RTG powers online gambling and casino games at Springbok Casino – but what keeps systems running in outer space?

In the online gambling world, RealTime Gaming has some of the finest developers working behind the scenes to ensure that your experience at Springbok Casino runs super smoothly.  Updates to the operating system are done all the time, and if you’re playing in your browser, these might even go totally unnoticed.  You might have to download the latest desktop software every now and then. 

Even so, time is not of the essence, and millions of dollars won’t go up in smoke if you don’t act swiftly.  That is what makes online gambling so appealing – we run on your time!  When it comes to space missions, the same can’t be said…

ESA’s Solar Orbiter Mission

To essentially answer the question “how does the Sun create and control the heliosphere?”, the Solar Orbiter (SolO), developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), was launched on 10 February 2020, at a cumulative cost of US$1.5 billion (factoring in NASA’s contributions). 

Now, if you’re wondering what the heliosphere is, it is, in plasma terms, “the cavity formed by the Sun in the surrounding interstellar medium.”  It is also referred to as the “bubble-like region of space” that surrounds the Sun – and it is continuously ‘inflated’ by plasma, known as solar wind, generated by the Sun.

The US$1.5 billion question that the Sun-observing satellite is set to answer includes taking precise measurements of the inner heliosphere, as well as the emerging solar wind, and to perform close observations of the polar regions of the Sun. 

Performing these calculations from Earth isn’t possible, and it is up to the SoIO to collect the data over its 7-year mission course, which will put the orbiter on a path 10 million km’s closer to the sun than Mercury.  Bear in mind that Mercury sustains temperatures reaching 450°C on the surface facing the sun… So how will the Solar Orbiter be protected from this extreme heat?

Well, this involves an intricately designed heat shield, and a real time operating system (RTOS) developed for the Solar Orbiter by ESA themselves.  It will be a delicate mission, as the heat shield on the SoIO will only protect the part of the probe that is pointing at the Sun, leaving the other sides exposed. 

This is where the RTOS comes to the rescue…  With a 6.5 degree maximum off-pointing from the sun allowed – and any off-pointing that exceeds 2.3 degrees being acceptable for only a brief moment, the RTOS has to rectify the craft’s position, within just 50 seconds!

“Typically, rebooting the platform such as this takes roughly 40 seconds.  Here, we’ve had 50 seconds total to find the issue, have it isolated, have the system operational again, and take recovery action,” says ESA’s head of flight software systems, Maria Hernek. 

So, with the RTOS located in deep space, it needs to be rebooted and recovered in 50 seconds – or the Solar Orbiter, and effectively the US$1.5 billion, will go up in smoke.  Not quite comparable to updating online gambling software and rebooting your device, is it…

Time Matters in Space 

Let’s look at Windows or MacOS – software used by the masses down here on Earth.  The criteria by which we judge these operating systems are fairly simple: the OS’s are required to perform a computation – and as long as the result is correct, the task is deemed a success.  The same applies to Android and iOS if you’re enjoying online gambling on your smartphone. 

On the other hand, to deal with unforgiving deadlines and requirements such as that of the Solar Orbiter mission, the RTOS’s used have other critical criterion – one being that the computation has to be performed correctly, within a strictly specified time. 

When we say that time matters in space, we mean it matters so much that ‘time’, as perceived by a standard clock, is divided into singular ticks, down to milliseconds – and each task must be performed by the RTOS within the precise amount of allocated ticks. 

When it comes to online gambling, you have all the time in the world to load the software, place bets and play at your leisure!  When it comes to space missions however, it could, for example, take three ticks for the sensors to upload data and four ticks to get the engines fired up, etc. 

Any failure to meet the deadline will most likely result in the spacecraft being turned into a fireball, or it being thrown off-course, never to be seen again, i.e. mission terminated.  For this reason, things in outer space must run against a very tight clock. 

Tasks are also assigned according to priority, so tasks with a higher priority will take precedence over others.  This enables the RTOS developers to know precisely what task is going to be performed given any scenario – as well as how much time will be needed to get things done.  This is where another critical criterion comes in – determinism…

In Addition to Time, there is Determinism… 

Determinism is known as cause-and-effect in physics.  We’ve already said that certain tasks on a spacecraft will take precedence over other tasks – but why is determinism such a key factor?  Before we delve into that, we’re going to look at a speed comparison that was performed by EverythingApplePro.  The iPhone XS Max and Samsung S10 Plus went head to head to determine which device would have the fastest processing speed.  Both great devices for mobile online gambling. 

The baseline for the testing was first established – restarting both phones and clearing their cache.  The Samsung could open all the apps in 2 minutes and 30 seconds and the iPhone in 2 minutes and 54 seconds.  The second test simply closed all the apps on both phones and reopened them all without clearing the RAM.

Since the apps were still stored in the RAM, the Samsung reopened all apps in 46 seconds and the iPhone in 42 seconds.  That is an average 2-minute discrepancy!

Why this bit of trivia?  It is to show that neither iOS nor Android is a deterministic operating system – and when it comes to opening online gambling and other apps, it doesn’t matter.  For interest sake though, say the phones had to run on the RTOS’s used aboard spacecrafts – the apps would open in the exact same amount of time, every time, irrespective of the conditions, down to a millisecond… all thanks to causal determinism. 

Space-grade software factors in every process that could potentially affect speed, allowing for precise predictions.  They know exactly what causes what in a given sequence, and so the exact time needed for any given task can be calculated.  A completely predictable real time operating system is critical to perform tasks in space, where time matters!

Enjoy Online Gambling at Springbok Casino where Having Fun is All that Matters! 

Luckily, no one will lose billions of Dollars and nothing will blow up or get lost in space when it comes to online gambling on your Windows or Mac laptop or PC… and having a deterministic OS on your phone won’t affect your experience either.  At Springbok Casino you can fire up the game engines 24/7, 365, play any game, in any sequence, and nothing will be lost if you miss your online gambling session by a tick!