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Launching/monitoring multiple nodes with Launch

ROS 2 launch system

The launch system in ROS 2 is responsible for helping the user describe the configuration of their system and then execute it as described. The configuration of the system includes what programs to run, where to run them, what arguments to pass them, and ROS specific conventions which make it easy to reuse components throughout the system by giving them each different configurations. It is also responsible for monitoring the state of the processes launched, and reporting and/or reacting to changes in the state of those processes.

The ROS 2 Bouncy release includes a framework in which launch files, written in Python, can start and stop different nodes as well as trigger and act on various events. The package providing this framework is launch_ros, which uses the non-ROS-specific launch framework underneath.

The design document (in review) details the goal of the design of ROS 2’s launch system (not all functionality is currently available).

Writing a ROS 2 launch file

If you haven’t already, make sure you go through the quickstart tutorial on how to create a ROS 2 package. One way to create launch files in ROS 2 is using a Python file, which are executed by the ROS 2 CLI tool, ros2 launch. We start by creating a ROS 2 package using ros2 pkg create <pkg-name> --dependencies [deps] in our workspace and creating a new launch directory.

Python Packages

For Python packages, your directory should look like this:

src/
    my_package/
        launch/
        setup.py
        setup.cfg
        package.xml

In order for colcon to find the launch files, we need to inform Python’s setup tools of our launch files using the data_files parameter of setup.

Inside our setup.py file:

import os
from glob import glob
from setuptools import setup

package_name = 'my_package'

setup(
    # Other parameters ...
    data_files=[
        # ... Other data files
        # Include all launch files. This is the most important line here!
        (os.path.join('share', package_name), glob('launch/*.launch.py'))
    ]
)

C++ Packages

If you are creating a C++ package, we will only be adjusting the CMakeLists.txt file by adding:

# Install launch files.
install(DIRECTORY
  launch
  DESTINATION share/${PROJECT_NAME}/
)

to the end of the file (but before ament_package()).

Writing the launch file

Inside your launch directory, create a new launch file with the .launch.py suffix. For example my_script.launch.py. Your launch file should define the generate_launch_description() which returns a launch.LaunchDescription() to be used by the ros2 launch verb.

import launch
import launch.actions
import launch.substitutions
import launch_ros.actions


def generate_launch_description():
    return launch.LaunchDescription([
        launch.actions.DeclareLaunchArgument(
            'node_prefix',
            default_value=[launch.substitutions.EnvironmentVariable('USER'), '_'],
            description='Prefix for node names'),
        launch_ros.actions.Node(
            package='demo_nodes_cpp', node_executable='talker', output='screen',
            node_name=[launch.substitutions.LaunchConfiguration('node_prefix'), 'talker']),
    ])

Usage

While launch files can be written as standalone scripts, the typical usage in ROS is to have launch files invoked by ROS 2 tools.

After running colcon build and sourcing your workspace, you should be able to launch the launch file as follows:

ros2 launch my_package script.launch.py

Example of ROS 2 launch concepts

The launch file in this example launches two nodes, one of which is a node with a managed lifecycle (a “lifecycle node”). Lifecycle nodes launched through launch_ros automatically emit events when they transition between states. The events can then be acted on through the launch framework. For example, by emitting other events (such as requesting another state transition, which lifecycle nodes launched through launch_ros automatically have event handlers for) or triggering other actions (e.g. starting another node).

In the aforementioned example, various transition requests are requested of the talker lifecycle node, and its transition events are reacted to by, for example, launching a listener node when the lifecycle talker reaches the appropriate state.

Documentation

The launch documentation provides more details on concepts that are also used in launch_ros.

Additional documentation/examples of capabilities are forthcoming. See the source code in the meantime.