As the nation gets down to the business of space exploration, United Space Alliance, NASA’s prime shuttle contractor, is putting its unrivaled experience in space operations to work on designing software and integration systems that will help to enable the transition from low earth orbit to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Through its Independent Research and Development Program, headed by Jerry Miller, USA has produced a suite of computer software products that represent the first-ever set of integrated applications and tools specifically created for space operations.

“These products, which build upon our unique experience in human space flight, truly represent tomorrow’s technology today,” Miller said, adding, “They bring together a vast array of information and data to give those working in all phases of space operations the tools they need to perform tasks with the click of a button. It takes what we’ve learned and creates a better way to execute the next era of space exploration.”

The new tools, known collectively as “Questus(TM),” were developed to support all aspects of operations — from hardware development and manufacturing, through ground processing for flight, to mission planning/integration, training & certification and real-time flight execution. Questus(TM) integrates the needs for end-to-end space operations. Its applications and tools uniquely interact across all phases. Though designed for space operations, the products have potential for use in other industries that have complex integration, scheduling and data management demands.

Questus(TM) currently consists of three separate, yet interacting products — Attentus(TM), Ascensio(TM) and Temporis(TM). The Latin names are descriptive of the function of each of the products. These functions demonstrate USA’s expertise in three distinct areas of spaceflight operations.

Attentus(TM) (Latin: “to be particular about one’s property”) — Space operations begins with the vehicle, so the first application in Questus(TM) is an integrated data management tool for spacecraft design, development, processing and operations. Named Attentus(TM), the tool streamlines the search and retrieval of information necessary for effective project integration by allowing users to visually drill down to a physical or topical locale for specific content associated with the vehicle. For example, an engineer who is troubleshooting a problem on a piece of hardware could use Attentus(TM) to pull up photos and data from all phases of the item’s life — from design, to build, to processing, to in-flight deployment.

Attentus(TM) extends beyond flight hardware systems and encompasses the breadth of data covering hardware, software, facilities, ground support equipment, flight management systems and repair/maintenance operations. Attentus(TM) also includes powerful tools for capturing and classifying digital content as it is created by design, processing or execution activities and integrating that content.

Ascensio(TM) (Latin: “to place into high or lofty flight”) — Trajectory planning is a key point of mission integration and a USA core competency, affecting not only spacecraft design, but also program policies and mission schedules. The exploration trajectory tool known as Ascensio(TM) is an advanced system for the design and analysis of interplanetary (for example, Earth-Moon) trajectories. It can be used for both pre-mission planning and real time mission execution.

Ascensio(TM) designs a spacecraft mission trajectory that includes Earth orbit, lunar/planetary translation, lunar/planetary descent and landing, lunar/planetary ascent and rendezvous with a lunar/planetary-orbiting module, a return trajectory to Earth and Earth entry. Ascensio’s(TM) modular design can be adapted to a variety of spacecraft configurations and is ideal for mission and vehicle design trade studies, with flexibility for analyzing various guidance schemes, navigation systems and mission timelines. In real time use, Ascensio(TM) automatically feeds this trajectory information to Temporis(TM) for mission scheduling purposes.

Temporis(TM) (Latin: “the discrete time interval between two or more related events”) — Temporis(TM) is USA’s new intelligent spaceflight mission management and planning tool. It enables Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and Constellation astronauts to take control of their own missions. A crew-centric program, Temporis(TM) is designed for on-board astronaut planning specialists to assign daily objectives to their crewmates according their unique situation. The volumes of spaceflight constraints, flight rules, dependencies, sequences, medical guidelines and safety requirements once in hardcopy books and flight controller training lessons are now efficiently embedded into Temporis'(TM) intelligence. To illustrate: it currently takes 50 mission planners working 24/7 for two weeks to schedule one day’s worth of activities on the International Space Station. Temporis(TM) reduces that 2- week job to a few moments with the click of a computer mouse.

The product has been created to use telemetry about the power, communication and other consumable or limited resources from the CEV, lunar habitation, L1 base or any system/vehicle. Whether in low Earth orbit, lunar translation, lunar orbit or in transit to Mars, as crew members schedule their own activities, Temporis(TM) ensures their individual plans use resources efficiently, feasibly and safely.

These applications in USA’s suite of space operations products are just the beginning, according to Miller.

“These products represent the first step in developing the tools necessary to implement the Vision for Space Exploration,” he said. “We plan to continue to develop the ops planning and execution products that will help take us to the Moon and beyond.”

United Space Alliance is a leader in space operations offering extensive experience in space launch and recovery operations; mission planning and control; flight hardware processing; space flight training; on-orbit assembly, payload deployment and servicing; rendezvous/proximity operations and docking; large-scale integration and sustaining engineering. United Space Alliance serves as NASA’s prime contractor for the Space Shuttle and provides operations services for the International Space Station. United Space Alliance employs more than 10,000 people in Texas, Florida, and Alabama.