Planning to Explore: Using a Coordinated Multisource Infrastructure to Overcome Present and Future Space Flight Planning Challenges

Edward Balaban, Michael Orosz, Tatiana Kichkaylo, Andre Goforth, Adam Sweet, Robert Neches

Few human endeavors present as much of a planning and scheduling challenge as space flight, particularly manned space flight. Just on the operational side of it, efforts of thousands of people across hundreds of organizations need to be coordinated. Numerous tasks of varying complexity and nature, from scientific to construction, need to be accomplished within limited mission time frames. Resources need to be carefully managed and contingencies worked out, often on a very short notice. From the beginning of the NASA space program, planning has been done by large teams of domain experts working months, sometimes years, to put together a single mission. This approach, while proven very reliable up to now, is becoming increasingly harder to sustain. Elevated levels of NASA space activities, from deployment of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and completion of the International Space Station (ISS), to the planned lunar missions and permanent lunar bases, will put an even greater strain on this largely manual process. While several attempts to automate it have been made in the past, none have fully succeeded. In this paper we describe the current NASA planning methods, outline their advantages and disadvantages, discuss the planning challenges of upcoming missions and propose a distributed planning/scheduling framework (CMMD) aimed at unifying and optimizing the planning effort. CMMD will not attempt to make the process completely automated, but rather serve in a decision support capacity for human managers and planners. It will help manage information gathering, creation of partial and consolidated schedules, inter-team negotiations, contingencies investigation, and rapid re-planning when the situation demands it. The first area of CMMD application will be planning for Extravehicular Activities (EVA) and associated logistics. Other potential applications, not only in the space flight domain, and future research efforts will be discussed as well.


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