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The Charming Genius
of the
Apollo Guidance
Computer
This
is the
Earth
This
is the
Moon
This
is the
Earth
This
is the
Moon
405696km
Apollo is
carried into
orbit by the
three stage
Saturn V.
System
checks
happen
in LEO.
Final stage boosts
Apollo into Free
Return orbit.
M
oon
405696km
Trans-lunar
Injection
Free Return Orbit
This is Apollo.
Space travel is a
tricky business.
Orbital paths are
a narrow balance
of accelerations.
Too little, you
miss your
goal.
Too much, you
miss your
goal.
The guidance control
system of a spacecraft
must answer three
questions:
1. Which way is up?
2. Where am I?
3. Where am I going?
Apollo has triply
redundant means
to answer these
questions.
Deep
Space
Network
Global network
of long-range
radar stations.
High Gain Antena
Celestial Navigation
High Gain Antena
Telescope
High Gain Antena
TelescopeSextant
Mission
timed
star
charts.
Celestial Navigation
Dead
Reckoning
Inertial
Guidance
Three
gimbals
save
weight.
Gimbal
lock is the
tradeoff.
Celestial Navigation
Dead Reckoning
The Apollo Guidance
Computer integrates
all of these systems.
It also is the fly-by-wire
control computer.
It also manages both
the analog and digital
displays.
It does this with:
five interrupts,
1MHz clock,
16-bit words,
2048 words RAM,
36K words ROM,
and 17 registers.
It weighs 70lbs.
It is 1 meter3
.
It draws 55 watts.
Real Time Computing Complex
AGC is a digital
computer.
There have been others.
It’s the first
to use
Integrated
Circuits.
Core-rope memory
is used as well.
One of the
first interactive
computers.
DiSplay &
KeYboard
DSKY
Allows
AGC to
give fast
updates to
Astronauts.
Allows
astronaut
running of
select
programs.
What is the
computer doing
back there?
10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950
TIME2
TIME1
TIME3
TIME4
TIME5
TIME6
AGC Int...
10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950
TIME2
TIME1
TIME3
TIME4
TIME5
TIME6
AGC Int...
10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950
TIME2
TIME1
TIME3
TIME4
TIME5
TIME6
AGC Int...
10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950
TIME2
TIME1
TIME3
TIME4
TIME5
TIME6
AGC Int...
10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950
TIME2
TIME1
TIME3
TIME4
TIME5
TIME6
AGC Int...
10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950
TIME2
TIME1
TIME3
TIME4
TIME5
TIME6
AGC Int...
TIME3, TIME4
and TIME6 are
programmable.
Nowadays, we
would call the AGC a
“priority-scheduled
real-time embedded”
computer.
Priority
Scheduling
Priority
Scheduling
(Invented for the AGC)
Priority
Scheduling
Two tables
exist for jobs
in the AGC.
Priority
Scheduling
Waitlist
•<4ms execution
Priority
Scheduling
Waitlist
•<4ms execution
•9 task limit
Priority
Scheduling
Waitlist
•<4ms execution
•9 task limit
•basic instructions
Priority
Scheduling
Waitlist
•<4ms execution
•9 task limit
•basic instructions
•no rescheduling
Priority
Scheduling
Waitlist
•<4ms execution
•9 task limit
•basic instructions
•no rescheduling
•no Executive
Executive?
The AGC software
provides two operating
abstractions.
Executive
• low-level
routinesOperating
Abstractions
Executive
• low-level
routines
• system restarts
Operating
Abstractions
Executive
• low-level
routines
• system restarts
• supervision
Operating
Abstractions
Executive
• low-level
routines
• system restarts
• supervision
• keeps CoreSet
Operating
Abstractions
Priority
Scheduling
CoreSet
•12 task limit
There’s nothing to
stop the CoreSet
from filling up.
Most invariant
guarantees are left to
analysis and testing.
Priority
Scheduling
CoreSet
•12 task limit
•priority ordered
Priority
Scheduling
CoreSet
•12 task limit
•priority ordered
•20ms interrupt
Priority
Scheduling
CoreSet
•12 task limit
•priority ordered
•20ms interrupt
•option to use
Interpreter
Interpreter?
The native instructions
available from the AGC
are very primitive.
AGC word-size of 15
data bits has insufficient
accuracy for spaceflight.
Interpreter
Operating
Abstractions
• high-level routines
Interpreter
Operating
Abstractions
• high-level routines
• rich instruction set
Interpreter
Operating
Abstractions
• high-level routines
• rich instruction set
• extra-wide words
Interpreter
Operating
Abstractions
• high-level routines
• rich instruction set
• extra-wide words
• radically simpler
pro...
Free
Return
Orbit
Capture
Braking
Capture
Braking
Lunar
Orbit
Up to this point, loss
of the CM computer
hasn’t been abort-
worthy.
Different matter for the LM.
The LM computer is
absolutely essential
to a controlled
landing on the
Moon.
Program 63 fires
LM engines.
Program 63 fires
LM engines.
(Routine in AGC source is BURNBABY.)
Program 63 fires
LM engines.
(Apollo 11’s CoreSet overflowed here.)
Program 64
pitches craft.
Program 64
pitches craft.
(All LMs had a potentially fatal bug.)
Program 66
steadies
thrust vector.
Program 66
steadies
thrust vector.
(Early LMs had a
nearly fatal bug.)
The AGC is interesting,
but why study it?
The AGC
was barely
possible.
Few believed it
could ever be
dependable.
Yet, it was.
How?
Careful,
pragmatic
and empirical
engineering.
The techniques
developed for
the AGC are in
use today.
The past…
The past…
The past…
The past…
informs our present.
We sit inside of
a great project.
The techniques
that we develop
today…
are the
foundation
of the future.
So build something
fucking amazing.
Thank you!
<3
BIBLIOGRAPHY
•The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture
and Operation Frank O’Brien
•Journey to the Moon: The History of ...
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
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The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer

