Found in Space: $58 million

November 18, 2004

Researchers from the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) have won three grants totaling more than $58 million from NASA.

"They add up to the biggest job in ISI's 32-year R&D history," said Herbert Schorr, executive director of ISI and senior associate dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering, of which ISI is a part.

C. L. Max Nikias, dean of the USC Viterbi School said "these grants illustrate that new space technologies are an increasingly important sector of engineering and economic activity not only for Southern California but for the nation. I'm thrilled that NASA has chosen ISI to be part of this exciting new frontier."

Under the terms of the grants, ISI and subcontracters will develop for NASA technologies enabling the implementation of modular, multifunctional, self-reconfigurable autonomous machinary and systems, automated/intelligent maintenance and logistics, and computationally intensive processors for new generations of space missions.

Competition for the NASA funding was intense, with more than 4000 proposals submitted by hundreds of institutions, including both universities and aerospace companies.

The three successful ISI proposals - from groups led by Wei-Min Shen, Robert Neches, and John Damoulakis - were among only 70 winners, and among the scant 16 awards that went to universities. ISI was the only academic institution to receive three: MIT and Carnegie Mellon won two each.

"This is a phenomenal achievement," said ISI Deputy Director Ronald Ohlander, "and it portends good things for the future."

The three approved projects include Shen's "Modular, Multifunctional Reconfigurable" system for construction and maintenance, Neches' "Coordinated Multisource Maintenance- on-Demand" space logistics system, and Demoulakis' "Fault- Aware, Modular, Reconfigureable Space Processer" control system.

The three projects will be critical in creating mechanisms that can work effectively with minimal human control in highly dynamic situations in space.

ISI will directly receive about half the funding. The rest will be spread among a number of subcontractors including other universities (notably M.I.T.) and aerospace companies (notably Boeing).

All three systems build on computer science areas in which ISI is strong, including artificial intelligence, automated construction, sensor and machine networks and distributed collaborative systems.

Damoulakis and Neches direct ISI divisions, Damoulakis the Integration Sciences Division, Neches the Distributed Scalable Systems Division. Shen is a senior research scientist in the Intelligent Systems Division.

The USC Information Sciences Institute is one of the world's leading research centers in the fields of computer science and information technology, concentrating on developing whole systems. A birthplace of the Internet, ISI currently has more than 300 researchers, graduate students, and staff.