The MST is a simulation framework, supporting the development of autonomy technology for planetary exploration vehicles. The MST provides a software test bed which includes simulated robotic platforms, sensors, and environments. This simulation capability is applicable to a wide range of robotic applications, ranging from early concept studies through the evaluation of mature technology. | The Mission Simulation Toolkit (MST) is a flexible software system for autonomy research. The MST was developed as part of the Mission Simulation Facility (MSF) project, which was started in 2001 to facilitate the development of autonomous planetary robotic missions. Autonomy is a key enabling factor for robotic exploration. At present, there is a large gap between autonomy software (at the research level) and software that is ready for insertion into near-term space missions. The MST bridges this gap by providing a simulation framework and a suite of tools to support research and maturation of autonomy.
The requirements for a simulator that supports autonomy are significantly different than those of conventional robot simulators. First, since high-level autonomy software is intended to control a complete robotic system, a variety of models (terrain, kinematics, dynamics, sensors, power, electromechanical subsystems, etc.) are required. Second, in order to test autonomy software in a range of situations, it is necessary to provide controllable variability and failure injection into these models. Third, because autonomy software is generally developed on a wide variety of platforms and may target robotic systems that are still under development, mixed operating system support and flexible interfaces are needed.
The MST addresses this unique set of requirements through the use of a distributed framework based on the High Level Architecture (HLA) standard. A key feature of the MST framework is the ability to plug in new models to replace existing ones with the same services. This enables significant simulation flexibility, particularly the mixing and control of fidelity level. In addition, the MST provides automatic code generation from robot interfaces defined with the Unified Modeling Language (UML), methods for maintaining synchronization across distributed simulation systems, XML-based robot description, and an environment server. Finally, the MSF supports a number of third-party products including dynamic models and terrain databases.
Although the communication objects and some of the simulation components that are provided with this tool kit are specifically designed for terrestrial surface rovers, the MST can be applied to any other domain, e.g. aerial, aquatic, or space. This tool kit contains a Communication Object library that supports surface rover simulation and the following basic components: