Software Safety: Foundations and Experience

Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 6:00pm
Steven Sell, Payload Systems and Edward Lowry

This is a joint meeting of the GBC/ACM, IEEE SIT and IEEE CS.

First Talk: Software and Computer Safety Certification for a Space-Based Telerobot First Speaker: Steven Sell, Payload Systems Inc Abstract: The Ranger Telerobotic Shuttle eXperiment (RTSX) is a revolutionary dexterous telerobotic system designed to perform representative servicing tasks for the International Space Station (ISS) and other orbital assets. NASA's strict safety requirements traditionally prevented the use of a computer as the sole means of preventing or controlling a hazardous condition, but manual or other backup physical control proved impossible for RTSX. NASA and the RTSX team worked in close cooperation to devise standards for software control systems safety and innovative design of a computer-based safety methodology which both adhered to the developing standards and met RTSX research goals. Steven Sell is an aerospace systems engineer and project manager with Payload Systems Inc, a Cambridge firm providing science and engineering services for spaceflight and terrestrial applications since 1984.

Second Talk: Software Simplicity and hence Safety, Thwarted for Decades Second Speaker: Edward Lowry, IEEE, IBM, DEC From a simplicity-of-expression viewpoint, current computer languages are deficient compared to what IBM published over 25 years ago. The paralysis persists. One result is a failure to understand the structure of data objects. This leads to software whose safety is analogous to that of buildings whose architects and builders have never seen a reasonably shaped brick. Ed Lowry did a thesis on software simplification at MIT 40 years ago and continued work on the problem at IBM and DEC. He helped pioneer compiler optimization and multiprogramming. He has authored 2 patents and papers in computer science, physics, and technical education. His website is