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Crew & Operations Training

Encyclopedia
Updated Feb 2, 2024

Introduction

As the epicenter of human space exploration, the Johnson Space Center (JSC) serves as the NASA’s hub of crew and human spaceflight operations and training. JSC is the proud home of the nation’s elite astronaut corps, a distinguished group of individuals at the forefront of space exploration. Our state-of-the-art facilities and expert training staff are unrivaled in their ability to provide comprehensive training for astronauts and ground crews alike, ensuring the highest standards of safety and performance for every human spaceflight mission. As a beacon of innovation and collaboration, the Johnson Space Center welcomes external collaborators to leverage our world-class resources, fostering a shared commitment to advancing the boundaries of human spaceflight. Explore the capabilities below, as we invite you to join us in the exciting journey of space exploration at the forefront of discovery. 

Training Services

Crew and Flight Controller Training 

Overview | Mission training prepares astronauts and flight controllers to achieve mission objectives safely and effectively. NASA JSC Flight Operations Directorate (FOD) is responsible for training astronauts and flight controllers in all aspects of space flight and mission execution. 

Details |

  • Training ranges from individual student systems knowledge lessons to full scale integrated simulations
  • Trainers are certified and training products are validated to ensure quality and accuracy
  • Development of Training Products: training needs analysis, curriculum design and development, certification processes, lesson plans, training materials 
  • Management & Integration of Training: certification plans, scheduling, and student record keeping
  • Training conducted in the classroom, part-task trainers, high-fidelity simulators, vehicle mockups, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, the Virtual Reality Lab, on-board the ISS and in other training environments

Private Astronaut Mission (PAM) Training 

Overview | Private astronauts traveling to the International Space Station (ISS) need key training performed in NASA’s unique training facilities in preparation for their time on-board the ISS. 

Details |

  • Specific ISS training content can be provided to Private Astronaut Mission (PAM) crew members in preparation of their launch to the ISS
  • PAM training will utilize NASA training materials and be performed in the unique NASA training facilities
  • PAM training is designed to prepare the PAM crew to pass the NASA flight readiness review process 
  • Utilizes an integrated process to support training needs, integration, scheduling, and execution 

Space Flight Readiness Training (SFRT) 

Overview | Space Flight Readiness Training (SFRT) allows crew members to operate as a team in a highly dynamic and unpredictable environment, with real world consequences. 

Details |

  • T-38 is a high performance and specialized high-altitude jet aircraft used to support joint team coordination and SFRT skills
  • SFRT aircraft provides a platform to develop/maintain the ability to perform effectively in an operational environment 
  • T-38 training effectively combines “operational” reactions and thought process elements of performance (skills, cognitive, and rapid response) that are required in spacecraft operations 

Mission Training Center (MTC) 

Overview | The Mission Training Center’s (MTC) capabilities are currently provided to the following NASA Programs and their providers: International Space Station (ISS), Commercial Crew Program (CCP), Orion, Gateway, and the Human Landing System (HLS). NASA JSC Mission Training Center (MTC) is optimized to support multi-program simulation and training needs in the most efficient and effective approach. 

Details |

  • An integrated process to understand training needs, development, integration, test/training readiness, and execution
  • Scheduling processes optimize MTC resources to enable numerous simultaneous development, training, and operations events
  • Full-task and part-task training capabilities for flight controllers and crew 
  • Stand-alone training events and fully integrated activities linking multiple NASA centers, International Partners, and providers 
  • Generic skills training and flight specific objective training 
  • Controlled building/zone access 
  • Technical power & network connectivity

Space Vehicle Mockup Facility Mockups and Trainers

Space Vehicle Mockup Facility 

Overview | The Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) provides world class training for space flight crews and their support personnel and high-fidelity hardware for real-time mission support. The SVMF is for mockup-based training, reduced gravity training, technique and procedures development and real-time mission support. 

