Software holds key to space mission success

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Space exploration missions to the deepest realms of our solar system will increasingly need sophisticated and reliable computer software if they are to succeed. While rocket power gets spacecraft into space, it's the software that really makes them earn their keep. That was the conclusion of a roundtable discussion hosted by LogicaCMG in the Space Pavilion on day one of the show.

Powerful

Pat Norris, business development manager for LogicaCMG says: "The computer aboard the Apollo 11 mission only had a few kilobytes of memory, but today's spacecraft, like the Cassini-Huygens probe currently in orbit around Saturn, are a thousand times more powerful.

"Finding out that your software doesn't work once you are half a billion miles from your computer is not the best way forward. New software can be uploaded from earth, but if it does take an enormous ground station and a lot of patience."

LogicaCMG says the answer lies in using specialist development engineers, an existing kernel upon which the mission specific software can be built and writing software that meets internationally approved standards.

The company developed all the software for the Huygens probe central computer system that will control the stages of the descent and landing on Christmas day, 2004 when the probe separates from Cassini and dives into the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

LogicaCMG has also written software for the Rosetta, Mars Express, Beagle 2 and Hipparcos missions.