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NASA's Manned Spacecraft Computers

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129462D
Original Publication Date: 1985-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 14 page(s) / 57K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JAMES E. TOMAYKO: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Many people believe that NASA's extensive use of computers has kept the agency at the forefront of computer development. This study evaluates the hypothesis in regard to computers used on board manned spacecraft. The results show that NASA's contributions to computer science were made primarily in the areas of software verification and fault tolerance, and that overall, NASA has adopted proved technology for manned spaceflight operations. This technology is consistently behind the state of the art in terms of hardware, but the continued use of older technology in manned spacecraft is not necessarily a negative development. The computer power used in the Apollo, Gemini, and shuttle programs has been sufficient for the requirements of the missions. Most important, reliability has been ensured.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1985 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

NASA's Manned Spacecraft Computers

JAMES E. TOMAYKO

  (Image Omitted: © 1985 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the AFIPS copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that the copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Author's Address: Department of Computer Science, Campus Box 83, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS 67208. Figure 3 was provided by the author. All other illustrations are courtesy NASA. Figures 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 are taken from the Data Processing System (Hardware and Systems Software) Workbook used for crew training. © 1985 AFIPS 0164-1239/85/010007-018

NASA's Manned Spacecraft Computers

JAMES E. TOMAYKO .00/00)

Many people believe that NASA's extensive use of computers has kept the agency at the forefront of computer development. This study evaluates the hypothesis in regard to computers used on board manned spacecraft. The results show that NASA's contributions to computer science were made primarily in the areas of software verification and fault tolerance, and that overall, NASA has adopted proved technology for manned spaceflight operations. This technology is consistently behind the state of the art in terms of hardware, but the continued use of older technology in manned spacecraft is not necessarily a negative development. The computer power used in the Apollo, Gemini, and shuttle programs has been sufficient for the requirements of the missions. Most important, reliability has been ensured.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K. 2 [History of Computing] -- hardware, software, systems. General Terms: Design, Management Additional Key Words and Phrases: Apollo, Gemini, NASA, shuttle.

Introduction

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has used a wide variety of computing equipment to accomplish its mission since its formation in 1958. Any study of its technical accomplishments is invariably a study of the application of computers. The decade of the 1960s was the period of the "space race," when landing a person on the moon was a national goal, and NASA had large budgets and widespread support. The space race, for some people, seemed like a competitive substitute for a war with the Soviet Union.l1 The Russians had caught the United States by surprise when they sent the first artificial satellite into orbit in 1957 and the first man into space in April 1961. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy

1 1 In an interview published in the March 20, 1983, editio...