March 31, 2023

Rust at Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre

Rust at Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre
NLR, Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre, invited embedded lead Dion to explain the benefits of programming in Rust to the company.

Naturally, we were all excited and Dion was happy to oblige! He gave an online presentation on 12 January 2023 to roughly 40 employees of NLR, in which he explained what Rust is all about.

The presentation

He began by explaining the origins of the language and gave an overview of the strenghts of Rust:

Slide Why Rust?

This was of course followed by a technical overview, a short comparison to C and C++, an honest answer to the question 'Why NOT Rust?' and the meat of matter:

  • syntax
  • ownership, moving & borrowing
  • examples of the excellent compiler feedback
  • traits and generics
  • enums
  • the available tools
  • FFI and C
  • the interface ("Easy to use, hard to misuse.")

Dion's slides are available here.

Fun fact

A member of the audience asked Dion if there are any satellites currently running on Rust and in fact, there is at least one. Since the SpaceX launch of 3 January 2023, French company Gama has had a test satellite in orbit that runs largely on Rust software (not so coincidentally written by Dion himself).

Gama and Rust enabling deep space

Cybersecurity for the space industry

So why were we jumping at the chance to present Rust to Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre? As Dion also explained in his presentation (and as is common knowledge for Rustaceans, i.e. people who already use Rust), two of the main benefits of Rust are its inherent memory-safety and type-safety, and it is a small leap from there to security by design. It seems obvious, to us at least, to consider using Rust whenever security is a concern and the space industry is no exception; If anything, it should be at the forefront of the adoption of Rust. As a company who have enthusiastically been using Rust for our own projects for years, we are very happy to have had the opportunity to illustrate this view to the NLR engineers.

Incidentally, Wouter will be making the same case at CYSAT, in a joint presentation with Gama. CYSAT is a conference in Paris on 26-27 April 2023, the biggest European event entirely dedicated to cybersecurity for the space industry. If you're interested in the pros and cons of using Rust in the space industry, consider attending and come talk to us.

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