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Mission Data System

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MDS Overview

The Mission Data System (MDS) is a set of methodologies and technologies for the design and development of control system applications — including large distributed systems, and systems-of-systems applications. It was originally designed for spacecraft control, but has broad applicability to many fields of endeavor, wherever complex control issues arise.

MDS technologies include:

  • Canonical control system architecture grounded in established control system ontology and principles
  • A companion model-based control systems engineering methodology, called State Analysis, for developing and documenting requirements and other design artifacts
  • Software framework libraries that complement the MDS State Analysis methodology and the canonical architecture, simplifying the implementation of software applications based on these patterns.
  • A schema and collaborative database tool for capturing State Analysis artifacts

The MDS Approach

Systems engineers have typically described software systems differently from their software engineering peers, and this frequently leads to incomplete or ambiguous communication. However, software engineering and systems engineering remain highly interdependent. Systems engineers must understand what the system must do (and document this understanding in the form of system specifications), while software engineers must design how the system will do it (and realize the design in implemented software artifacts). As an ever-increasing element of system design, this relationship has become quite problematic.

MDS confronts this growing interdependence between systems and software engineering with a more integrated approach to engineering complex systems. The MDS architecture provides the means for software engineers and systems engineers to communicate through a common language, and thus bridges the traditional gap between software requirements and software implementation. State Analysis augments this architecture with a principled methodology for developing and specifying system capability in terms defined by the architecture, and the MDS frameworks, embodying the architecture, simplify the translation of these specifications into software implementation. As a result, software engineers and systems engineers share a common model-based approach to defining, describing, developing, understanding, verifying, validating, operating, and visualizing what systems do. The net result is systems that are more reliable, cost-effective, and reusable.

As mentioned above, although the architecture patterns were first envisioned for use in space systems, they are widely applicable to other fields. They are particularly suitable for systems having complex interactions and dynamics, which must continue operating in the presence of failures and other unpredictable events.

+ Read More about the motivations and goals of the Mission Data System

Contact Information

Kenny Meyer

M/S 301-225
4800 Oak Grove Dr.
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099

Bob Rasmussen

M/S 301-225
4800 Oak Grove Dr.
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099


All MDS Framework artifacts and State Analysis artifacts except for source code and object code have been designated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as Technology and Software Publicly Available (TSPA). Copyright 2005. The copyrights and patents related to this technology are owned by Caltech. United States Government sponsorship acknowledged.


CL 07-3583