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The Apollo Project was the first flight system to deploy with a digital, general-purpose computer made of integrated circuits at its core: the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). It was a complete research project: no IC computer had run consecutively for more than a few hours, sophisticated programming techniques were unknown and the interactive human/computer interface had to be invented and made to appeal to astronauts opposed to machine interference in flight operations.

In this talk I'll give the historical context for the AGC, discuss its initial design and the evolution of this design as the Apollo Project progressed. We'll do a deep-dive on the machine architecture and note how tight integration with a special-purpose vehicle admitted incredibly sophisticated behaviour from a primitive machine. We'll further discuss the human/computer interface for the AGC, how the astronaut's flight roles dictated the computer's role and vice versa. Motivating examples from select Apollo flights will be used.

Throughout, we'll keep an eye on lessons to be gleaned from the experience of engineering the AGC and how we can adapt these lessons to modern computer systems in mission-critical deployments.

Publicada em: Tecnologia, Software
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The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer

  1. The Charming Genius of the Apollo Guidance Computer
  2. This is the Earth
  3. This is the Moon
  4. This is the Earth This is the Moon 405696km
  5. Apollo is carried into orbit by the three stage Saturn V.
  6. System checks happen in LEO.
  7. Final stage boosts Apollo into Free Return orbit.
  8. M oon 405696km Trans-lunar Injection
  9. Free Return Orbit
  10. This is Apollo.
  11. Space travel is a tricky business.
  12. Orbital paths are a narrow balance of accelerations.
  13. Too little, you miss your goal.
  14. Too much, you miss your goal.
  15. The guidance control system of a spacecraft must answer three questions:
  16. 1. Which way is up? 2. Where am I? 3. Where am I going?
  17. Apollo has triply redundant means to answer these questions.
  18. Deep Space Network
  19. Global network of long-range radar stations.
  20. High Gain Antena
  21. Celestial Navigation
  22. High Gain Antena Telescope
  23. High Gain Antena TelescopeSextant
  24. Mission timed star charts.
  25. Celestial Navigation
  26. Dead Reckoning
  27. Inertial Guidance
  28. Three gimbals save weight.
  29. Gimbal lock is the tradeoff.
  30. Celestial Navigation Dead Reckoning
  31. The Apollo Guidance Computer integrates all of these systems.
  32. It also is the fly-by-wire control computer.
  33. It also manages both the analog and digital displays.
  34. It does this with:
  35. five interrupts,
  36. 1MHz clock,
  37. 16-bit words,
  38. 2048 words RAM,
  39. 36K words ROM,
  40. and 17 registers.
  41. It weighs 70lbs.
  42. It is 1 meter3 .
  43. It draws 55 watts.
  44. Real Time Computing Complex
  45. AGC is a digital computer.
  46. There have been others.
  47. It’s the first to use Integrated Circuits.
  48. Core-rope memory is used as well.
  49. One of the first interactive computers.
  50. DiSplay & KeYboard
  51. DSKY
  52. Allows AGC to give fast updates to Astronauts.
  53. Allows astronaut running of select programs.
  54. What is the computer doing back there?
  55. 10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950 TIME2 TIME1 TIME3 TIME4 TIME5 TIME6 AGC Interrupts, 1sec
  56. 10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950 TIME2 TIME1 TIME3 TIME4 TIME5 TIME6 AGC Interrupts, 1sec } Mission Time
  57. 10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950 TIME2 TIME1 TIME3 TIME4 TIME5 TIME6 AGC Interrupts, 1sec } Wait List
  58. 10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950 TIME2 TIME1 TIME3 TIME4 TIME5 TIME6 AGC Interrupts, 1sec } Wait List T4RUPT
