Traditionally, instrument command and control systems have been developed specifically for a single instrument. Such solutions are frequently expensive and are inflexible to support the next instrument development effort. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is developing an extensible framework, known as Instrument Remote Control (IRC) that applies to any kind of instrument that can be controlled by a computer. IRC combines the platform independent processing capabilities of Java with the power of the Extensible Markup Language (XML). A key aspect of the architecture is software that is driven by an instrument description, written using the Instrument Markup Language (IML). IML is an XML dialect used to describe graphical user interfaces to control and monitor the instrument, command sets and command formats, data streams, communication mechanisms, and data processing algorithms.
The IRC framework provides the ability to communicate to components anywhere on a network using the JXTA protocol for dynamic discovery of distributed components. JXTA (see http://www.jxta.org) is a generalized protocol that allows any devices connected by a network to communicate in a peer-to-peer manner. IRC uses JXTA to advertise a device?s IML and discover devices of interest on the network. Devices can join or leave the network and thus join or leave the instrument control environment of IRC.
Currently, several astronomical instruments are working with the IRC development team to develop custom components for IRC to control their instruments. These instruments include: High resolution Airborne Wideband Camera (HAWC), a first light instrument for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA); Submillimeter And Far Infrared Experiment (SAFIRE), a principal investigator instrument for SOFIA; and Fabry-Perot Interferometer Bolometer Research Experiment (FIBRE), a prototype of the SAFIRE instrument, used at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO). Most recently, we have been working with the Submillimetre High Angular Resolution Camera IInd Generation (SHARCII) at the CSO to investigate using IRC capabilities with the SHARC instrument.