“It’s beginning to show a lot of promise,” said Dr. Steve Cornford, Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior engineer. “As Model-Based Systems Engineering [MBSE] is used more frequently to do Systems Engineering work at NASA, it’s imperative for other disciplines to integrate with the MBSE methodology and underlying language elements.”
MBSE is the formalized application of modeling to support system requirements, design, analysis, verification and validation activities beginning in the conceptual design phase and continuing throughout development and later life cycle phases. MBMA, one of MBSE’s complimentary activities, is the integration of assurance considerations with the emerging MBSE paradigm.
The Office of Safety and Mission Assurance Model-Based Mission Assurance (MBMA) Program has been driving the effort to fully embrace MBMA at NASA. Led by the MBMA Program, a group of Safety and Mission Assurance professionals from across the agency is building the framework to make this effort a reality.
In various pockets throughout NASA, groups are moving forward with the concept of MBMA. In an effort to unite and expand these focused innovators, MBMA leaders have been meeting with SMA professionals across the agency at an annual MBMA workshop, hosted by the NASA Safety Center. During the two-day workshop, participants discuss the vision, application, outreach and implementation of MBMA. The focus of this year’s workshop was developing use cases for the various SMA activities.
“We see lots of enthusiasm among the participants,” said Cornford. “There appears to be momentum and we want to keep it going.”
During the most recent workshop in May, participants provided updates on progress made over the past year, including those within the MBMA Program; discussed a longer-term vision and next steps for the MBMA Community of Practice; developed real-world use cases in four SMA areas — Quality Assurance, Reliability and Maintainability (R&M), Software Assurance, and System Safety — during different phases of a project life cycle; discussed tools available at NASA and how to obtain them; and explored next steps in integrating with other related efforts.
Workshop participants spent a majority of the time developing high-level use cases relevant to their SMA discipline areas and writing them in a discipline-neutral format in order to standardize and define the language and terms used in MBMA.
“After some time, the groups came together again to discuss and critique the use cases,” said Sean Beckman, Quality Assurance engineer and MBMA workshop organizer at Glenn Research Center. “It turned out to be a good way to define our jobs. We’re creating the foundation for modeling our processes, activities and processes.”
The MBMA group is using these use cases to systematically look at both interactions and opportunities for further integration between SMA and engineering.
“The use cases are a valuable way for different disciplines to meet in the middle,” said Cornford. “We need a clearer understanding of where SMA overlaps with System Engineering, and use cases provide a way for SMA discipline experts to capture a lot of their knowledge without knowing SysML. Furthermore, SysML modelers can implement the frameworks for these use cases without knowing the SMA discipline.”
Cornford and Beckman both feel that there is a lingering fear of the unknown from practitioners and existing tool vendors. The group’s goal is to keep researching and gathering information about MBMA to ease the hesitation.
The MBMA community plans to meet monthly to discuss program progress starting in June 2019. The workshop summary document is available on the MBMA Community of Practice (CoP).
Influence of Enterprise Digital Transformation Initiatives
While MBMA activities are underway, agency leaders have also been asking all organizations to create solutions that enable seamless data flow and collaboration across centers as part of the agency’s Digital Transformation activities. As part of this agency wide effort, NASA leadership identified Model-Based X (MBx), or “model-based everything seen everywhere,” as one of the key strategic thrust areas where specific vision and implementation plans are being developed to address goals and milestones for the next two and five years, respectively.
“Moving forward, our immediate need is to leverage and integrate grassroots MBMA/MBSE activities with those of the agency’s Digital Transformation (DT) strategic MBx thrust activities,” said Tony DiVenti, R&M technical fellow and OSMA DT working group representative.
DiVenti worked with Dr. John Evans, MBMA Program manager, who was instrumental in pulling together several early-win proposals from the MBMA and MBSE communities, including the elaboration of SMA use cases that were submitted to NASA’s DT Virtual Office for prioritization and potential funding in Fiscal Year 2020. DiVenti has also been asking questions to help address unknowns (e.g., what does success look like from an agency perspective) in order to develop a DT MBx strategic implementation plan that encompasses MBMA.
While centers are creating different implementations for MBMA, the challenge remains on how to bring these implementations together in the form of enterprise solutions that function across all areas. For this to work, DiVenti believes that the MBSE/MBMA/MBx Programs will need to create standards and decide on a plan that works across projects, disciplines, mission directorates and centers. Another consideration is finding a tool that can interface with factors outside of the model.
“I think we need to come up with some agreements to have seamless flow across the agency,” said DiVenti. “There are challenges in getting to the next level and it’s a culture change.”
The MBMA Program welcomes anyone interested in this effort. To contribute to the CoP or join the group, contact Beckman. For more information, visit the MBMA web page.