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The Orbital Space Ontology & Terminology/Taxonomy Project

Knowledge Modeling for Space

Welcome to the description page for the Orbital Space Domain Ontology & Terminology Project, by Robert Rovetto (rrovetto[at] I want to help build ontologies for space organizations and academia projects. I want my ontologies to be used and developed.

- I need an opportunity (sponsorship, employment, or studentship) to continue development -
I want this to be a PhD, but I need to find professors interested in it, as well as mentors.
Open to partners & collaborative development. Interested persons or organizations should contact me.

In the meantime, please Donate Here or Become A Patron Here so development can continue. (This has been independently pursued in author’s own time, based on publications below)

Project Detail Description
Goals - Semantically-rich computational ontologies for orbital objects (spacecraft, debris, etc.), space situational awareness (SSA), spacecraft operations, space traffic management (STM), and applications thereof.
- To help resolve the orbital debris problem by using these ontologies to faciliate the exchange of orbtial debris data, aiming to provide great situational awareness of the orbital space environment.
- To serve as upper or domain reference ontologies</strong> for other space ontologies to use as a foundation
- To provide a common knowledge model (and shared vocabulary) across federated SSA databases and space object catalogs to achieve: data sharing, integration, search & retrieval; semantic interoperabiltiy; classification; etc.
- To computationally and conceptually represent knowledge of SSA and spacecraft
- The philosophical & formal analysis (and clarification) of fundamental orbital and astrodynamic concepts.
- To use fomral methods to address/resolve orbital debris and SSA space policy issues.
- Yet unknown positive applicaitons
Scope To ontologically model: orbital debris, SSA, STM, the orbital & near-Earth space environment, and astronautics. This includes: orbital concepts, satellites and other space objects (and their parts), spacecraft maneuvers and operations, astrodynymic models, observational data, and thus orbital debris ontology (1)(Rovetto, ESI 2015) (PPT Presentation here , (2)SSA ontology(Rovetto & Kelso, 2016)
Status NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development. Currently unfunded and independently pursued by author. Ontoogies subject to revision. No claims to completeness are made.
Seeking / Needing -Funding or employment to pursue this project. Please DONATE HERE
- Partners: university departments, professors; subject-matter experts, ontology developers, informaticists, computer scientistis, etc.
- Potential applications of these ontologies in space agencies, university projects, or industry
-Author seeks a degree studentship for this project (toward a BS or MS in a space discipline; and/or a PhD in ontology, philosophy, or interdisciplinary dept.)


Ontology Name Description Link to OWL File Status
The Orbital Debris Ontology (ODO) An ontology of orbital debris objects and their properties. See publications/reference (1 ),(8) (Contact Author)
Near Future: the ODO OWL file will be located at
NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development.
Seeking funding & partners.
The Space Situational Awareness Ontology (SSAO) An ontology of the SSA domain, minimally of activities yielding knowledge of orbital space environment. See pub/ref. (2) (Contact Author)
Near Future: the SSAO OWL file will be located at
NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development
Seeking funding & partners. Possibly renaming to the Orbital Space Environment Ontology(OSO).
Orbital Ontology Core (“The orbitology ontology”) (OO) A generic base ontology containing the core orbital terms used by ODO, SSAO and other terms. A general-purpose ontology to ontologically model any orbit from inputted instance data (data on particular satellites). Will be importable into other ontologies needing orbital concepts. TBD NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development.
OSO/OSDO/OSEDO - The Orbital Space Ontology / Orbital Space Domain Ontology / Orbital Space Environment Ontology A single ontology file containing the above modules. The SSAO may be renamed accordingly. A generic formal represenation for the orbital space aboat any central body or astronomical reference frame. TBD NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development.
The Space Mission Ontology An ontology of space mission design and system concepts. A module to focus on the mission-level, but which draws on concepts from other modules, such as spacecraft ontology. TBD NEEDs funding or opportunity to develop. Seeking partners.
The Space Traffic Management Ontology An ontology of STM concepts. TBD NEEDs funding or opportunity to develop. Seeking partners.
The Orbital Object Ontology An ontology of all objects and their parts in orbit TBD NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development. Seeking partners.
The Spacecraft/SpaceSystem Ontology An ontology of spacecraft and their systems and parts TBD NEEDs funding or opportunity to continue development. Seeking partners.
The Union of Concerned Scientists Satellite Database Ontology (UCSSO) A database-specific ontology for the UCS Satellite Database . Uses terms from the other ontologies to demonstrate reuse. Preliminary version complete, but subject to revisions when/if requested by users or the UCS.




