Architecting Apollo: Systems Design Lessons from the Golden Age of Spaceflight

Room 3
19:20 - 20:20

Talk (60 min)

The earliest crewed spaceflights, including the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, were some of the earliest instances of software being responsible for life-or-death decisions. While various aspects of the software and systems design could be considered outdated by modern standards, many of the core principles and design choices are directly relevant to the systems we build today.

This talk dives into several of the disasters and near-fatal accidents of early crewed spaceflight, including Gemini 8 and Apollo 11, and focuses on the system design choices that either led to or averted catastrophe. Topics include fail-open vs. fail-closed design, recoverable software, process prioritization, levels of autonomy, and designing for human intervention.

Kyle Kotowick

Dr. Kyle Kotowick is the founder of a Canadian consulting and development firm focusing on cloud infrastructure, security, and Internet-of-Things implementations for high-growth clients. He completed his Ph.D. in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, joint with the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has served as a consultant, systems architect, and developer for global firms, startups, and universities; as a Lead Engineer for the Government of Canada; and as a researcher for military navigation systems and for life support systems in space. He specializes in working with both startups and enterprise clients to define requirements and explore possible solutions, as well as in leading the development of project architecture, cloud services, and back-end software.