ESA - European Space Agency

Qt provided ESA with a cross-platform solution for upgrades and revisions of modeling and simulation software

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organization with 17 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programs and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

The Challenge
To build digital maps of the planet Mars, the Modeling and Simulation group at the European Space Agency (ESA) was using software that was built on one UNIX version but used on other UNIX versions and on PCs running various other operating systems. At one point, the team found itself maintaining four separate versions of the software for four different operating environments: IRIX, Solaris, Linux and Windows. Every time there was an upgrade or revision, the development team had to rewrite portions of the code.

The Solution
The team rewrote its software completely, using Qt and C++ instead of the original C and UNIX-specific tools. Qt was especially useful for the graphical user interfaces, which are large and complex applications that can vary widely from platform to platform. Now the team does all of its development work and testing on IRIX. When it is ready to issue a new release, it simply recompiles the software for the other platforms.

The Value
Qt decreased the time the ESA team spent on upgrades and maintenance and made it possible for them bring in developers with both UNIX and PC expertise to work on present and future Qt-enabled projects.

Whenever ESA scientists request new functionality, we make the changes, issue a new version and test it on every platform. The more platforms we had the longer it took. With Qt, the process of issuing a new release has gone from taking a few days to taking a few hours - Peter van der Plas, Simulation Engineer, Modeling & Simulation Group, European Space Agency

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