The following publications were unfunded, independent work, and not associated with any of my past or present affiliations.

Author Bio

Robert J. Rovetto, (Ontologist, Philosopher, Aspiring student), Google Scholar

History & Context

Orbits and orbital concepts have fascinated me since I was in my teens. In 2011 I thought of applying ontology to help with the orbital debris problem(1), after a astronautics conference presentation in Boulder, Colorado mentioned the need for more debris data-integration and sharing. My idea was to (i) facilitate data sharing/integration so that greater actionable knowledge & awareness of the orbital debris environment can be achieved, as well as to (ii) formally and ontologically model orbital concepts, while also addressing any relevant philosophical questions. After some years pursuing a path away from my orginial love of space, I saw this as a way to return to it, applying what I had studied, continuing my space education, and ideally finding a space career-path.

I want to help build ontologies for the space sector (space orgs., agencies, academia or university projects, space companies, etc.). I want my ontologies to be used by space orgs. I want to learn astrodynamics and any necessary coding skills through a studensthip or employer-funded opportunity. I want to work in a team environment so that I can learn from professionals in the repsective disciplines (astrodynamics, astroinformatics, systems engineering, computer science, knowledge engineering, etc.). But I need to find professors interested in this project (and appropriate departments that will accept my non-stem degree) so I can return to university to get a PhD or other degree (e.g., philosophy, an interedisciplinary program, systems engineering, information studies, etc.). Since 2011 I’ve wanted this project to be a PhD thesis and an opportunity for further space education toward a foot-in-the-door to my original passion–space–and to serve at NASA (or another space org.). This is part of my hopeful vision for a future degree on a space or astronautics topic, and a career in the space sector.

Unfortunately, no opportunity has been forthcoming. I’ve been struggling to find opportunties for this project since conception. Red-tape and my non-stem degrees have been obstacles, despite the fact that many of cohort with identicially backgrounds/degrees were afforded opportunity. Ontology is interdisciplinary and many projects use ontologists from non-STEM background to work on STEM topic areas. Relevant technical skills can and often are learned on the job. Negative experiences of being plagarised and treated poorly created a sense of urgency to realize my project (a work of love, and a life aspiration). This drove me to write and publish at my expense and prematurely. I need and have needed a stable environment to develop my ideas sutainably and toward a mature state. Given my creativity and drive, I need to find professionals who see my potential and would either like to help me realize my project, or afford me the opportunity to work on a related project.

If you are interested in helping realize this project, please contact me.

About Ontology

Computational ontologies are computer-readable terminologies/taxonomies with a formally-specified semantics. The terminologies are encoded in a language that allows computers to draw inferences and answer user-generated queries. Ontologies offer a knowledge model and a shared vocabulary for software applications to draw from and reason over. Ontology class terms (and formal definitions) provide semantic annotation for database terms, which provides meaning to data that users can access. Ontologies can be developed to varying degrees of abstraction and formality, from the highly generic to the domain-specific, from a set of terms in OWL to a full axiomatic theory of a terminology or taxonomy/classification.

Ontology development & engineering is related to aritifial intelligence (AI), informatics, information & data science, linked-data, big data, the semantic web, knowledge graphs, and database management. They are part of the branch of AI known as knowledge engineering. Aims of ontologies include: knowledge representation & reasoning, domain modeling, semantic interoperability, data-exchange, information fusion, data-mining, and data search & retrieval. Having philosophical origins, concepts, distinctions and methodologies from philosophical and formal ontology may or may not be used in contemporary computation ontology. Formal ontology is a branch of analytical metaphysics that uses formal logics to represent an ontological model.


Copyright (c) Robert J. Rovetto 2011-2019. Contact author with questions, and opportunity offers.