Details |

  • Scheduling processes optimize SVMF resources to enable numerous simultaneous training and operations events
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 
  • Instructor/operator station that enables the instructor team to control the training scenarios as either a simulated MCC or via providing instructor insights 
  • Training scenarios include nominal timeline activities and simulated emergencies by inputting system malfunctions 
  • Video and audio systems supported with a local area network
  • Mockup connectivity to Training Systems can enable interactive crew stations 
  • High-fidelity mockups support engineering and flight operations evaluations for the ISS and Artemis Programs 
  • Numerous standalone racks/facilities support targeted training events 
  • Activities supported include emergency operations, on-orbit maintenance, photo/TV, stowage and handling, EVA/airlock operations, routine operations, and scientific payload operations 
  • All mockups and part-task trainers are available to support troubleshooting on the ground any time problems develop on-orbit in real-time
  • Customers supported: NASA Programs, ISS International Partners, commercial space flight companies, and exploration partners

Orion Capsule Mockup 

Overview | An Orion capsule mockup allows for training and operations assessments. 

Details |

  • The SVMF Orion capsule mockup is used to support Artemis exploration activities
  • Utilized for interior layout assessments and mission training 
  • Capable of supporting engineering and operations evaluations such as on-orbit stowage, fit checks, emergency operations, photo/TV, and procedure development and verification
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 
  • All mockups are available to support troubleshooting on the ground any time problems develop on-orbit in real-time 

Gateway Mockups 

Overview | Mockups of Gateway modules are available to allow for training and operational assessments. 

Details | Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) mockup at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) represents the first pressurized element for NASA’s lunar Gateway.

  • Habitable living space, science operations, mission sortie preparations, communication with ground and lunar assets, and space for physical exercise equipment for 4 crew for up to 30 days 
  • The HALO mockup can be used for engineering and operations evaluations, interior layout assessments and mission training 
  • Additional Gateway mockups will be added to the SVMF in the future
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 
  • All mockups are available to support troubleshooting on the ground any time problems develop on-orbit in real-time 

ISS Mockups 

Overview | Mockups of all International Space Station habitat modules allow for integrated training and operational assessments. 

Details |

  • High-fidelity ISS mockups support engineering and operations evaluations such as cargo transfer operations, on-orbit stowage evaluations, fit checks, and procedure development and verification
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 
  • Activities supported include emergency operations, on-orbit maintenance, photo/TV, stowage and handling, EVA/airlock operations, routine operations, and scientific payload operations 
  • All mockups and part-task trainers are available to support troubleshooting on the ground any time problems develop on-orbit in real-time 

EVA/ISS Airlock Training 

Overview | NASA JSC Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility (SVMF) can support suited Extravehicular Activity (EVA) crew training events. 

Details |  

  • ISS airlock mockup and EVA suit support capabilities combine to enable unique EVA donning/doffing training at the SVMF
  • EVA suit pressurization cart provides realistic pressurized breathable air to the crew in the SVMF environment 

Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) Standalone Training Racks & Facilities 

Overview | Numerous Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) standalone racks and facilities support targeted training events. 

Details |

  • E-Wing: High-fidelity hardware qualification unit with functional components including solar arrays, blanket box, and mast canister assembly
  • High fidelity EVA training Area (HETA): Area dedicated to providing hardware familiarization for EVA Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs)
  • Regenerative ECLSS: High-fidelity mockups of the regenerative environment control and life support system (ECLSS) racks, oxygen generation system (OGS), and water recovery system (WRS) 
  • AV racks: High-fidelity mockups of the avionics racks (AV), which are outfitted with audio and video components and subsystems 
  • Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) Training Assembly (STA): High-fidelity trainer of the S3/S4 truss consisting of the SARJ race ring, electrical connections, and diagonal braces 
  • Station Hardware Equipment Lab (SHEL): Houses a complete set of ISS on-orbit maintenance tools, select diagnostic equipment, and other ISS tools/tool kits that are used to train crew members for ISS tool skills 
  • Vestibule Operations Trainer (VOT): High-fidelity training of the hardware that exists between attached modules
  • Waste Management System (WMS): Facility used to train general operations, as well as preventive and corrective maintenance of the ISS toilets 
  • Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) Rack: Utilizes the US Lab Nadir window to support various types of photography and observation 

Partial Gravity Simulator (POGO) 

Overview | The Partial Gravity Simulator (POGO) consists of servos, air bearings, and gimbals to provide accurate simulations of reduced gravity. 

