German Space Agency honors GSSE for digitalization initiative

Date: 04 May 2023

Left to right: René Kleeßen and Dr. Arianit Preci, DLR, together with Dr. Ralf and Dr. Rainer Gerlich, GSSE Dr Rainer Gerlich and Dr. Ralf Gerlich from the SME “Dr. Rainer Gerlich System and Software Engineering” (GSSE) located at Immenstaad, Germany were honored by René Kleeßen, Director of Organization and Infrastructure at the German Space Agency at DLR, for their contributions to the digitalization of German space community at the conference “Digitalisierung der Raumfahrt “ (Digitalization of German Space Landscape) held on May 4th, 2023 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

In the summer of 2017, the recipients took the initiative to make clear the importance of software technology for space applications and thus strengthen the software skills and competitiveness of companies in Germany, especially when considering that other countries recognized the opportunities of digitalization earlier and do invest more in this area.

"Software is key to ensure the functionality of space devices," explains computer scientist Dr. Ralf Gerlich. “Errors are almost completely inacceptable – failures cannot be rectified directly and there may be no other flight opportunities or they are expensive. We are also observing the trend that space software has to take on more and more complex tasks. This is one of the reasons why we need methods and tools that are adapted for space in order to be able to develop and test these functions at reasonable costs.”

Since it was founded, GSSE has been dealing with the automation of development processes, primarily for software, with which complex and high-quality software can be generated practically at the push of a button. With this long experience, the company recognized a need to improve software development practices.

GSSE therefore contacted companies, universities and research institutes in Germany involved in software development for spacecrafts, thereby founding the "Space Software in Germany" initiative. A position paper, which was handed over to the agency at the beginning of 2018, and a workshop in 2019 followed, each showing the possibilities and needs of software technology in space. Since 2021 the German space agency has a specialized group for "Digitalization, Software and Artificial Intelligence" (“Digitalisierung, Software und KI”, DiSoKI).

A clear signal came from the agency to support the activities for digitalization in space.

For GSSE, an interim goal has been reached by above first steps, but there is still a lot to be done to ensure that the German space industry remains competitive in software technologies. Therefore, GSSE will stay engaged for software technology, ensuring – among other aspects – that space software engineering is suffiently considered in the coming strategy on space currrently being established by the German federal government.