The Autonomous Mission Operations (AMO) project conducted a series of formal evaluations of a crew autonomy experiment to take place onboard the International Space Station (ISS) next summer (March - September) during Increments 39 and 40. The experiment will test advanced software and protocols allowing astronauts to operate future spacecraft. ISS crews will use this software to operate a water quality analyzer and monitor onboard crew computers. The evaluation consisted of nine two-hour sessions with astronauts familiar with this equipment onboard ISS; during each session, the astronauts were asked to use the software and provide critical feedback on software design and performance. These sessions were overseen by the AMO Principal Investigator, AMO project staff from the Mission Operations Directorate, and the Human Health and Performance Directorate at Johnson Space Center (JSC).
These sessions provided invaluable insight into needed design features that will be used to adjust the software prior to the start of the experiment next summer. A formal summary of recommendations is being prepared by the Human Health and Performance Directorate at JSC. In addition to these formal evaluations, the software was available for JSC management staff. Visitors included the JSC Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) point of contact, Trent Martin, division management from the Mission Operations and Engineering Directorates, and the lead Flight Director for Increment 39 (during which the first half of the AMO experiment will take place).
BACKGROUND: The purpose of the Autonomous Mission Operations project is to define the vehicle capabilities, roles, and responsibilities of ground and crew, and their interactions, in order to enable NASA missions to distant destinations.
Future human spaceflight missions will place crews at large distances and light-time delays from Earth. The one-way light-time delay to the Moon is 1.2 seconds, which is sufficient to make continuous control (e.g., for landing) difficult or impossible to conduct from Earth. One-way light time delays to destinations such as near-Earth asteroids at close approach range from seconds to minutes. The one-way light-time delay to Mars ranges from 3 minutes (at conjunction) to 22 minutes (at opposition). NASA will require autonomous mission operations when spacecraft crew is far away from Earth, because communication with the ground will incur long communication latencies. These missions will require changing the capabilities of spacecraft, changing the roles and responsibilities of ground and crew, and changing the ways that ground and crew interact during the mission.
Autonomous Mission Operations is the capability of a crewed spacecraft to plan and fly a mission with minimum support from ground. The AMO project is building advanced technology to conduct experiments both onboard the ISS and during the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV)/Orion Exploration Flight Test to demonstrate crew autonomy and Mission Control Center automation. During the experiment onboard ISS during Increment 39 and 40, ISS crew will use new technology and operational protocols to recommend water sampling activities normally scheduled by the ground, to analyze both water quality and water analyzer hardware performance, and to report hardware problems and recommended solutions during a planned off-nominal use case. ISS crew will also use new technology to assess the performance of onboard computers and report problems and recommended solutions. This experiment will demonstrate how future crews can autonomously operate spacecraft assets similar to those expected to be on future spacecraft, regardless of destination.
AMO is a collaboration between NASA's Ames Research Center, Johnson Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center.
NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate
Contact: Jeremy Frank