NSTRF – Decision Support System Development for Human Extravehicular Activity


Human spaceflight is arguably one of mankind’s most challenging engineering feats, requiring carefully crafted synergy between human and technological capabilities. One critical component of human spaceflight pertains to the activity conducted outside the safe confines of the spacecraft, known as Extravehicular Activity (EVA). Successful execution of EVAs requires significant effort and real-time communication between astronauts who perform the EVA and the ground personnel who provide real-time support. As NASA extends human presence into deep space, the time delay associated with communication relays between the flight crew and support crew will cause a shift from a real-time to an asynchronous communication environment. Asynchronous communication has been identified in the literature as an operational issue that must be addressed to ensure future mission success. There is a need to infuse advanced technologies with onboard systems to support crew decision-making in the absence of ground support. A decision support system (DSS) is one possible solution to enhance astronauts’ capability to identify, diagnose, and recover from time critical irregularities during EVAs without relying on real-time ground support.

The intent of this work is to (1) identify the system constraints on EVA operations, (2) develop the requirements for a DSS for operation within an asynchronous communication environment, (3) identify the characteristics of the DSS design are likely to fulfill the DSS requirements, and (4) assess how well the prototyped DSS performs in asynchronous EVA. The proposed research aims to examine how the EVA work domain is currently established using a constraint-based cognitive engineering framework to inform the design of a DSS. The prototype will then undergo an iterative design and evaluation process within a simulated asynchronous EVA environment. This thesis will contribute the underlying science needed to design a DSS within the EVA work domain to enable future mission operations.