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Autonomous Missions Operations Software Completes First Pre-Flight Test
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Autonomous Missions Operations Software Completes First Pre-Flight Test

The Autonomous Mission Operations (AMO) project conducted a series of pre-flight tests of a crew autonomy experiment to take place onboard the International Space Station (ISS) from March to September 2014 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. Pre-flight tests were conducted in the Station Support Computer (SSC) Lab at the Sonny Carter Facility at Johnson Space Center (JSC). This facility is a medium-fidelity testbed of the Operations LAN (OpsLAN) onboard ISS. The OpsLAN consists of 20 T-61P laptops and two servers, one Windows and one Linux.

Testing included:

  • Exercising all user interface functionality under nominal network loading conditions. Tests were performed on the T-61P Station Support Computer (SSC) laptops, and Apple iPad 3s.
  • Testing of the AMO application when the OpsLAN network is loaded or stressed. These stress conditions include multiple wired and wireless clients running Internet phone applications and NetMeeting routed through a single Wireless Access Point, along with file transfer operations. During this test the AMO user interface was exercised and one Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) sample was processed.
  • Testing of the AMO application when the Linux server on the OpsLAN is loaded or stressed. These stress conditions included eight SSC clients simultaneously performing namespace lookups coupled with high-data rate file transfer operations. During this test 30 TOCA data files were processed.

The stress tests were designed to both identify AMO bugs and features, as well as ensure that other OpsLAN tools performed as expected. These test conditions were identified with the help of ISS Avionics (JSC OD). The tests successfully identified a number of minor to moderate size bugs and issues in the AMO application. On balance, the application performed as expected, and no major features or redesigns are required. OpsLAN features (file transfer, Internet phone, database, and namespace lookup) all performed as expected.

These tests were firsts of their kind for both ISS Avionics and for AMO. They also increased the confidence of the ISS Avionics community in the application's readiness for final testing, and ultimately, operations. The AMO team additionally refined elements of the deployment environment with ISS Avionics (e.g., security, file location, concept of operations for loading the AMO application with data, necessary server features). Testing was observed by Richard McGinnis (HQ, AES Operations Domain Lead), Miriam Sargusingh (AES Water project) and Jeff Milstead (JSC EC, owner of the TOCA hardware.)

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 (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 and changing the roles and responsibilities of ground and crew, as well as the ways that ground and crew interact during the mission.

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

TEAM: AMO is a collaboration between NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The AMO team at ARC spans the Autonomous Systems and Robotics, Computer Assisted Systems, and Discovery and Systems Health areas.

Contact: Jeremy Frank

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