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Cooperation between European Space Agency and Lero

by Michael Stal on Aug 19, 2011 |

As announced on 18th August 2011, the Irish Software Engineering Research Center  (Lero) has signed a €300.000 contract for a research project with the European Space Agency (ESA). Goal of the research activities is to provide a solution framework for future space missions.

The research team comprises experts from the University of Limerick (UL) and the Trinity College Dublin (TCD). In their research, as Dr. Andreas Butterfield from TCD explains, the researchers are undertaking

an effort to explore the feasibility of developing a software framework that would allow all the scientific experiment and flight control software to be safely isolated from one another, so that failure of one component cannot lead to the failure of others

In the resulting software framework called  “Secure Separation Kernel” formal verification will be applied, instead of relying on intensive testing only.

According to Paul Hinchey, lead of the team at Lero,

We at Lero and the ESA are delighted to be working together on this important research project. The awarding of the contract is a further sign of the impact that Lero has made in software engineering research on a global scale. We look forward to a successful outcome for this project.
Modern space research missions are critically dependent on complex software for their success: flight control software; software tailored for each specific scientific experiment carried aboard a spacecraft; and the operating system software that manages everything. The correctness of all of this software is of crucial importance as a failure in one component could jeopardise the correct behaviour of the rest, and vast amounts of time and money are spent on the verification of their functioning.

In the group by the University of Limerick the researchers, lead by Dr Goetz Botterweck, will provide modeling languages and tools in a product line engineering approach to foster re-use across multiple space missions.

The European Space Agency is currently heavily investigating on Autonomous Components, the ESA is using traditional development methods but has experiences shortcomings in terms of process and quality. Dr. Emil Vassev from the University of Limerick will help ESA developers

properly express AC requirements, model components or entire systems implementing such requirements, and implement and test autonomous components.

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