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Autonomous Mission Operations Experiment Commencing Onboard International Space Station
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Autonomous Mission Operations Experiment Commencing Onboard International Space Station

The Autonomous Mission Operations (AMO) project has designed, developed, and deployed the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) Station Support Computer (SSC) experiment. The experiment concept is to turn over as much operations and management of spacecraft systems as possible to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, aided by onboard operations software. The selected systems are:

  • TOCA - used to analyze the ISS crew potable water supply. Activities are performed 2-3 times a week. Additionally, maintenance activities are performed on TOCA 1-2 times a month. Today, all scheduling and water quality analysis is performed by flight controllers on the ground.
  • SSC - used for monitoring. There are 21 computers onboard ISS used by the crew for non-critical operations functions. Monitoring and maintaining these computers is performed by flight controllers on the ground

The AMO TOCA-SSC experiment will feature a number of technical and operational firsts in human spaceflight.

Technical Firsts

  • First use of an automated planning application by onboard crew (both water sampling and maintenance activity recommendations).
  • First use of intelligent automated anomaly detection onboard a manned spacecraft (off-nominal patterns detected from a learned model of system behavior).
  • First use of automated comparison to a virtual system model for fault identification and isolation onboard a manned spacecraft.
  • First automated generation of failure response suggestions to onboard crew.
  • First fully electronic technical reference and schematics for onboard crew.
  • First use of nominal performance regions embedded within data plots to allow crew to easily understand complex system behavior.

Operational Firsts

  • First demonstration of long-term crew autonomous management of ISS core system.
  • First replication of standard, regular Mission Control Center (MCC) analysis by onboard crew through automated software.
  • First transfer of standard, regular monitoring of Operations Local Area Network (LAN) to onboard crew responsibility through automated software.
  • First time ISS crews will keep track of required maintenance activities and provide schedule recommendations to MCC to test an autonomous crew’s abilities to know the future activity schedule.
  • First time ISS crews will provide off-nominal troubleshooting suggestions to MCC to test an autonomous crew’s abilities to determine troubleshooting paths.

The software to support the experiment is a combination of previously developed reconfigurable software combined with Custom-Off-The-Shelf (COTS)/Open Source software and custom-built software specifically designed for this experiment.

Previously developed NASA software includes:

  • Hybrid Diagnosis Engine (HyDE) - compares system performance to a virtual model to identify faults.
  • Anomaly Monitoring Inductive Software System (AMISS) - detects off-nominal patterns using a learned model of system behavior.

COTS/Open Source software includes:

  • Open Hardware Monitor (OHM) - for laptop device-level performance monitoring.

The new software developed by NASA includes:

  • Scheduler of water sampling and maintenance activity recommendations.
  • Fully electronic technical reference and schematics for onboard crew.
  • Novel data plot displays that include nominal performance regions embedded within data plots to allow crews to easily understand complex patterns.

The application was integrated with the ISS OpsLAN, which consists of Windows 7, Red Hat Linux, Samba file share, Icinga (Open Source network monitoring and database), and associated virtualization environments. This basic infrastructure was heavily customized for ISS use. The application is also integrated with the International Procedure Viewer (IPV), the repository for configuration-managed ISS crew procedures, and it accepts schedule inputs extracted from ISS crew activity plans.

The transition of responsibility from Mission Control to astronauts requires rethinking the amount and type of information presented to crew. Astronauts’ training, availability of crew time, and limitations in onboard display real estate all constrain how tasks are performed. Preliminary user interface designs were refined by two evaluations conducted by the Human Systems Engineering and Development Division at Johnson Space Center. A total of 14 astronaut test subjects evaluated the software in two sessions. The lessons learned from these sessions led to significant redesign of the user interfaces and expected improvements in the usability of the system.

The application was developed to run both on an SSC laptop computer or an iPad/tablet. It is notable that iPads are not part of ISS standard operations hardware, but their popularity with the astronauts and versatility make iPad compatibility highly desirable.

The Web-based user interface, coupled with the client-server design of the ISS infrastructure, made this cross-platform usability possible. However, tailoring the application to run and work well on both devices required significant design and redesign. Numerous issues, such as screen size, screen real estate, user interaction differences between mouse, keyboard, touchscreen, and the like required continual design iteration.

The AMO TOCA-SSC experiment team included team members from NASA Ames’ Intelligent Systems Division, NASA Johnson’s Mission Operations Directorate, Astronaut Office, Life Support Systems Branch, and the Human Systems Engineering and Development Division. AMO software is onboard ISS and has been checked out and declared operational. The first use of the software by ISS crew will take place September 3 and 4. The AMO team also worked closely with the ISS Payloads Office and the ISS Avionics and Software Office.

BACKGROUND: The purpose of the Autonomous Mission Operations project is to define 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 (NEAs) 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 are 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.

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. AMO is a collaboration between NASA's Ames Research Center, Johnson Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center.

TEAM: ARC: Ilya Avrekh, Lionel Delmo, Jeremy Frank (PI), David Iverson, Christopher Knight, Shu-Chun Lin, Sriram Narasimhan, Michael Scott, Keith Swanson, Hao Thai, May Windrem, and Shawn Wolfe. JSC: Pete Dimmick, Tyler Doubrava, Travis Fitzgerald, Nick Fritz, Jayleen Guttromson, Elisca Hicks, David Korth, Harry Littaker, Brian Martin, Jeffery Mauldin, Kerry McGuire, Jason Mintz, Lee Morin, Chad Morrison, Haifa Moses, Kara Pohlkamp (Co-I), Jayanta Ray, Landon Sommer, and Abe Velazco

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Contact: Jeremy Frank

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