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OCAMS System Deployed in Mission Control at JSC

After a successful two-week operations testing phase in Johnson Space Center’s International Space Station (ISS) Mission Control, the Orbital Communications Adapter Monitoring System (OCAMS) began “live” operations on July 8, 2008. OCAMS will be used 24x7 by the ISS OCA Flight Control Team as part of their work process.

OCAMS is the first application of intelligent multi-agent system (MAS) technology in NASA’s mission control operations. OCAMS was developed using NASA Ames’s Brahms multi-agent software tools. Brahms, which has been under development in the Ames Intelligent Systems Division since 1998, enables a “from simulation to implementation” software engineering methodology, in which a multi-agent simulation of people’s work practice is turned into a multi-agent workflow system that automates part of the process and integrates seamlessly with existing work practices.

Brahms is a set of software tools to develop and simulate multi-agent models of human and machine behavior. The Brahms Agent-Oriented Language (AOL) is based on a Belief-Desire-Intention (BDI) and Subsumption architecture. Unlike object-oriented programming, in agent-oriented programming agents have autonomous behavior, and can act independently based on a “local” worldview (their beliefs about the world). A multi-agent system (MAS) is a system composed of multiple interacting agents. Multi-agent systems can be used to solve problems that are difficult or impossible for an individual agent or monolithic system to solve.

The OCAMS project is a collaborative NASA inter-center project between researchers and developers from NASA Ames Research Center and flight controllers from NASA Johnson Space Center.

BACKGROUND: The ISS OCA Officer is responsible for manually uplinking and downlinking all files to and from the ISS. These files include schedules, procedures, commands, email, photographs, health data, newspapers, etc. Computer scientists in the Work Systems Design & Evaluation Group of the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames studied and simulated OCA work practices in collaboration with the OCA team to identify possible process improvements. Using statistics generated from the Brahms simulation model, the team designed and simulated an agent-based workflow system that automates the process of creating a ground-based replica of the ISS file system (the MirrorLAN). Simulation statistics predicted a reduction in mirroring time from 6% to 0.6% of the OCA Officer’s shift – a 90% reduction. Using the Simulation-to-Implementation engineering method, Brahms agents were then converted into a run-time tool called OCAMS. Using the Brahms Virtual Machine, these agents manage the workflow on multiple computers and servers using secure communications provided by the Brahms Collaborative Infrastructure. The tool also automatically writes large parts of the OCA Handover Log.

COLLABORATORS: Brian Anderson (JSC/DA), Sue Blumenberg (ARC/TI, Perot Systems), Justin Brooks (JSC/DV, LM12), Anthony Bruins (JSC/DD22), Chris Buckley (JSC/DO47, USA), Tim Hall (JSC/DO48), Deborah Hood (JSC/DO47, BAR), Ron van Hoof (ARC/TI, Perot Systems), Mike Scott (ARC/TI, Perot Systems), Chin Seah (ARC/TI, SAIC), Tyson Tucker (JSC/DO47, USA), Jason Toschlog (JSC/DO47, USA), Robert Wesson (JSC/DV, LM12), and other OCA officers.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: OCAMS is funded as the OCA Mirroring System (OCAMS) ITA 9277 between JSC’s MOD and the Ames Intelligent Systems Division. The Collaborative Infrastructure has been funded by the Exploration Technology Development Program (A4O).

Contact: Bill Clancey; Maarten Sierhuis


The Orbital Communications Adapter (OCA) Officer is responsible for uplinking and downlinking all files to and from the International Space Station. These files include schedules, procedures, commands, email, photographs, health data, newspapers, etc. The agent-based OCA Mirroring System (OCAMS) developed at Ames automates part of the OCA Officer's workload.

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