Monday, 15 June 2015

The vision and metaphor of Autonomic Computing aims to apply the same principles of self-regulation and complexity-hiding as are embodied in the human autonomous nervous system[1] to the design of computer-based systems.  This vision of creating self-managing and self-directing systems has become mainstream in both the academic and industrial research community under the Autonomic and Autonomous Systems (and related) initiatives and is seriously under consideration for specific applications such as the software needed to run space missions.


[1] IBM’s Paul Horn likened the needs of large scale systems management to those of the human autonomic

nervous system (ANS)  - Autonomic computing: IBM perspective on the state of information technology. In AGENDA’01, Scottsdale, AR, 2001.

Problem Being Solved

This project will develop an autonomic element to provide self-management. 

The project will also develop a pulse-beat monitoring element geared specifically towards space software applications.  This will provide information on the health and activity of the environment, both internal systems environment and external operating environment.

An autonomic environment requires the self-managing elements to communicate with each other regarding their various self-activities and environmental conditions.

An Agile software development approach will be utilized to develop a suite of ‘middleware’ - in this context software that enables communication and management of data in distributed applications - to implement the generic autonomic element to provide self-management; the pulse-beat monitoring element and a communications protocol for the self-managing elements to enable an autonomic environment.

The project’s work with NASA clearly reinforces the expectation that the space systems of the future will increasingly embody self-managing systems and that suppliers to the space sector will embrace new development approaches to enable these autonomous systems to deal with complexity and uncertainty.  


New approaches to spacecraft design have been proposed to tackle increasing constraints on resources, and greater focus on reducing the cost of operations.  NASA, and ESA are now seriously considering the use of adaptive operations and moving towards almost total on board autonomy in certain classes of mission.

NASA is considering, particularly for missions to deep space, where manned craft cannot currently be sent, the use of almost wholly autonomous decision-making to overcome the unacceptable time lag between a craft encountering new situations and the round-trip delay (of upwards of 40 (Earth) minutes) in obtaining responses and guidance from mission control.

Customer needs

An important step towards meeting the emerging needs of space agencies for autonomous systems would be the development of software middleware and libraries based on the conceptual methodologies and techniques for the development of such self-managing systems that the project has devised.

Potential customers & early adopters

While the space agencies like NASA and ESA are the ultimate customers the potential routes to market are more complex.

The project considers three possible routes to market:

·         granting an exclusive license to the SPAAACE-Ware IP (patents & PoC software libraries) to an NI or other organisation;

·         using SPAAACE-Ware IP to underpin an NI start-up business;

·         sell & support (non-exclusive licences of) SPAACE Ware IP to developers of space solutions.  

Competitors & products

there are currently no competing products in the market.  

While some commercial software houses like Singularity of Derry (now Kofax) have developed what they describe as ‘autonomic’ IT operations management systems, they are not as advanced in concept as the technology embodied in this proposal. 

That said, there is much research activity around the world in autonomic computing and autonomic communications (though not necessarily for space applications).  There is work in the UK and Ireland at Imperial College London, UCD Dublin and the University of Limerick.  In France there is relevant research at the University of Troyes and in Italy at Modena & Reggio and Trento Universities.



More and more space missions will, and must, incorporate this ‘autonomicity’ as well as autonomy, and the Autonomic Computing initiative has been identified as having potential to contribute to NASA’s and ESA’s goals of autonomy and cost reduction in future space exploration missions.


Opportunity/Partnership Sought

Room 16J05
School of Computing and Mathematics
University of Ulster
Jordanstown campus
Shore Road
Co. Antrim
BT37 0QB