Could artificial intelligence help rockets launch themselves? With greater automation, rockets would be capable of self-checking for problems, self-diagnosing, and hopefully, fixing minor pre or post launch issues.
"So far, rockets are merely automatic. They are not artificially intelligent," said Yasuhiro Morita, a professor at Institute of Space and Astronautical Science at JAXA, Japan's aerospace organization.
However, according to Morita, the Epsilon launch vehicle - tentatively scheduled for a 2013 launch - is slated to include a whole new level of automation.
Currently, modern rockets have some elements of automation, for example, sensors can alert engineers of malfunctions but can't do much to alert them what type of problem it is or what type of solution is needed.
But in the future?
"The AI will diagnose the condition of the rocket, but it is more than that," Morita said. Should there be an issue, "the AI system will determine the cause of a malfunction," and potentially fix the problem itself.