  59. 10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950 TIME2 TIME1 TIME3 TIME4 TIME5 TIME6 AGC Interrupts, 1sec } Wait List T4RUPT Digital Autopilot
  60. 10050 150 200 250 300 3500 400 450 500 600 700 800 900 1000550 650 750 850 950 TIME2 TIME1 TIME3 TIME4 TIME5 TIME6 AGC Interrupts, 1sec } Wait List T4RUPT Digital Autopilot Fine Scale Clock
  61. TIME3, TIME4 and TIME6 are programmable.
  62. Nowadays, we would call the AGC a “priority-scheduled real-time embedded” computer.
  63. Priority Scheduling
  64. Priority Scheduling (Invented for the AGC)
  65. Priority Scheduling Two tables exist for jobs in the AGC.
  66. Priority Scheduling Waitlist •<4ms execution
  67. Priority Scheduling Waitlist •<4ms execution •9 task limit
  68. Priority Scheduling Waitlist •<4ms execution •9 task limit •basic instructions
  69. Priority Scheduling Waitlist •<4ms execution •9 task limit •basic instructions •no rescheduling
  70. Priority Scheduling Waitlist •<4ms execution •9 task limit •basic instructions •no rescheduling •no Executive
  71. Executive?
  72. The AGC software provides two operating abstractions.
  73. Executive • low-level routinesOperating Abstractions
  74. Executive • low-level routines • system restarts Operating Abstractions
  75. Executive • low-level routines • system restarts • supervision Operating Abstractions
  76. Executive • low-level routines • system restarts • supervision • keeps CoreSet Operating Abstractions
  77. Priority Scheduling CoreSet •12 task limit
  78. There’s nothing to stop the CoreSet from filling up.
  79. Most invariant guarantees are left to analysis and testing.
  80. Priority Scheduling CoreSet •12 task limit •priority ordered
  81. Priority Scheduling CoreSet •12 task limit •priority ordered •20ms interrupt
  82. Priority Scheduling CoreSet •12 task limit •priority ordered •20ms interrupt •option to use Interpreter
  83. Interpreter?
  84. The native instructions available from the AGC are very primitive.
  85. AGC word-size of 15 data bits has insufficient accuracy for spaceflight.
  86. Interpreter Operating Abstractions • high-level routines
  87. Interpreter Operating Abstractions • high-level routines • rich instruction set
  88. Interpreter Operating Abstractions • high-level routines • rich instruction set • extra-wide words
  89. Interpreter Operating Abstractions • high-level routines • rich instruction set • extra-wide words • radically simpler programming
  90. Free Return Orbit
  91. Capture Braking
  92. Capture Braking
  93. Lunar Orbit
  94. Up to this point, loss of the CM computer hasn’t been abort- worthy.
  95. Different matter for the LM.
  96. The LM computer is absolutely essential to a controlled landing on the Moon.
  97. Program 63 fires LM engines.
  98. Program 63 fires LM engines. (Routine in AGC source is BURNBABY.)
  99. Program 63 fires LM engines. (Apollo 11’s CoreSet overflowed here.)
  100. Program 64 pitches craft.
  101. Program 64 pitches craft. (All LMs had a potentially fatal bug.)
  102. Program 66 steadies thrust vector.
  103. Program 66 steadies thrust vector. (Early LMs had a nearly fatal bug.)
  104. The AGC is interesting, but why study it?
  105. The AGC was barely possible.
  106. Few believed it could ever be dependable.
  107. Yet, it was.
  108. How?
  109. Careful, pragmatic and empirical engineering.
  110. The techniques developed for the AGC are in use today.
  111. The past…
  112. The past…
  113. The past…
  114. The past…
  115. informs our present.
  116. We sit inside of a great project.
  117. The techniques that we develop today…
  118. are the foundation of the future.
  119. So build something fucking amazing.
  120. Thank you! <3
  121. BIBLIOGRAPHY •The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation Frank O’Brien •Journey to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Guidance Computer Eldon C. Hall •Stages to Saturn Roger E. Bilstein •How Apollo Flew to the Moon W. David Woods •Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight David A. Mindell

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