Metadata for the Future of
 Space Exploration

Daina Bouquin

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics



Metadata for the Future of
 Space Exploration

September 7, 1999

This is the only image acquired by the Orbiter.


What does this image mean?

Who would I ask?

Will it ever mean something else?



  This image doesn't mean anything on its own. 

We need context.


We need to know the story about the MCO Mission.
We need to know where this image came from.


People need to be able to learn from it.


Mechanisms for modeling relationships between the information gathered from contextual sources.

Human readable

metadata has limited functionality.


Words mean different things to different people.


Search engines rely on machine-actionable  metadata.


Why does this page come up first?

Why does this search return a knowledge panel? has great metadata.

Wikipedia does too.

We need open, machine-actionable metadata to define and connect
all parts of a mission:







This gives people the context and functionality they
need to learn from past missions.

Making space mission metadata more useful


MetaSat has three primary components:

  1. MetaSat Vocabulary = Lexicon

  2. JSON-LD Example schemas = Semantics

  3. MetaSat Crosswalks = Translations


Our initial scope is SmallSats:

minimal resources means reliance on
past knowledge is even more essential

MetaSat Vocabulary

  • Unique concepts that describe spacecraft, missions operations, ground stations, and more.
  • Concepts can be used for:
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    • Federated search across platforms via APIs
    • Linked data applications
  • Each concept also has a definition, which can be a starting place for people who are unfamiliar the field.


MetaSat Example Files (JSON-LD)

  • Example implementations of the MetaSat vocabulary.

  • Our examples are written in JSON-LD

    • JSON-LD is human-writable and machine-actionable

    • JSON-LD allows MetaSat to interoperate with other vocabularies using @context

These snippets include high-level descriptions of an attitude control system using both MetaSat and

We can identify software and data too.

You can also contextualize papers or bibliographies

(preprint about the spacecraft)

MetaSat Crosswalks

  • A crosswalk is a table of equivalencies for converting metadata from one vocabulary into another.

  • Crosswalks + JSON-LD will allow MetaSat users to combine different vocabularies into a single document, or convert documents into other syntaxes without losing information.

Metadata for the Future of Space Exploration

By Daina Bouquin

Metadata for the Future of Space Exploration

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