Details |

  • Utilized for astronaut training and for evaluating the crew’s ability to perform tasks in simulated partial and microgravity
  • Utilized in the development and evaluation of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) equipment and techniques and for training in low or 0G mass handling 
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 
  • Mission examples include human locomotion studies and training exercises 

Precision Air Bearing Floor (PABF) 

Overview | The Precision Air Bearing Floor (PABF) allows astronauts to move large objects as they might in space. 

Details | The PABF is an extremely smooth and flat surface that provides a 2-dimensional simulation of the weightless environment of space by floating objects on a thin cushion of air. It is designed to support rendezvous and contact testing that require low friction movement of test articles and utilized in the development and evaluation of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) equipment and techniques and for training in low or 0g mass handling. Test articles are mounted on perforated pads that distribute a cushion of compressed air between the pads and the floor and air bearings use compressed air to suspend and enable frictionless movement of mockups and hardware. It is an integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution. 

Payload Development Laboratory 

Overview | The Payload Development Laboratory (PDL) is a flight-like cylindrical International Space Station (ISS) module mockup in the B9 Space Vehicle Mockup Facility that is used for human research training, testing, simulations, procedure development, scientific payload and interface training. 

Details |  

  • Full scale US laboratory mockup and associated control consoles used for Human Research Facility (HRF) Rack training and high-fidelity payload rack training
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 
  • Two high fidelity Human Research Facility (HRF) racks (as on ISS) and other flight-like human research hardware 
  • Flight-like voice, data, and video capabilities 
  • Flight-like power and utility connections and HRF laptops with flight software 
  • Ground support personnel consoles with data, voice, and video connections to module interior 

Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) 

Overview | Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) is designed to simulate reduced gravity environments from earth gravity to microgravity. A continuous dynamic offload of a subject’s weight (or portion thereof) is maintained by a robotic motion control system that actively follows the subject’s motion within the system’s operational volume. ARGOS is capable of offloading humans (both in shirtsleeves and space suits), small rovers, and robots for testing, training, process development, and human research in simulated reduced gravity environments. 

Details | ARGOS 2 resembles an overhead bridge crane 41 x 24 x 25 feet in size. Sensors in the horizontal axes (X and Y) and vertical axis (Z) obtain displacement and force changes of the payload, allowing a computer-controlled winch to provide superimposed constant force offload above the payload’s center of mass. 

ARGOS 2 Specifications 

  • 750lb offload capability 
  • 13’(X) x 30’(Y) x 15’(Z) workspace
  • System wide communication for test subjects and support teams 
  • Motion tracking supported by ABF 
  • NASA Space suit support supported by Crew and Thermal Systems Division 
  • Pressurized breathing air 
  • Cooling water for suits 

Motion capabilities 

  • Suited Configuration: 4 ft/s vertical, 6.5 ft/s horizontal 
  • Unsuited configuration: 11 ft/s vertical, 6.5 ft/s horizontal 
  • Variety of Gimbals (payload interfaces) to support suited, unsuited, and unmanned testing

Supported Test Types 

  • Suited or unsuited 
  • EVA in microgravity, Lunar, or Martian gravity environments 
  • EVA tools, process development 
  • Biometric studies in reduced gravity environments
  • Robotic systems payloads  
  • New test types are possible

Crew Part Task Trainers (PTTs) 

Overview | Crew Part Task Trainers (PTTs) provide training activities focused on a single flight system or subsystem. 

