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Autonomous Mission Operations Baseline Tests Completed

The Advanced Exploration Systems Autonomous Mission Operations (AMO) project completed two rounds of tests at Johnson Space Center this May and June. Tests were representative of activities crew and flight controllers would experience during a typical space mission. During each test, a crew of four--one member of the Astronaut Office and three role-play crew from the Mission Operations Directorate (MOD)--were stationed in the Deep Space Habitat (DSH), while an eight-member flight control team consisting of MOD staff was stationed in the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Building 30 at Johnson Space Center (JSC).

The first round of tests in May were conducted at one of three different one-way time delays: 1.2 seconds (for a mission to the Moon), 50 seconds (for a mission to a NEO), or 5 minutes (for a mission to Mars). In addition, each test optionally was distinguished by an off-nominal condition, either a systems failure (e.g., power or fluid transfer) or a crew medical emergency. The tests conducted assumed that operations are conducted in a manner similar to today, in which the flight control team has most of the responsibility and most of the tools needed to manage the mission. These tests also yielded valuable feedback on both operations protocols and tools designs that were used in the next round of tests.

During the second round of tests conducted in June, responsibility was shifted to the crew and both the flight control team and the crew were provided with new tools meant to help them run the mission in a more autonomous mode. These tools included procedure execution monitoring tools shared between the crew and flight control team, chat clients to augment voice, and advanced caution and warning tools.

All twenty four of the planned tests for both months were completed. During each test, a variety of data was collected, including air-to-ground audio, ambient audio inside the DSH, video, and file transfers. After each test, flight controllers and crew filled out surveys to assess the workload and utility of the tools employed during this test. Preliminary indications are that, as expected, time delays make a difference in how teams work together, both on each side of the time delay, as well as across the delay.

Observers during these tests included representatives of the Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) Advanced Cryogenic Loading Operations (ACLO) project, the International Space Station as a Testbed for Analogs Research (ISTAR) project, the Manager, Behavioral Health and Performance Element of the JSC Human Research Program, representatives of the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Program Office, NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), and the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Crew Office at JSC. Public Affairs events during tests included interviews for NASA TV, an interview by Fox 26 News, in-person visits by middle school students and college interns, and a Distance Learning event with a middle school.

View NASA TV interviews:

BACKGROUND: Through the Autonomous Mission Operations (AMO) project, a forty-person team composed of engineers and mission operations planners from several NASA centers is investigating which systems and processes may require automation during missions to different destinations throughout the solar system. These missions to varied destinations are called Design Reference Missions (DRMs) and have been identified by NASA’s Human Spaceflight Architecture Team.

This project is the result of collaboration between AMO and the AES Habitation Systems (HS) project, led by Alvin Drew (JSC CB). This project also benefitted greatly from the participation of the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) Habitat Automation (HA) project, led by Mark Schwabacher (ARC TI). Finally, the project has also benefited from collaboration with the Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC) project at JSC.

PROGRAM FUNDING The Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD); the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) program

TEAM: Jeremy Frank (ARC); participating organizations include the Intelligent Systems Division (ARC), the Human Factors Division (ARC), the Space Transportation Systems Division (JSC), the Expedition Systems Division (JSC), the Operations Planning Division (JSC), the EVA and Robotics Division (JSC), the Flight Director and Training Division (JSC), the Engineering Division (JSC), the Crew Office (JSC), and the Operations Engineering Division (MSFC).

CONTACT: Jeremy Frank

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