Alternative Approaches to Mission Control Automation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Miranda Cooter, George Davis, and Jennifer Mackey, Commerce One Global Services, USA; Michael Rackley, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA

To meet its objective of reducing operations costs without incurring a corresponding increase in risk, NASA is seeking new methods to automate mission operations. This paper examines the state of the art in automating ground operations for space missions. A summary of available technologies and methods for automating mission operations is provided. Responses from interviews with several space mission Flight Operations Teams (FOT) to assess the degree and success of those technologies and methods implemented are presented. Mission operators that were interviewed approached automation using different tools and methods resulting in varying degrees of success - from nearly completely automated to nearly completely manual. Two key criteria for successful automation are the active participation of the FOT in the planning, designing, testing, and implementation of the system and the relative degree of complexity of the mission.

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