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Wireless Avionics and Human Interfaces for Inflatable Spacecraft

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4 Author(s)
Richard Alena ; NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035. 650-604-0262, ; Steven R. Ellis ; Jim Hieronymus ; Dougal Maclise

Revolutionary capabilities for robust control of inflatable Lunar and Martian transit vehicles and planetary habitats can be developed using advanced wireless network technology and modular avionics coupled with facile human to system interfaces. Fully wireless modular avionics would eliminate any cabling associated with power and data transmission, allowing easy deployment of flexible control systems and human interfaces. Furthermore, wearable human interface systems hosting virtual reality interaction methods can provide significant improvement in human situational awareness and control of dynamic space systems. The crew can interact with intelligent software agents providing human-like interaction using speech. These advanced information management systems would incorporate intelligent software agents to assist the crew in performing vehicle and mission operations. Advances in robust wireless data communications and wireless power transmission are the key technologies that enable this new spacecraft architecture. This paper will cover the proposed architecture for wireless spacecraft avionics including innovative human interaction techniques with spacecraft systems. The team believes these two aspects are intimately related and that mobile virtual human interfaces can solve many problems associated with operating spacecraft based on inflatable structures. Conventional architectures allocate much space to a cockpit from which the spacecraft is piloted and monitored. For the transit to Mars, which in most scenarios takes approximately 6 months, the cockpit becomes a major consumer of available space while being used only briefly during the journey for earth departure and planetary approach. Wireless control of the spacecraft would allow the piloting and monitoring function to be carried out from any location within the crew space. Identifying key technology developments required to support this architecture will involve evaluating current and next generation wirele- ss networks, computational modules and wireless power transmission for avionics. Complementary methods for virtual human interfaces will be evaluated, with the rapid development of this technology enabling significant advances to be realized in the next decade." have to be provided by remote presence technology, which ties the virtual reality visual system with cameras on the outside of the craft. Spoken commanding and interaction with ship systems is also an important part of this concept. As ship systems become more complex, it will become impossible for the crew to remember exact details of all aspects of the operating environment. In this case the ability to ask questions about spacecraft status and have the agents issue audible spoken advisories and warnings becomes an important part of safely operating a very complex system. The shipboard agent systems can become in effect a much larger crew for the mission. With the round trip communication times approaching 40 minutes for the Mars transit, all of the mission operations knowledge will have to be built into the spacecraft, lessening dependence upon earth-based support. The operational authority has to be given to the astronauts augmented by virtual mission support provided by the knowledge agents on the spacecraft. A distributed wireless avionics system would provide the computational capacity for sophisticated support systems that inform the correct crew member of a problem needing their attention, and to assist them in performing a complex task.

Published in:

Aerospace Conference, 2008 IEEE

Date of Conference:

1-8 March 2008