Details |

  • Develop Crew Part Task Trainers (PTTs) focused on specific systems or phases of flight
  • Crew response to simulation generated data on their cockpit displays 
  • Train nominal operations & emergency response 
  • Support verification of flight operations procedures and real-time flight operations 
  • Simulation capabilities include audio/video, flight-like crew displays, and hardware interfaces 
  • Student and Instructor stations utilized for optimal training 

Flight Controller Part Task Trainers (PTTs) 

Overview | Flight controller part task trainers (PTTs) provide training activities focused on a single flight system. 

Details |

  • Develop flight controller PTTs
  • Flight controllers respond to simulation generated data on their operations displays 
  • Train nominal operations & emergency response
  • Support verification of flight operations procedures and real-time flight operations 
  • Simulation capabilities include audio/video, console displays and tools 
  • Student and Instructor stations utilized for optimal training 

Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory Mockups and Trainers

Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) 

Overview | The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is one of the world’s largest indoor pools and can support multiple large-scale operations utilizing both underwater and topside assets simultaneously. The NBL is utilized for mission planning, procedure development, hardware verification, astronaut training, and refinement of time-critical operations necessary to ensure mission success. 

Details |

  • NBL has a volume of 6.2 million gallons with dimensions of length: 202 ft (61.5 m), width: 102 ft (31.1 m), and depth: 40 ft (12.2 m)
  • Chlorinated freshwater environment with a temperature range of 84°-86° F (29.9°-30° C) 
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution
  • Facility scheduling capabilities enable multiple large-scale operations simultaneously 
  • Multiple integrated control rooms 
  • Clean climate-controlled environment 
  • Extensive video, audio, and instrumentation capabilities 
  • Multiple crane systems for equipment handling
  • SCUBA and surface supplied dive systems 
  • On-site engineering and technical services 
  • Co-located logistics and manufacturing facility 
  • ISO level 8 clean room to support maintenance and repair capabilities 
  • Located next to the Houston Ellington Airfield with access to a taxiway
  • Within the facility, the NBL has a hyperbaric chamber, a hypobaric altitude chamber, a medical treatment room and locker room facilities 
  • Classroom, meeting, high-bay work areas, and outdoor space to support training or hardware storage 
  • World class safety culture 

Lunar EVA Training 

Overview | The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) has unique properties that enable it to support lunar EVA training scenarios and development of lunar EVA tools and hardware. 

Details | Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) can support two suited crewmembers performing a lunar EVA in close proximity to each other for up to 6.5 hours. Suited crewmembers and their tools/equipment can be weighed out to 1/6g with a realistic center of gravity. EVA crew freedom of motion and accurate center of gravity allows development of fall recovery and incapacitated crew rescue. 

  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution
  • Approximately 1/4 of NBL pool floor is currently occupied by Artemis moonscape 
  • Lunar features designed to simulate Southern pole landing area, complete with high intensity low angle lighting 
  • Lunar rock modeled after Apollo 17 Split Rock and includes significant geological features 
  • NBL training can support chipping, trenching, coring, and inclines of up to 20° to simulate walking on craters and uneven terrain 
  • Sand colored and textured to simulate lunar regolith
  • NBL test conductor room can be configured with audio and video delay of 4 sec to simulate comm delay between MCC and lunar surface 

Microgravity EVA Training 

Overview | The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is used to train and refine EVA operations to ensure mission success during spacewalks. 

Details |

  • NBL has full-scale ISS modules with high-fidelity exteriors to support EVA training objectives
  • Utilized to support mission planning, procedure development, hardware verification, and astronaut training
  • NBL suited events enable the crew to train and experience full duration end-to-end EVA operations 
  • EVA crewmembers are weighed out to be neutrally buoyant to simulate the weightless environment of space 
  • Safety, camera, and utility divers support suited training events to ensure safe and effective operations 
  • EVA tools and hardware are weighed out and optimized to minimize impact to the crewmembers training 
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution
  • Extensive video, audio, and instrumentation capabilities support each training event

SCUBA and Surface Supplied Dive Operations 

Overview | Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) underwater operations are supported by both SCUBA and surface supplied dive systems. 

