Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing and Understanding in Space: Four ESA Case Studies

The European Space Agency is well known as a powerful force for scientific discovery in numerous areas related to Space. The amount and depth of the knowledge produced throughout the different missions carried out by ESA and their contribution to scientific progress is enormous, involving large collections of documents like scientific publications, feasibility studies, technical reports, and quality management procedures, among many others. Through initiatives like the Open Space Innovation Platform, ESA also acts as a hub for new ideas coming from the wider community across different challenges, contributing to a virtuous circle of scientific discovery and innovation. Handling such wealth of information, of which large part is unstructured text, is a colossal task that goes beyond human capabilities, hence requiring automation. In this paper, we present a methodological framework based on artificial intelligence and natural language processing and understanding to automatically extract information from Space documents, generating value from it, and illustrate such framework through several case studies implemented across different functional areas of ESA, including Mission Design, Quality Assurance, Long-Term Data Preservation, and the Open Space Innovation Platform. In doing so, we demonstrate the value of these technologies in several tasks ranging from effortlessly searching and recommending Space information to automatically determining how innovative an idea can be, answering questions about Space, and generating quizzes regarding quality procedures. Each of these accomplishments represents a step forward in the application of increasingly intelligent AI systems in Space, from structuring and facilitating information access to intelligent systems capable to understand and reason with such information.


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