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Intelligent Virtual Station (IVS)

Imagine a manual is tossed in your lap and now it's your job to install and maintain a series of complicated pieces of machinery.

Think you'd have a better chance if first you were given a virtual training environment in which to become familiar with the pieces and the machine?

That's one of the ideas behind Intelligent Virtual Station (IVS), a software framework that gives astronauts, trainers and flight controllers access to the NASA Johnson Space Center Space Station Training Facility (SSTF) within a virtual environment.

Since early 2002 researchers at the Smart Systems Research Laboratory have been developing software that incorporates three-dimensional components of the International Space Station (ISS).

Using a keyboard and mouse or joystick with most PC computers, a user can move easily inside and outside the station to interact with its parts -- from the station's truss to the interior of a module to a bolt behind a module wall -- while accessing relevant documents.

The group's work on the exterior of the virtual ISS is fairly complete. Inside, the U.S. Centrifuge Accommodation Module, Node 2 and the U.S. laboratory are underway, with plans to incorporate other station components.

The IVS research team is looking forward to trainers and crew at JSC in Houston testing the tool, hopefully in fall 2003, for use as a training software onsite and at remote training centers in Russia, Germany and other locations.

Before IVS, researchers with the Smart Systems group had been working on a knowledge management project called Virtual Ironbird, which enabled users to access information associated with stages of a project's life cycle. For the IVS project the group adopted the idea of associating data with objects.

The ISS is the largest international scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken. Sixteen countries are contributing more than 100 components to the permanently-inhabited laboratory orbiting 240 miles above Earth. Its design and ongoing assembly, which began in-orbit in 1998, are complicated undertakings.

In addition to numerous data files and databases associated with the design, construction, engineering and assembly of the 1 million pound structure, the science-driven mission comprises many manuals and procedures associated with science projects in Earth observation, space science, physics and engineering research and technology.

To save trainers and trainees time sorting through multiple manuals, IVS makes the data accessible with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Its data management system provides a link between objects in the virtual environment and data associated with the object.

IVS enables users to access relevant data by clicking on an object in the virtual environment. For instance, a user navigating to the life science glove box could click a folder containing science experiment procedure manuals associated with it.

With IVS, flight controllers and trainers can generate virtual training procedures for astronauts, to help them visualize the steps required to handle a science experiment or replace a component on the station.

An astronaut can undergo training in different countries, starting many months, or even years before a mission. After training, several months can pass before a launch, when an astronaut must apply the knowledge learned during testing.

With IVS, flight controllers, trainers and astronauts can continually brush up on those lessons while waiting for a launch.

Researchers chose the ISS as the first IVS application but say they can easily expand the software to include other interfaces, such as a virtual space shuttle or even a virtual rover, using the CAD data designers and engineers used to design the parts. A user could view documents and different stages of the Apollo mission, a payload rack in the space shuttle or parts of a planetary exploration rover.

Story by: Beth Minneci, Code IC Outreach Group
Funding: CICT/CNIS, FY02-FY03

Recent Papers:

  1. B.J. Betts, R. Papasin, S. Elcott, D. McIntosh, R. Del Mundo, B. Niehaus, R.W. Mah, M. Guerrero, and E. Wilson, "A Software Framework to Enhance Training and Operations of Space Missions," Proceedings of Space Mission Challenges for Information Technology 2003 (SMC-IT 2003), Pasadena, CA, Jul. 2003, pp. 409-415. (full text)
  2. R. Papasin, B.J. Betts, R. Del Mundo, M. Guerrero, R.W. Mah, D.M. McIntosh, and E. Wilson, "Intelligent Virtual Station," Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS 2003), Nara, Japan, May 2003. (full text)
  3. D.M. McIntosh, S. Elcott, B.J. Betts, and R.W. Mah, "Procedure Visualization to Augment Space Mission Training," Proceedings of the 40th Space Congress, Cape Canaveral, FL, Apr. 2003. (full text)
  4. B.J. Betts, R. Del Mundo, S. Elcott, D. McIntosh, B. Niehaus, R. Papasin, and R.W. Mah, "A Data Management System for International Space Station Simulation Tools," Proceedings of the 2003 International Conference on Applied Modeling and Simulation (AMS 2002), ACTA Press, Boston, MA, Nov. 2002, pp. 500-504. (full text)
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