in All Things Localization

When you hear localization in space, it is easy to imagine a situation like 2024’s Dune Part Two, in which culturally informed communications help connect people and societies from across the galaxy. In the reality of space travel, however, translation and localization play a major role in a mission’s success far before contacting otherworldly life. As the 1999 crash of the Mars Climate Orbiter demonstrated, without correct and verified data localization, a successful launch can quickly turn into a catastrophic failure. Considering the current space sector developments that fuel the race for commercial launch supremacy, localization may become the factor that dictates who takes a great leap for mankind and who is left on the tarmac.

Failure to Orbit: How a lack of verified oversight crashed the spaceship.

Despite NASA’s years of planning and millions of dollars spent on the Mars exploration program, a simple instance of miscalculation and miscommunication sealed the fate of their 1999 Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO). This error occurred because the spacecraft’s navigation software, calibrated in metric units, clashed with the contractor, who provided the thrust propulsion data using imperial units. Although such basic conversions are likely covered in most high school physics classes, a failure of verified oversight led to the error going undiscovered. Instead of its designated orbit around the planet, the MCO lost contact with mission control and ground station and instead plummeted to the Martian surface.

Image of lost 1999 MCO via NASA

Corporate competition for launch supremacy in the new space race.

Since this failure, NASA and other groups in the Aerospace industry have incorporated various internal validation and verification (V&V) procedures. These internal processes ensure that a simple miscalculation does not lead to another catastrophe. In the current age of private launch companies, however, new challenges are brought by the internationalization of space and the global demand for satellite placement. Due to improving technologies and decreasing launch costs, companies like Space X and Relativity Space are competing to acquire a growing number of federal and international contracts to put satellites into orbit. In this new age space race, launch companies are competing to see who can make the biggest rocket. This rocket arms race of rocket size aims to achieve the lowest cargo cost per kilogram in order to corner the international satellite market, as seen in Space X’s Starship megarocket and Boeing’s Starliner.

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Click the image above to watch Space X’s Starship on Flight 4.

Localization as an additional booster without rockets?

As was proven by the failure of the 1999 MCO, correct localization is critical to successful space travel. Despite the procedural lessons learned from this disaster, the new space race poses various questions as to whether internal V&V processes are enough. With satellite cargo from around the world, it is easy to imagine that a simple weight or size miscalculation could delay any given launch, or even cause a catastrophic failure. Due to the growing number of multinational satellite contracts, verified localization of all communications and data is critical to a launch company’s survival in this competitive field. Considering the limited number of US government contracts, it is crucial that launch companies capture the attention of the international market. For this international outreach, marketing with correct and accurate translations with an emphasis on subject matter expertise can be the difference maker in attracting clientele from any cultural or scientific background.

How CSOFT International can help launch the next space age.

CSOFT is a leading software localization and certified translation provider with V&V processes throughout our vigorous quality assurance standards, including ISO 17100, ISO 9001, and ISO 13485 certifications. We believe that localization services, at the intersection of technology and communication, can enable the global community to collaborate on projects that will change the world as we know it. Whether searching for Planet Nine or simply placing satellites in orbit, the localization of space travel will doubtlessly enable the next chapter of human discovery. While scientists around the world are still searching for unknown worlds, a select few can join us at CSOFT’s 2024 Summer Soiree: A Transformative Social Evening to Planet Nine

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