Hi everyone, welcome to the Hack Chat. It's time for us all to learn about what for a lot of us would be a dream job - working at the Jet Propulsion Lab. Arko joins us today to talk about what it's like to be a robotics engineer at JPL.
Welcome Arko! Can you start us off with a little about your background?
Sure! I'm an electrical engineer with a BS from Cal Poly Pomona. I have 12+ years in circuit design, robotics, and random hackery things.
Worked on many projects ranging from Mars rovers to DeLorean Time Machines.
Is there any way for someone with years of professional software experience to get a job working at JPL even if they don't have a degree?
Aw yeah, you have FRC on your site!
Oddly enough, some of the best SW engineers I know don't have degrees...
What's been your favorite project at JPL?
@Christopher Bero Yes! I was part of Team 589 for all 4 years of high school and went back to mentor :)
That looks like a pretty intense setup.
Yeah, we packed *a lot* of hardware into that helicopter
What would you say is the best project that has already been launched?
DeLorean Time machine???
https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/technology/entry-descent-landing/) so that it can figure out where it is during landing and to divert away from hazardsFor context, we designed and developed a very powerful flight computer/vision system for the M2020 Rover (
We packed an engineering model of the flight hardware and a bunch of "ground support equipment" hacks into the helicopter as well as a gimbal with a camera and IMU on it
and used the gimbal to simulate the parachute motions during descent.
Were you testing more of the algorithms that will be used for landing or the actual hardware that will fly on the mission too?
JPL has this philosophy of "Test as you fly. Fly as you test", meaning you should test your system like how you plan to fly it
and remember to fly as you tested it :)
@Dan Maloney Great question. It was a full systems test.
Up until then, we had tested everything in pieces. So this field test used final flight software and hardware in the most 'flight like' conditions possible
What has been your hardest proyect to achieve?
more so a hardware design verifcation test (TVAC/EMI EMC/Vibe/Shock)
what we flew in the heli was a flight replica
So 2020 is like the size of a Mini Cooper? Maybe a bit bigger?
@gmarmolburgos hmmm, I'd have to say M2020 was the most difficult overall due to complexity
Not to say my other tasks haven't been difficult
@Dan Maloney M2020 is the same size (ish) but with more instruments - Humans for scale
What's the project lifecycle like at JPL? What kind of teams are there? Do you have multiple tasks/projects going at once?
Love this question
How does the component selection process change when designing for environments as harsh as space? What are some surprising things you need to take into account?
That's a big rover.
What would you recommend a high school student to read about if he wants to study aeroespacial engerneering? (Any books or authors you could recommend) (podcasts even)
So project lifecycles vary from task to task, as do teams
What programming language has been the most proven to use when making the rovers/probes?
So JPL, in general, has two types of projects: Flight and Non-Flight
most folks work Flight only
some work Non-Flight only... and there are a few who work both
I happen to be "both". Which can be really challenging from a time management perspective, but it allows me to live in both worlds and to exchange experiences between them.
As for teams, again it varies, but my rule of thumb is to pick working with good teams.
cool tasks come second because... lets face it.. this place is a candy store of tasks. It's hard to find a lame task.
As for component selection, we have an internal catalog of not only known good parts, but designs as well
*Bows down in reverence*
JPL sounds a bit like nerdvana
Need 5V in your design? Boom, known working design with traceable testing and stocked parts
workign footprints and schematic, etc
I'm not sure you're allowed to answer this, but who do you guys go to to get your PCB prototypes/finals done
Lots of different vendors
Flight tasks require ITAR compliance, so that sorta limits us.
but for prototype projects, I like to use US vendors
does JPL use some formal verification when programming, like Spark/Ada?
Chinese or American PCB vendors?
American. Purchasing out of the country is a MAJOR pain and requires justification
was not Ada's fault that one rocket crashed :-)
there are formal verification processes
lots of code reviews
for the most part, we use C/C++ for SW and Verilog for HW
^ My favorite talk on Flight SW at JPL
cool, will watch it. But formal verification is very difficult for C, but I guess you use some standard like MISRA C?
We def do
We use a bunch of tools like coverity for static analysis
internal tools too
@Frank Buss From wikipedia it looks like: "The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory C Coding Standards are based on MISRA-C:2004."
you can still do a lot of silly things in C, why not Ada? It is supposed to be much safer
we have a lot of 'lessons learned' from past missions which we incorporate into flight code rules
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to navigation Jump to search The Power of 10 Rules were created in 2006 by Gerard J. Holzmann of the NASA/JPL Laboratory for Reliable Software. The rules are intended to eliminate certain C coding practices which make code difficult to review or statically analyze.
everyone one of these rules traces back to a mission failure
Ada's cool, but I'm a Rust person myself :P
*waits for fight to ensue*
I know that recently a lot of software dev has been moving over to the cloud, is there anything being done using cloud computing at JPL?
Is there anything JPL/NASA publishes that you feel doesn't get seen enough? Cool images or interesting datasets?
we do more than just code for flight hardware, in fact those teams are much smaller than the other apps we make inhouse
hey arko, im not sure how relevant this is to you, but what are your thoughts on the future of RF engineers in the space industry? Would look to work at JPL or NASA one day on their satellites/comms. Currently at an internship in Pasadena lol, literally down the street from JPL.
I cant really speak to it since im not a cloud person :P
@Christopher Bero need to think about that. The JPLRaw youtube channel is pretty cool
JPL Raw is a channel used by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to deliver on-demand video to news media and others. The majority of video on this channel cons...
I work at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, we take advantage of the JPL assets being available in a lot of our work. From images, to 3d model to code and data
And being able to reach out to The Studio has been a great resource in exhibit development
@baldwinngo0813 Nice! I know we are always looking for great RF engineers, I'd recommend applying if you are interested. For background, I applied to JPL 12+ times
Woah, to different areas inside?
sometimes it's just that I didnt have enough experience or that they had already filled the position
What was different about the last time (other than getting the job)
@arko do you ever get to do work with The Studio?
@Adam Fresh out of college. Timing. Made connections at JPL so I had a foot in the door.
@morgan Not familiar, you mean the media department?