PO Box 1412, Radford, VA 24143  Phone (540) 639-5001 

Past Projects

Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV)

As part of NASA's Beyond Earth exploration program, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will serve as the primary crew vehicle for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Orion will carry crew safely to and from space, providing safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The MPCV will be capable of conducting in-space operations like docking, rendezvous and extra-vehicular activity, and can serve as a backup system for cargo and crew delivery for the International Space Station.

MSIS provides analysis of requirements and test plans in support of NASA's Independent Verification and Validation, and helps to improve system and software safety, reliability and quality for the MPCV program.

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft and its rover Curiosity were launched in November 2011. The mission pioneered precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity inside Mars' Gale Crater on August 5, 2012.

While Curiosity's planned mission life is just one Martian year (about two Earth years or 98 weeks), its radioisotope thermoelectric generator power source could extend the life of the rover well past the base mission life. Curiosity is analyzing the environment and soil of Mars to assess habitability potential.

The science instruments carried by Curiosity yield a total mass 15 times as large as the payloads on earlier Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. At one ton, Curiosity was too heavy for airbags to cushion its landing, so MSIS' aerospace engineers helped NASA develop and test a rocket-powered descent stage that successfully lowered the rover on tethers as the rocket engines controlled the speed of descent.

MSIS staff supported validation and verification of three MSL Flight Software builds: the Launch-Cruise build, the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) build and the Surface Operations build. The V&V MSL team focused its greatest attention on the System Fault Protection domain, the EDL phase, the Sampling Acquisition/Sample Handling and Processing (SA/SPaH) and Autonomous Navigation (AutoNav) as these four areas were the most critical to the success of the mission. These areas had not been used on any prior NASA missions, which meant that all techniques, hardware and software had to be developed without legacy experience.

Ground-Based Operational Surveillance System (GBOSS(E))

GBOSS(E) is an expeditionary, camera-oriented tool designed to provide 24-hour day/night detection, tracking, and recording capability to disrupt insurgent emplacement and employment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). MSIS provided support as a contractor to URS in Crane, Indiana in the area of software design, development, testing and experimentation for GBOSS(E) until 2010.

GBOSS(E) was designed to provide the Marine Corps with an enhanced version of the Army’s RAID system, providing greater situational awareness and target recognition with the addition of multi-sensor and radar surveillance. GBOSS(E) consisted of commercial off-the-shelf products attached to a tower and could be placed anywhere the USMC needed surveillance. System components included one or more computers, a portable tower, a multi-spectral sensor suite, a ground control station, and a remote ground station which displays and controls all connected ground control stations, related equipment and communications.


Constellation was to be the next generation of Human Spaceflight at NASA, intended to replace the aging Space Shuttle program. It was comprised of three main components: Orion (Crew Exploration Vehicle), Ares I or V (Crew Launch Vehicles), and Altair (Lunar Surface Access Module).

MSIS supported the Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) of Constellation by validating requirement set completeness and quality assessment using design Concept of Operations and software model correlation. The Constellation project was cancelled in 2010 and its funding diverted toward other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observation.

The design for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, however, was carried forward to create the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and MSIS continued on to support IV&V of this new project.

Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM)

The Global Precipitation Measurement Mission is the global successor to the successful Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission, a 1997 joint venture between NASA and JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The mission is now headed by a consortium of international space agencies.

The system is comprised of a network of satellites designed to measure global precipitation such as rain, snow, and ice from space, contributing valuable data related to climate, water cycles, weather and hydrology to multiple research and science arenas.

MSIS supported the NASA GPM project with Flight Software analysis through 2011. The GPM Core Observatory is scheduled for launch in mid-2014.

International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station has roughly the dimensions of a football field, weighs 861,804 pounds, and had over 1.5 billion statute miles on its odometer as of November 2010, its 10-year anniversary of continuous human occupation. Rotating teams of flight engineers have lived and conducted scientific experiments on board ever since the inaugural human expedition in 2000.

MSIS contributed to the IV&V of NASA's International Space Station by verifying and validating all software processes and development for the External Control Zone (ECZ). The ECZ on the International Space Station is responsible for the control and monitoring of all mechanical and fluidic subsystems located on the truss elements inboard of the solar alpha rotary joints.

Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Twin spacecraft launched in the summer of 2003 delivered two Mars Exploration Rovers safely to Mars' surface in January 2004. The second-generation robotic vehicles autonomously traverse the Martian landscape, performing on-site geological investigations in search of clues to Mars' geological past. The scientific instruments they carry include a panoramic camera, a rock abrasion tool, a range of spectrometers, magnets, and a microscopic imager to help identify mineral and elemental content of soil and rocks, providing more data on the influence of water on Martian past.

MSIS personnel worked on a NASA IV&V team responsible for system requirements evaluation and flight software code analysis of MER.

