The human and robotic space program is an extensible launch and range system.
Catastrophic failures are associated with the high risks imposed by launch and/or
landing operations. Efficiency and safety in a healthy knowledge management
environment requires embedding advanced information technologies into the complexity
of present aerospace operations.
Intelligent Launch & Range Operations
The Virtual Test Bed (VTB) is being developed and designed as a dynamic facility
that can support decision-making, risk analysis, technical training and other
functions and operations of present facilities. Just in this capacity, it is
a valuable development for payload operations at Kennedy Space Center, mission
planning at Wallops, range decisions at Cape Canaveral, and other groups that
have also expressed a strong interest in building a partnership with NASA Ames
Image left: VTB is a Dynamic Developmental Tool for Launch and Range Operations Centers.
The VTB allows participants to experiment with new Human Centered Computing
(HCC) techniques in a simulated launch and range operations center. The centerpiece
of the facility is a launch and range operations simulator capable of simulating
a variety of missions, vehicles, flight anomalies, human controller scenarios,
and globally dispersed range operations. With this system, knowledge is captured
in expert systems and developed into advanced intelligent agents, operational
concepts are simulated, and alternate approaches to system design are analyzed
to better understand human factors and performance issues for future launch
operations. As a result, designers produce more effective information and decision
support systems for launch and range operations. The ultimate outcome of this
research is a solution or part of the solution to one of the most complex problems
facing next generation spaceport designers: replacing today’s launch and range
procedures with intelligent systems of systems that enable highly responsive,
safe and affordable operations with fewer human controllers.
Key products are new designs for information management and decision-aiding
systems, enabling a reduced staff of human decision makers to supervise and
integrate a system-of-systems of more complex, fast-paced, and heterogeneous
set of missions.
The objective of the Intelligent Launch and Range Operations research is to
support the Office of Exploration Systems and to develop a fundamental understanding
in human performance and information management for mission planning and operation
of present and future launch and range systems, operations concepts, and simulations.
- Implement a useful level of analytical and simulation tools which bridge the
gap between current launch and range operation programs and the human decision
making and information management issues critical to mission success.
Image right: Human Performance, Decision-Making, and Information Management are Simulated and Analyzed.
- Demonstrate how to simulate and analyze a range of operations concepts from
human performance, decision-making, and information management. This simulation
will enable proper planning, scheduling, engineering designs and fault tolerant
analysis of launch.
- Identify mission-critical issues and propose plausible solutions.
Space operations within NASA are large-scale efforts involving the coordination
of geographically disparate teams with different disciplines that support spacecraft
and mission functions. Launch and Range operations refer to a variety of essential
support functions associated with mission planning, logistics, and operations
of ground-vehicle activities, payload, launch, range safety and human risk management
(in case of failure). The activities are geographically dispersed across large
territory (the range), requiring the coordination of teams managed by NASA,
Industry and the U.S. Air Force. Two working groups consisting of NASA, military,
and civilian participants, were formed to study and advise on how to modernize
launch and range activities as part of a larger goal of envisioning an advanced
spaceport. Modernization efforts are complicated by the lack of information
technology to support decisions about such complex operations and provide insight
into their safety, cost, financial and human factors of present operations and
consequences of proposed new concepts.
This problem is not confined to launch and range modernization, but is a widespread
and persistent problem affecting proposed changes in many large, complex systems.
For example, similar difficulties have been observed with efforts to modernize
air traffic control operations. Likewise, planetary missions at JPL must coordinate
the science goals with mission operations and safety goals. In rover missions
to explore Mars, for example, decisions on where to allocate limited rover resources
must be worked out between science goals and mission demands. As with launch
and range, decision must be reached by collaboration between teams that are
geographically dispersed where each contains unique domain knowledge.