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NASA Eyes Open Standard Software for Next-Generation James Webb Space Telescope


ARMONK, NY - 19 Jan 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using IBM software to develop the software and systems that will operate the James Webb Space Telescope. The Next Generation Telescope which will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope will look much closer to the beginning of time and hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies.

The Telescope, expected to be launched by 2013, will study galaxy, star and planet formation in the Universe. In order to study how the very first stars and galaxies formed in the early Universe, NASA will look 'back in time' and deep into space using light time to travel from the present to the past. To study the earliest star formation in the Universe, NASA will observe infrared light, using special instruments optimized to capture this part of the spectrum.

Nearly 20 years ago when the components and instruments on the Hubble Telescope were developed, software was built by multiple organizations using proprietary software for systems development. This approach meant that maintenance, changes and fixes to components and instruments made required multiple tools. Over the life of the mission HST developed software tools to resolve most of these issues.

Because separate space agencies from several different countries around the world are developing the software that will operate the Telescope's Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) systems, Command and Data Handling (CNDH), and the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) that houses the four primary instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope, it was critical for NASA to weave a common thread throughout the project that would circumvent expensive and time consuming software issues.

To address this hurdle, NASA mandated that each agency develop their systems using open standards-based software from IBM. The software, called IBM Rational Rose Real-time, is a UML-based visual modeling development software that acts as a blue print for the entire multi-decade project, allowing the developers of the various Telescope systems to "drag and drop" software code directly into the blue print where it is then automatically available across the entire project.

Rational Rose Real-time helps these systems developers write applications faster without compromising quality. The IBM software continually verifies project quality along each step of the development process -- including code generation, testing, debugging and ongoing changes -- so that systems development stays on course and without error. This allows the many space agencies working on the James Webb Space Telescope to be more productive and able to deliver reliable code on time -- meeting broader project requirements and industry compliance regulations. Some of the agencies working on the Telescope are also using IBM Requisite Pro, IBM Rational ClearCase and IBM Rational ClearQuest which allows them to synchronize changes within their globally dispersed project teams resulting in faster innovation.

"It was important that NASA be forward-looking with the James Webb Space Telescope by using a systems development platform that would be reliable and ahead of the market throughout the extensive life of the mission," said Glenn Cammarata, ISIM Flight Software Development Lead, Satellite Software Corporation, a contractor for NASA. "Since it's based on open standards, the consistent and unified nature of the IBM software architecture helps curtail any problems that might present themselves down the road. Rational Rose Real-Time software was the right choice for the critical nature of the James Webb Space Telescope. The software is much easier to manage and maintain pre and post launch."

NASA will continue to use IBM Rational software to maintain the Telescope after the launch and throughout the life of the mission. Additionally, the UML-based approach allows NASA to create a standard architecture for this mission, while its reusable nature will allow it to be deployed on additional missions moving forward.

"Integrated systems development, whether for a national treasure like the James Webb Space Telescope, or for aircraft or automobile design, is a highly complex process of analysis, design, implementation and maintenance," said Daniel Sabbah, general manager, IBM Rational Software. "IBM software takes the chaos out of the project by applying governance and control to the systems development process, allowing organizations like NASA to deliver projects on time, and meet compliance regulations while protecting against expensive unforeseen software issues."

Contact(s) information

Leigh Ann Schmidt
IBM Rational Software
914-766-1362
leighanns@us.ibm.com

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