These features include threads, mutual exclusion locks, message queues, files, timers, and clocks.

The open-source framework provides implementations of the operating systems layer for Linux and Mac OS. The Linux implementation works in Windows using WSL. Some other OS are provided in extension libraries.

Ground Data System (GDS)

See: F´ GDS

The F′ user experience is intended to be an out-of-box ready to use ground data system (GDS) solution than can easily run on Linux, Mac OSX, or Windows platforms without any mission specific tailoring. The GDS provides an end-user graphical user interface (GUI) tool and an integration test application programming interface (API) to enable integration testing and quick-look telemetry monitoring.

Initially, the user defines the mission specific components with commands and telemetry, and then the dictionaries are automatically generated from this design. These dictionaries are read into the GDS to provide the user experience.

F′ Utility Build Helper and CMake System

F´ ships with a build system configured to build the F´ code. This build system is implemented using CMake and handles the dependencies needed to run the Autocoder and assemble it with user written code. In order to support more standard development patterns with F´, the fprime-util was built. This tool maps simple commands into the make system in order to allow developer to follow set patterns easily.

Linux Drivers

F´ ships with some basic driver implementations for Linux systems. These act as example driver components and allow users choosing the Linux OS to run standard hardware like UART, I2C, SPI, etc.