AIR: ARINC 653 Interface in RTEMS

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  • Research Line(s): Timeliness and Adaptation in Dependable Systems (TADS)
  • Sponsor: European Space Agency - Innovation Triangle Initiative
  • Project Number: ESTEC Contract 19906/06/NL/JD
  • Coordinator: Skysoft Portugal
  • Partners: FCUL, Skysoft Portugal
  • Start Date: Sept. 2006
  • Duration: 6 months
  • Keywords: Aerospace industry, ARINC 653, Real-time kernels, RTEMS, Safety-critical embedded systems, Time and space partitioning
  • Team at FCUL: 3 researchers, including José Rufino, Manuel Coutinho, João Pedro Craveiro


In both avionics and space industries, the safety concept is of paramount importance. The ARINC 653 standard was developed with the purpose that all safety critical software embedded in a system must follow very strict and demanding rules both in terms of operation and certification.

ARINC 653 and Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) are the answers provided by the civil aviation world to problems that are also identified in the space world. The space world is looking for a standardized interface for the Operating Systems (OS) located on board the spacecrafts. Most of the requirements from the civil aviation world that led to the definition of ARINC 653 are also requirements from the space world and thus the adaptation of the specification to the space world needs can be performed with minor changes, keeping its basic principles.

The adoption of the ARINC 653 concept in space on-board software will not only provide the space industry the same benefits the aviation industry has already profited with by adopting the standard -- software portability and modularity, partitioning and less certification effort, etc. It will also promote the reusability of Research and Development (R&D) efforts already invested in the scope of another industry domain, further increase the synergies in the development of software for the parallel domains of civil aviation and space and potentiate reduction in the development costs of on-board software. Finally, the space world will benefit from ARINC 653's improvement in the development framework available for both application developers and integrators.

Furthermore, there is a general demand for the use and re-utilization of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in the design of complex embedded systems, such as those found in aerospace applications. The AIR innovation initiative has emerged complying to this requirement, exploiting the utilization of a COTS licence-free open-source real-time operating system, the Real-Time Executive for Multiprocessor Systems (RTEMS). The use of RTEMS is particularly interesting given its qualification for critical on-board software of unmanned space programs. However the AIR Project went a step further and defined a general architecture for an ARINC 653 compliant Real-Time Operating System (RTOS). That means, different RTOS kernels can be used in different partitions of a common AIR/ARINC 653 platform.


  • José Rufino, Sérgio Filipe, Manuel Coutinho, Sérgio Santos, James Windsor, “ARINC 653 Interface in RTEMS”, in Proceedings of the DASIA 2007 "Data Systems in Aerospace" Conference, Napoli, Italy, May/June 2007., May 2007.

  • Nuno Diniz, José Rufino, “ARINC 653 In Space”, in Proceedings of the DASIA 2005 "Data Systems in Aerospace" Conference, Edimburgh, Scotland, May/June 2005., May 2005.


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