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High-Confidence Software and Systems (HCSS)

Advances in software and systems reliability are required to support NASA’s human spaceflight and robotic exploration missions. The ARC Office of the Center Chief Technologist (CCT) has established the High-Confidence Software and Systems (HCSS) Initiative to develop innovative, enabling software and systems technologies for the engineering, verification, validation, safety assurance, and certification of next-generation exploration systems. This initiative will investigate the state-of-the-art and gaps in HCSS technologies applicable to future human and robotic space missions. It will augment the Technology Roadmaps, particularly TA04: Robotics, Telerobotics, and Autonomous Systems, and TA11: Modeling, Simulation, Information Technology and Processing, with a focus on seamless integration of computational intelligence, communication, control, sensing, actuation, and adaptation with robotic, vehicle, and life-support systems to ensure high-confidence, optimally performing systems that are essential for effectively operating life-, safety-, security-, and mission-critical applications.

Software faults often arise due to the interaction between the software and the operational environment. Unanticipated environmental events and changes lead to software anomalies that may have mission-critical impacts. Because software is ubiquitous, it is not sufficient that errors are detected and mitigated after they occur. Rather, software must be instrumented and monitored to predict and respond to potential failures before they happen. This prognostic capability will yield safer and more dependable systems, especially for long-duration exploration missions. The HCSS Initiative addresses the motivation, needs, and requirements of software health management as a new discipline.

Software Health Management (SWHM) is concerned with the development of tools and technologies to enable automated detection, diagnosis, prediction, and mitigation of adverse events due to software anomalies. Significant effort has been expended in the last several decades in the development of verification and validation (V&V) methods for software intensive systems, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is not enough to guarantee that a complex software system meets all safety and reliability requirements. Modern software systems can exhibit a variety of failure modes which can go undetected in a verification and validation process. While standard techniques for error handling, fault detection and isolation can have significant benefits for many systems, it is becoming evident that innovative technologies and methods are necessary for the development of techniques to detect, diagnose, predict, and autonomously mitigate adverse events even with software that has undergone expensive and time-consuming verification and validation procedures.

Software systems must be capable of interacting correctly, safely, and securely with humans and the physical world in changing environments and unforeseen conditions. In many cases, they must be provably dependable. The vision is to realize software-dependent systems that are precise and efficient; meet real-time response requirements; work in dangerous or inaccessible environments; provide large-scale, distributed coordination; and augment human capabilities. New science and technology are needed to generate these systems cost-effectively with computing, communication, information, and control pervasively embedded at all levels. The next generation of software and system technologies will enable entirely new classes of system designs that can enhance performance, while reducing the cost and risk of space exploration.

Expected Outcomes and Benefits

  • Efficient, automated flight-software generation capabilities
  • Innovative and agile tools for ground data systems design and implementation
  • Rapid prototyping of communication and control systems
  • Reduced mission costs and risks related to software
  • Increased capability to verify that software systems meet relevant V&V requirements
  • Education and Outreach: training a new generation of software engineers and computer scientists, with ancillary benefit to aerospace and defense industries and the commercial sector
  • National visibility for NASA as a partner in leading-edge multi-Agency efforts

Download the HCSS Overview: here

A.N. Srivastava & J. Schumann, The Case for Software Health Management, IEEE Fourth International Conference on Space Mission Challenges for Information Technology (SMC-IT), 2-4 Aug. 2011.(http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=6007769)