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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Versant Object Database for ESA's Herschel Observatory

via PRNewswire

FREMONT, Calif., Nov. 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Versant Corporation(Nasdaq: VSNT), an industry leader in specialized data management and datapersistence software, today announced that Versant's Object Databasetechnology will be used to store critical data within the Science GroundSegment of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Herschel Observatory.

ESA's Herschel Space Observatory consists of the largest telescope everput in orbit (3.5 m diameter) with a complement of 3 instruments capable ofrecording radiation in the far infrared and sub-millimeter regime of theelectromagnetic spectrum. With launch currently planned for mid-2007, thissatellite will, after a coasting phase of several months, be stationedapproximately 1 million miles from the Earth at a location called the secondLagrange point in the Earth/Sun system and transmit data to Earth for a periodof up to 4 years. The radiation emitted by astronomical objects in thewavelength regime in which the instruments are sensitive ranges from SolarSystem Objects nearby (planets, their moons, asteroids) to the most distantobjects known in space (galaxies that formed more than 10 billion years ago).Some of this data, which provides valuable clues about stellar formation andthe molecular composition of the universe, will be stored in a number ofsynchronized object databases.

Since 2001, ESA -- and the nationally funded instrument teams across Europe that provide the Herschel instruments -- have used Versant's product totest and characterize the instruments in the laboratories of the PrincipalInvestigators and their associated institutes. Over the years, these teamshave come to appreciate the underlying object-oriented database technology,which allows complex, networked data to be accessed in a manner that promisesto be superior to the way in which we access data in more conventional,relational database systems today: Instead of fixed keywords -- metadatadescribing a few dozen previously agreed aspects to characterize each set ofstored data -- associations between data objects can now be used to navigatethe database and the data can be accessed directly from within the database.

"On previous ESA missions, the teams in charge of in-flight instrumenthealth assessment, calibration, and performance had to use a multitude oftools to search for and extract critical data from files," says Dr. Johannes Riedinger , Development Manager of the Herschel Science Centre atESA's Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, NL. "Compared tothese previous projects we now have at our fingertips a tool which couldsignificantly reduce the time we need to retrieve and put into contextessential data. To confirm that the spacecraft and instruments are operatednear their optimum settings we need feedback from the Instrument ControlCenters. We believe that this technology will reduce the time it takes us tofeed back these improved parameter settings to the on-board instruments forupcoming observations. We have been told by the national instrument teams thatthis technology will help them to lower the threshold in correlating data toenvironmental influences. In this way we hope to optimize the quality of thedata and the efficiency with which the data is taken to increase thescientific return from the mission."

"The Versant database will be home to observations astronomers throughoutthe world will propose to carry out with the Herschel observatory," continues Dr. Riedinger . "It will host the observation schedules generated from theseproposals, it will contain the instrument commands uplinked to the spacecraft,and it will permanently store the telemetry received when these observationrequests are executed. This telemetry constitutes the data the scientists needto derive and correct for trends in instrument behavior within a few days ofan observation being made."

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