Details |

  • Exceptionally experienced and certified professional diving staff
  • NBL diving involves operations support, reconfiguration, camera operations and safety diving functions 
  • Expertise in underwater lifting and weigh out operations 
  • Utilizes SCUBA and surface supplied dive systems, with nitrox and air capabilities
  • On-site hyperbaric chamber and medical treatment capabilities 
  • ISO Level 8 Clean Room supporting maintenance and repair capabilities 
  • Dive Safety Board that evaluates all JSC diving operations 

Water Surface Operations 

Overview | The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) surface can be used to develop and train water surface operations for crew and rescue personnel. 

Details |

  • Pool surface used to train post landing crew rescue and capsule recovery operations with environmental effects
  • Training scenarios can evolve from nominal to off-nominal with multiple failures 
  • Supports prototype, development, and operations of vehicle up righting systems and crew rescue hardware 
  • Utilized for aircraft water survival training scenarios 
  • Facility capabilities to simulate wave motion, darkened conditions, and localized wind/rain environment
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 

Logistics and Mockup Facility 

Overview | At the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) the Logistics and Mockup Facility (LMF) provides on-site engineering, manufacturing, and technical services in support of NBL operations. 

Details |

  • The Logistics and Mockup Facility (LMF) consists of a large high bay and a series of workshops for building and maintaining equipment
  • Vertically integrated engineering, design, and manufacturing support is provided by a cadre of highly skilled and certified personnel 
  • LMF services include mockup fabrication and repair, machine shop, sheet metal shop, welding, sewing, assembly, woodworking, and multi-disciplinary engineering 

Buoyancy Manipulation 

Overview | NASA JSC Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) has expertise in manipulating buoyancy to support microgravity or lunar surface operations. 

Details |

  • Extensive Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) experience manipulating buoyancy to simulate full or partial gravity and to make mass handling in the water more manageable
  • Expertise in weigh out of crew and hardware for microgravity operations 
  • Ability to support weigh out of lunar suited crewmembers, tools, and hardware with 1/6 gravity and a realistic center of gravity 
  • An integrated process to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution 

Human Rated Underwater Robotic System 

Overview | The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) is a full scale and fully functional underwater version of the ISS SSRMS used to support Extravehicular Activity (EVA) training. 

Details | The Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) trainer at the NBL is a full-scale, volumetrically correct, kinematically correct and hydraulically powered version of the Space Station RMS and can be located on one of two dedicated SSRMS stands/bases.

  • Utilized to support EVA training by providing a crew operating base and is capable of the movement of astronauts and approved NBL mockups to specific worksites 
  • Capable of supporting the following SSRMS control modes: manual augmented, single joint rate, and standby 
  • Includes integrated processes to support operations assessments, integration, test readiness, and execution

Simulation Capabilities

Virtual Reality Lab 

Overview | The Virtual Reality Lab (VRL) provides a training for astronauts using modern VR capabilities. This training is typically focused on extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) on operational spacecraft. Besides the VR headsets, the VRL uses cable robots to provide haptic feedback for scenarios involving mass handling. 

Details |

  • VR headsets in a safe, clean environment
  • High fidelity model of the ISS, visiting vehicles, and astronauts rendered in VR 
  • Two cable robots to provide realistic force feedback to operators in mass handling scenarios 
  • Training support, including scenario setup and real-time operations 

Integrated Simulations of Missions 

Overview | Integrated simulations of missions enable the team to practice management of integrated systems and activities in both nominal and off-nominal scenarios. 

