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Open-Standard Software Helps Operate James Webb Space Telescope

Rational Rose Real-time visual modeling development software
IBM
Armonk, NY
914-766-1362
www.ibm.com/software/rational

Set to launch by 2013, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to study galaxy, star, and planet formation in the universe. Nearly 20 years ago, when the components and instruments on the HST were developed, software was built by multiple organizations using proprietary software for systems development. This approach meant that maintenance, changes, and repairs made to components and instruments required multiple tools. Because separate space agencies from several countries around the world are developing the software that will operate the JWST’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) systems, Command and Data Handling (CNDH), and the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) that houses the JWST’s four primary instruments, it was imperative for NASA to weave a common thread throughout the project that would circumvent expensive and time-consuming software issues.

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A fully functional, 1/6th scale model of the JWST mirror in the optics testbed.

To address this challenge, 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 blueprint for the entire multi-decade project, allowing the developers of the various systems to “drag and drop” software code directly into the blueprint where it is then automatically available across the entire project.

Rational Rose Real-time continually verifies project quality along each step of the development process — including code generation, testing, and debugging — so that systems development stays on course and without error. This enables the various space agencies working on the JWST to communicate and deliver reliable code on time.

NASA will continue to use IBM Rational software to maintain the JWST after launch and throughout the life of the mission. Additionally, the UMLbased 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.

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