The Planetary Data System (PDS) User-Centered Design team recently concluded an Alpha test period of a new tool for calculation of spacecraft, body geometry, and events, currently called WebGeocalc. The Alpha test was the first public release of this new tool, which is being developed for the Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF) group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for release to the PDS community. The web-based WebGeocalc tool provides a variety of time series and event-finding calculations, building on the Spacecraft Planet Instrument C-matrix Events (SPICE) geometry library that has become a standard within the planetary science community. Users specify calculations by filling in web-based forms that allow for no prior knowledge of SPICE APIs or downloading of SPICE data. During the Alpha test, which ran from January through March, over 30 scientists and mission planners from around the world exercised the tool and provided suggestions and other feedback. The team is currently working on new features based on feedback from the Alpha test in preparation for public availability of the tool.
BACKGROUND: The Spacecraft Planet Instrument C-matrix Events (SPICE) library assists NASA scientists in planning and interpreting scientific observations from space-borne instruments, and assists NASA engineers involved in modeling, planning, and executing activities needed to conduct planetary exploration missions. SPICE data sets are composed of navigation and other ancillary information that has been structured and formatted for easy access and correct use by the planetary science and engineering communities. The SPICE library has API bindings for C/C++, Fortran, Java, Matlab, and the Interactive Data Language (IDL). SPICE data sets can be quite large, over 100GB for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, for example. WebGeocalc attempts to make it easier to perform SPICE calculations by avoiding the need to write a SPICE program, as well as the need to find and retrieve SPICE data sets. Instead, all calculations are specified using web forms, and the results, both tabular and plotted, are displayed within the web browser. Users may also download results and plots for use in other programs.
The PDS User-Centered Design team supplies software design and development services to different segments of the diverse PDS community. In particular, the team: 1) creates new tools to help scientists and other PDS end-users find and utilize planetary science data; 2) supplies archive-support tools to help individuals and mission teams submitting data for archival within PDS; 3) assists the various distributed archive centers that comprise the PDS; and 4) conducts user research to help guide PDS tool and interface development. Throughout its activities, the project emphasizes user-centered design principles and practices.
NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Science Mission Directorate
TEAM: Charles Acton (JPL), Nat Bachman (JPL), Rich Keller, Mark Rose, Boris Semenov (JPL), Priya Venkatesan, and Ed Wright (JPL)
Contact: Mark Rose