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Conference on Systems Engineering Research 2013

Addressing Societal Challenges with Next-Generation Systems!

Keynote - Day Three

Ann Devereaux

Friday, March 22
8:00am - 9:00am, GLC 236

Landing Curiosity: SE Challenges for NASA's Newest Martian

Presentation Slides pdf

Abstract: On Aug 5, 2012, NASA/JPL landed the most advanced planetary exploration rover yet: Curiosity. At 3m long, 900 Kg, and carrying 10 times the payload mass of previous rovers, Curiosity is providing us with a unparalleled opportunity to investigate the ancient flood plains and terraced highlands of Mars. As many other previous projects have found, however, the road to the Red Planet is full of pitfalls. Original concepts included much larger rovers, different landing systems, two individually controller manipulator arms, and various launch dates. In addition, Curiosity herself was really three completely different missions combined - an interplanetary cruiser, then atmospheric maneuvering vehicle, and finally surface explorer. A mitigating - and contributing - factor to this complexity was how much of the system capabilities where defined in re-programmable flight software.

Prime system engineering challenges for the Project, then, included managing the evolving system capabilities in both hardware and software domains and developing test campaigns that covered both existing hardware and simulated environments and events. The culmination of this effort was being able to certify that the system design had adequate risk retirement to justify the Project investment, both prior to launch and again prior to landing. The system engineering challenges of Curiosity, and the assessment of residual risk from this process, are especially relevant as JPL begins the development of a Curiosity-analog rover for a planned 2020 launch.


Ann Devereaux worked on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover project in delivering the UHF relay radios, becoming lead system engineer for the flight system and fault protection, and finally serving as deputy lead for the Entry, Descent and Landing team. An electrical and RF communications engineer by training, with many years of technology development and hardware/software deliveries under her belt, she has made the transition into systems engineering through the venerable school of hard knocks. Currently, Ms Devereaux is the deputy manager for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Systems and Software Division, as well as reprising the lead flight system engineer role for the new 2020 rover.

Founded By

University of Southern California
Stevens Institute of Technology

Associated Event

SEANET Doctoral Student Workshop
March 19th, 2013

Sponsored By:


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