Space mission architects are often challenged with knowing which investment in technology infusion will have the highest return. Certification-based analysis (CBA) gives architects and technologists a means to communicate the risks and advantages of infusing technologies at various points in a process. Various alternatives can be compared, and requirements based on supporting streamlining or automation can be derived and levied on candidate technologies.

CBA is a technique for analyzing a process and identifying potential areas of improvement. The process and analysis products are used to communicate between technologists and architects. Process means any of the standard representations of a production flow; in this case, any individual steps leading to products, which feed into other steps, until the final product is produced at the end. This sort of process is common for space mission operations, where a set of goals is reduced eventually to a fully vetted command sequence to be sent to the spacecraft. Fully vetting a product is synonymous with certification. For some types of products, this is referred to as verification and validation, and for others it is referred to as checking. Fundamentally, certification is the step in the process where one insures that a product works as intended, and contains no flaws.

Candidate technologies are evaluated against a potential area of improvement using criteria such as risk, adaptation cost, adaptation time, reduction in cost, reduction in duration, reduction in risk, and maintainability. Where risk and maintainability are acceptable, and gains in either cost or duration outweigh adaptation costs, then the technology is deemed a suitable candidate. For many technologies, especially artificial intelligence technologies, certification of a technology implies the certification of the process (or process step) that the technology is used for, as compared to certifying the product (using a separate process, which, for space applications, is often manual). Certifying the process, and not the product, is the key tenet of CBA.

This work gives specific direction to architects on what operations can be allowed that are not usually allowed in modifying/designing architecture with respect to technology transfer. This work applies to any production process in general, but specifically it is being applied to spacecraft operations design, planning product production, and stowage product production.

This work was done by Russell L. Knight of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47692

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Certification-Based Process Analysis

(reference NPO-47692) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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