Semantic technology company TopQuadrant announced today that NASA is using its semantic application platform, the TopBraid Suite, to “model, organize, integrate and exchange data” within the NASA Constellation Program. The goal of the NASA Constellation Program, announced in 2004, is to explore the solar system – starting with a return to the Moon and ultimately aiming to explore Mars and other destinations.

Part of the reason NASA is using TopQuadrant is to reduce operational costs and shorten development cycles. For past space programs, according to TopQuadrant, NASA relied on traditional technologies like relational databases to store the design and operational information for launch vehicles, spacecraft and missions. Now though, semantic technologies are enabling “rapid changes in large, complex and distributed data systems,” such as NASA’s.

TopQuadrant is a Semantic technologies company that has customers in Fortune 1000 corporations in retail, pharmaceutical and other industries; as well as government agencies in the areas of defense, intelligence and airspace. The company’s TopBraid Suite is a platform for developing semantic applications, featuring a graphical application assembly toolkit and end-user tools to explore data. The company claims that “users can rapidly assemble, deploy and manage dynamic ontology-driven applications built with the W3C SemanticWeb standards, including RDF/S, OWL and SPARQL.”

The Constellation Program appears to be using Semantic technology in a couple of main ways. One is for collaboration purposes, as a means of managing information for diverse groups across the program – including engineers, technicians, operators and managers. Another is to “manage and execute planned and unplanned information changes within a multitude of systems over the duration of the Program, which is expected to continue for 30-40 years.”

NASA is using TopBraid to develop and manage NExIOM, a.k.a. the NASA Exploration Initiatives Ontology Models. According to TopQuadrant:

“NExIOM formalizes the way machines and people specify NASA Exploration systems, elements of their Scientific and Engineering disciplines, related work activities, and their interrelationships in the Enterprise. Through the use of model-based knowledge representations and controlled vocabularies information is intelligible and actionable to machines, applications, and people. Information can be reliably found, associated, aggregated, and reasoned over to generate products and inform decisions within and across diverse organizational groups and application domains.”

TopQuadrant has been working with NASA on ontologies for aerospace engineering since 2002. Ralph Hodgson, CTO of TopQuadrant, said that “few enterprises have the scale requirements of the Constellation Program due to its lifecycle extent.” He noted, though, that semantic technology has the same benefits for NASA as it does for all enterprises: improving data quality and extending its longevity, facilitating information flow, and addressing legacy application problems.

For more on Semantic technologies in the Enterprise, see our post Enterprises, Struggling to Manage Your Data? Try The Semantic Web.

richard macmanus