Details |

  • Facilitating simulations that support full-task and part-task training activities for flight controllers and crew
  • Crew and flight controllers responding to simulation generated data on their displays 
  • Simulation capabilities including video/audio, flight-like crew displays, and hardware and instructor/operator interfaces 
  • Supporting training activities that include control center and simulation within JSC and remote locations 
  • Supporting verification of flight operations procedures and real-time flight operations 

Simulation Architecture for Mission Training 

Overview | NASA JSC has developed a simulation architecture for mission training that supports multiple activities and programs with common core elements and specialization where needed to optimize development and training results. 

Details | The simulation computer architecture incorporates a suite of common simulation hosts to support full and part-task training. Commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware, trick simulation framework, and virtual computers running binary flight software provide high-fidelity simulations across various training devices. 

  • A Space Network simulation 
  • A common simulation interface structure for external partners
  • A capability for training and testing participants to access an activity from a remote location 

Additional Capabilities

Vacuum Test Facilities (Altitude Chambers) 

Overview | Johnson Space Center (JSC) provides a wide array of space environment simulation test capabilities. The altitude chambers are used primarily for development, certification, and parametric testing of life support systems for humans in the hostile environment of space. Each altitude chamber is configured for a particular type of testing; however, within the chamber’s capabilities, the chamber complex may be used to perform other types of tests. JSC offers a collection of unique knowledge as to what works well within the harsh environment of space and what does not. Test capability is available for both manned and unmanned test environments. 

Details |

  • Human-rated testing in a vacuum environment
  • Space suit development testing 
  • Flight crew training
  • Environmental control and life support system testing
  • Metabolic loading to life support systems 
  • Parametric testing 
  • Emergency and mobility accommodations of suited crewmember 
  • Air Revitalization system testing
  • Carbon dioxide removal or reduction 
  • Oxygen generation 
  • Trace contaminant control 
  • Materials and hardware testing in a vacuum environment 

Neuroscience Laboratory 

Overview | The Neuroscience Laboratory investigates the effects of spaceflight on the human nervous system, with particular emphasis on sensorimotor function involving changes in posture and gait function, eye-head coordination, spatial disorientation, space motion sickness, and vestibular-autonomic function. The central focus of the laboratory is both to characterize the risks to performance of critical operational tasks and the development of countermeasures to mitigate the space flight-related changes in nervous system function associated with g-state transitions. The laboratory supports ground-based research on a variety of platforms and in-flight investigations, including crew health monitoring, risk mitigation operational activities and countermeasures evaluation and validation research. 

Details |

  • Provide recommendations for concept of operations and countermeasures for mitigating risks associated with spatial disorientation, motion sickness, and capsule egress
  • Support sensorimotor research using space-flight analogs and inflight experiments across a variety of space vehicle platforms 
  • Applied task assessments in the field (i.e. at landing sites) 
  • Conduct training for astronauts and mission support personnel to anticipate impacts of deconditioning during and/or following G-transitions
  • Conduct crew health monitoring related to neurological function and recovery, including specialized testing of neurovestibular function 
  • Develop sensorimotor training tools and rehabilitation for clinical use during recovery 
The mission of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) is to provide world class training for space flight crews and their support personnel and high-fidelity hardware for real-time mission support. A major task of the SVMF is to support engineering and mission operations evaluations for the International Space Station (ISS) and Orion Programs. All mockups and part-task trainers are available to support troubleshooting on the ground any time problems develop on orbit in real time. 
Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) 
The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is one of the world’s largest indoor pools and can support multiple large-scale operations utilizing both underwater and topside assets simultaneously. The NBL is utilized for mission planning, procedure development, hardware verification, astronaut training, and refinement of time-critical operations necessary to ensure mission success during spacewalks. 
Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) 
Johnson Space Center boast a robust ecosystem of facilities, classrooms, and simulators accompanied by finely tuned training processes dedicated to thoroughly prepare and refine flight controllers for the intricacies of critical mission control and spacecraft ground operations. 
NASA Johnson Space Center Mission Control