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)

NASA's GOES are geosynchronous spacecraft developed by NASA and operated by NOAA to gather data for weather prediction and tracking, and for solar science research.

GOES 1 was launched in 1975; the latest in the series (GOES 15) was launched in March 2010. Scientific tools on GOES 15 include a multispectral terrestrial imager that produces visible and infrared images of Earth's surface, oceans, cloud cover, and severe storm developments; a multispectral Sounder that provides vertical temperature and moisture profiles of the atmosphere; a solar x-ray imager; and space environment instruments that monitor X-rays, extreme ultraviolet, and particle emissions (including solar protons, alpha particles, and electrons).

MSIS performed life cycle IV&V in support of GOES for the 1) Attitude Control Electronics flight software; 2) Satellite Support Ground System; and 3) System Level (ground to space) elements of the GOES N-Q program.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Launched in August 2005, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter orbited Mars on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. A low altitude orbit allowed MRO to target specific surface areas with a high resolution camera and scan the surface with a multispectral infrared imager and ground-penetrating radar capable of imaging surface features to a depth of several hundred meters. The spacecraft includes the Electra instrument, a relay transceiver that also represents the beginning of NASA’s Interplanetary Communication Network.

MSIS personnel worked on the NASA IV&V team responsible for system requirements evaluation and flight software code analysis for the MRO. The MRO's primary mission concluded in December 2010.

NASA Genesis

Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft Genesis was launched from Kennedy Space Center in August 2001 on a sample and return mission. MSIS supported IV&V of Genesis' flight software. Genesis spent 886 days in a halo orbit, collecting solar wind (material ejected from the outer portion of the sun) for return to Earth in 2004. Genesis samples have provided data leading to several important scientific insights into questions related to planetary materials, or cosmochemistry.

2001 Mars Odyssey

The 2001 Mars Odyssey project mission was to study the thermal dynamics and chemical composition of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. MSIS personnel supported IV&V of software guiding the most critical periods of the mission: the launch and the Mars Orbital Insertion phase.

The successful mission mapped the distribution of many chemical elements and minerals within the martian surface; maps of hydrogen distribution led scientists to discover vast amounts of water ice buried just beneath the surface of Mars' polar regions.

Software Tools

MSIS provided support to NASA's software tools group from 1999 through 2004. MSIS personnel developed the web-based version of the Project Issue Tracking System (PITS) and the Risk Management System (RMS), maintaining both systems and developing upgrades for them. MSIS had the lead technical role in the PITS effort.

MSIS also led the effort to develop a tool for tracking the completion level of IV&V on individual Computer System Configuration Items. In addition, MSIS personnel served on the Quality Assurance testing team tasked with testing other software tools prior to their deployment to the NASA IV&V facility.

Advanced Air Transportation Technology (AATT)

From 2001 to 2004, MSIS supported the Advanced Air Transportation Technology project at NASA's IV&V facility. The project provided automated tools for planning and controlling airport traffic arrival and was designed to eventually replace the previous Arrival Sequencing Program (air traffic control) metering processing. MSIS supported the AATT project by performing requirements extraction, code analysis on C code, and by reverse-engineering the software to develop design documents.

Aegis Weapon System Software Process Improvement

From our inception in 1995 through 2003, MSIS provided support to the U.S. Navy as a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman in the area of software process improvement for the Aegis Weapon System. This included the development of software processes, procedures, standards, and policies; the development and presentation of software training courses specifically designed for the Aegis project at NSWCDD; and conversion of existing courses to support the new web-based training infrastructure.

Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Fire Control System

MSIS personnel analyzed the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Fire Control System software to determine its vulnerability to software sabotage. MSIS performed research into software security methodologies, developed new methodologies for analyzing vulnerabilities, and developed prototype computer programs to detect illicit code. MSIS personnel also developed a methodology for performing a risk assessment and vulnerability analysis called "workflow", which was published in IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) proceedings.

Checkout and Launch Control System

NASA's Checkout and Launch Control System (CLCS) was intended to replace the 1970s-based launch processing system (LPS) used to launch the Space Shuttle. During development of CLCS, MSIS undertook studies that examined the software engineering processes being employed; the adequacy and effectiveness of the project's software measurement efforts; and project compliance to NASA safety standards.

MSIS performed studies based on the CLCS project's software issues database to identify CLCS software code with high error densities. In the area of System Testing, MSIS analyzed system test procedures and test results to determine the adequacy of the testing as it related to verifying system level requirements. MSIS also conducted numerous requirements analyses to determine the adequacy of CLCS project testing at the system test level. MSIS worked on the CLCS project from June 1997 through project cancellation in September 2002.

NSWCDD Aegis Program Office Support

MSIS personnel provided support to the NSWCDD Aegis Program Office by performing background research to produce white papers and technical briefings. MSIS personnel also participated in the generation of the Life Support Engineering Management Plan and associated briefing.


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