Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science
An institute of the Universities Space Research Association


From Supercomputing to Intelligent Systems

Established 1983

39 years of innovation


Since its inception in June 1983, RIACS has conducted basic and applied research in computer science for the nation’s aeronautics and space-related missions and programs, and a goal of the institute’s research has been to enable a high degree of automation for every aspect of scientific research and engineering.


RIACS’s achievements include numerous published research results that have had lasting effects in their disciplines; seminal firsts related to the application of artificial intelligence to civil space and aeronautics programs; and the infusion and operational sustainment of technological innovations for routine use within NASA. In addition, patented and open source systems pioneered by RIACS have also had impact beyond NASA, including impact on the process of software testing, aerodynamic simulations, autonomous vehicles, and collaborative enterprise applications.


USRA, NASA, and Google establish a joint Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the space agency’s hub to evaluate the near term impact of quantum technologies.


Orbital Communications Adapter Monitoring System (OCAMS) is deployed at International Space Station Mission Control, Johnson Space Center.

Program Management Tool is adopted for agency-wide use by the NASA CFO.

EUROPA, the artificial intelligence planning software used for the Mars Exploration Rover mission, is released as open source.


RIACS staff receives AAAI “Classic Paper” Award as paper deemed most influential 20 years later – Bayesian Classification.

RIACS launches Space Science and Technology video series in partnership with San Francisco Bay Area PBS affiliate KCSM-TV, winning three Telly Awards.


RIACS staff receives NASA Space Act Award for Advanced XML Database Integration Technique for Managing Unstructured Documents (NETMARK).


The voice-enabled procedure browser Clarissa becomes the first spoken-dialogue system to hold a conversation with an astronaut in space.

Project Columbia Supercomputer and CART3D are used in NASA’s Return to Flight efforts.

Java Pathfinder, the first model checker for software testing, is released as open source.


MAPGEN is the first artificial intelligence software to plan the work of robots on another planet.

Project Columbia Supercomputer reaches a sustained 51.9 teraflops making it the fastest production supercomputer in the world.

David Bell serves as RIACS director.


RIACS supports the agency’s verification and validation (V&V) efforts to improve the reliability of software developed at NASA, which in turn reduces the risk of mission failure.

Serdar Uckun serves as RIACS director.


CART3D is named co-winner of NASA Software of the Year Award.

USRA-RIACS and NASA Ames co-chair first community-wide Bio-Info-Nano workshop.

NASA Public Service Medal is awarded to Kathleen Connell for outstanding leadership in the development of broad community, state, and national support of NASA’s life science and astrobiology program.


RIACS begins support of NASA Astrobiology Institute and assisting the Astrobiology Integration Office.

RIACS supports Human Centered Computing in the development of computational modeling tools for simulating how people collaborate, communicate, and work within their environment.


Bayesian Inference and Image Analysis is used to integrate information from multiple sensors such as Earth observation and planetary data.

Collaborative Virtual Environments for Medical and Scientific Imaging is demonstrated between NASA Ames, Stanford University Hospital, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Cleveland Heart Clinic, and the Navajo Nation health clinic.


Remote Agent becomes the first artificial intelligence system to fly onboard a spacecraft and control it in deep space.

The Remote Agent team is honored with the NASA Software of the Year Award.

Collaborative Virtual Environments for Medical and Scientific Imaging is selected as runner up for NASA Software of the Year.

Barry Leiner serves as RIACS director.


RIACS staff receives Best Paper Award, IEEE Automated Software Engineering Conference for “Assumption Generation for Software Component Verification”.

Bob Moore and later Mike Raugh serve as RIACS director.


RIACS staff begins using the Brahms multi-agent language to model team work practices within NASA missions to improve operational efficiency.


RIACS staff begins supporting the NASA Research and Education Network (NREN), chairing and co-chairing annual workshops and technical planning committees, as well as interfacing with the university community.


Autonomous System Architectures facilitates the integration of autonomous components for planning, anomaly detection, diagnosis, resource allocation, and robust execution in spacecraft architectures.

Contractor Excellence Award is received for New Millenium Architecture Prototype (precursor to Remote Agent).


Model-Based learning tools used to automatically analyze spectral data from the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) become the main tools used for this purpose at Marshall Space Flight Center.


RIACS’ Marjory Johnson is one of the coordinators in the establishment of the Bay Area Gigabit Network Testbed (BAGNet).

NASA Ames and Xerox Palo Alto Research Center are first two testbed sites.


RIACS National Software Exchange Project is initiated to support High Performance Computing and Communications Program Software Exchange funded by DARPA, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and NASA.

AutoClass is recognized by NASA, receiving the 1992 Space Act Award.


The NAS Parallel Benchmarks, with RIACS scientists Paul Frederickson and Robert Schreiber among the co-authors, is released and becomes the standard for performance evaluation of parallel computer systems.

Joseph Oliger serves as RIACS director.


NASA Technical Report “Distributed Memory Approaches for Robotic Neural Controllers” is published, examining the suitability of two distributed memory neural networks as trainable controllers for a simulated robotics task.

RIACS’ Roland Freund receives the Heinz-Meier- Leibniz award in applied mathematics from the German Secretary of Education.


AutoClass becomes the first artificial intelligence software to make a published astronomical discovery.

RIACS Director Peter Denning receives the Computer Research Board’s award for Service to Computing Research and the ACM Distinguished Service Award.


The Bayesian Learning Project develops automated technology, based on Bayesian statistical techniques, for discovering general patterns in data.

RIACS Networked Systems, Parallel Systems, and Learning Systems Divisions are formed to facilitate network-based control of complex experiments; push supercomputer performance; and work on artificial intelligence problems, respectively.


"Sparse Distributed Memory" is authored by RIACS scientist Pentti Kanerva and published by MIT Press, Cambridge.

“Automatic discovery of Optimal Classes” is published by RIACS scientist Peter Cheeseman, exploring efficient methods of automatic machine learning.


CRAY-2 Algorithm and Performance Studies begin to examine the interaction between slow massive main memory and fast machine cycle times.

Work begins to improve High Reynolds Number Incompressible Flow around a circular cylinder.

“Numerical Aerodynamic Simulation Program NPSN System Specification for the Extended Operation Configuration (EOC)” is published and approved for Advanced NAS.


Parallel algorithms research expands with the acquisition of an Intel iPSC Hypercube and Sequent Computing supercomputers.

NAS Technical Studies continue in support of the definition, design, implementation, integration, and test activities of the Advanced NAS program, especially the Extended Operating Configuration (EOC) and Graphical Subsystem. Many recommendations get adopted by NAS Projects Office.


Working with Henry Lum, RIACS helps establish an Artificial Intelligence Plan for NASA Ames.

Development work begins on a simulation of the local area network for the International Space Station (LANES).

Dr. Eugene Levin works with NASA on Numerical Aerodynamic System (NAS) Technical Studies for Advanced NAS.


RIACS is founded as a joint collaboration between USRA and the NASA Ames Research Center, after two years of planning under the auspices of the NASA Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology. Initial research focuses on concurrent programming, artificial intelligence, and computational physics.

Peter Denning joins as first director of RIACS.


Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science
615 National Ave., Suite 220
Mountain View, CA 94043