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2011 Award Winner

On June 27th, 2012 the Inventions and Contributions Board (ICB) considered presentations from Software of the Year (SOY) nominees and selected the winners on June 28th in a video conference conducted from NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. The SOY Medallions will be presented to the winners via ceremonies at their respective Centers.


Award Title:

AEGIS: Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science

Lead NASA Center:

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)


The Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science System (AEGIS) provides automated targeting for remote sensing instruments on the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, which currently has two rovers exploring the surface of Mars. Prior to this invention, targets for rover remote-sensing instruments, especially narrow field-of-view instruments (such as the MER Mini-TES spectrometer or the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mission ChemCam Spectrometer), had to be selected manually based on imagery already on the ground with the operations team. AEGIS enables the rover flight software to analyze imagery onboard in order to autonomously select and sequence targeted remote-sensing observations in an opportunistic fashion. AEGIS enables onboard selection of science targets by analyzing rover imagery locally and using target preferences dictated by scientists in advance. AEGIS also provides automated targeting of remote sensing instruments by re-targeting these instruments onboard at newly selected science targets. No other onboard mission software provides automated targeting capabilities for rover science activities. It is also directly applicable to future rover missions such as the 2011 MSL rover mission and the planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) rover mission.

Runners Up

  • Robonaut2
    • The R2 software has been refining how robots interact with humans and aide them in a safe and effective manner. High-level goals were laid out in the beginning, and further refined as the software matured. This more flexible design approach focuses on iteration and testing over the up-front rigid definition of requirements. R2 did not start as a flight project. Without the overhead of the processes associated with current flight projects, software development was very fast and efficient. Quality of the end product was because continuous iteration and testing, as opposed to making sure all the requirements were detailed perfectly up front.

Honorable Mentions


  • C-MAPSS40K
    • C-MAPSS40k was developed under the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) Aviation Safety Program’s (AvSP) Integrated Resilient Aircraft Control (IRAC) project Fast Engine Response (FastER) task. The FastER research effort required access to a realistic baseline simulation of the type of engine on commercial airliners, one that had the necessary characteristics to allow meaningful algorithm development to be accomplished. Thus special attention was paid to creating a controller that corresponds to those on modern jet engines, and modeling the stall/surge margin to ensure that it was accurately represented in transient operation. This work carried over to the new AvSP Vehicle Systems Safety Technology (VSST) project, where the modeling effort is being extended to high inlet distortion and off-nominal operation for vehicle upset prevention and recovery. This will enable the development of feasible propulsion control approaches to meet the needs of the AvSP, which would not have been possible without C-MAPSS40k.
  • CDEM C/D
    • This terrain avoidance technology will enable applications in the general aviation community and may prevent up to 100 fatalities per year. The compression algorithm enables the use of TCAS on the F22.
    • DAPS is comprehensive software to control the LaRC’s coherent Doppler lidar system. In order to control the lidar system before DAPS, one had to control each hardware component one at a time using the manufacturer’s software. Now users can control all components of data acquisition hardware in DAPS.
  • SCPD
    • The tool represents a new paradigm in materials testing by providing new enabling technologies. For example, surface crack growth rates to be measured directly. In initial studies, the tool improves system resolution by a factor of 15 and improves system sensitivity by as much as a factor of 6. The tool facilities are a technically superior means of controlling the tests that was not possible prior to this software. The tool reliably and predictable allows the test operator to setup the test, which increases the throughput rate of successful tests and reduces the number redundant tests. The tool delivers a more accurate physical model for surface crack growth that is not available in NASGRO, NASA's current fatigue crack growth tool, producing more accurate engineering analysis. When coupled with the appropriate data acquisition and control system, the software tool allows for the first time at NASA, for surface crack tests to be performed automatically without operator intervention. A complete account of these new technologies is documented in the enclosed NF1329.
  • SensorWeb
    • The SensorWeb software performs data acquisition, product generation, and product delivery for small missions. By automating many functions and more tightly integrating with the users modeling, the SensorWeb (1) lowers the cost of data, (2) lowers latency for data delivery, (3) enables integration of models into data acquisition decision-making, and (3) makes it easier to use data by delivering products not raw data.
  • STAR
    • STAR is a planning, scheduling, and training administration system that is discipline and individual-centric rather than team-centric. STAR has also unified and standardized this entire area of operations. This allows for greater worker productivity, reducing organizational costs and increasing work-flow efficiency. In the old legacy TAMS paradigm, a client-server model minimized the availability of the system to a subset of users for the majority of functions and provided only the reporting functionality to the broader community. With STAR, state-of-the-art, user-friendly scheduling, planning, training administration and reporting functions are brought to the entire user community.