Enabling Advanced Automation in Spacecraft Operations with the Spacecraft Emergency Response System

Julie Breed, Keith Walyus, and Jeffrey Fox

True autonomy is the Holy Grail of satellite mission operations (i.e., launching a satellite and letting it manage itself throughout its life). The cost of mission operations would be reduced to a negligible amount because all anomalies with the satellite would be handled without any human intervention. Unfortunately, truly autonomous systems now only exist as research projects. In the meantime, incremental forms of automation are being introduced into operations centers to reduce costs. Some missions are running "lights-out," in which operations are run without human intervention off-hours. To ensure the health and safety of these missions, NASA sponsored the development of the Spacecraft Emergency Response System (SERS), a Web environment that enables secure distributed fault management. When SERS detects a problem, it notifies on-call team members, who can then remotely take actions necessary to resolve the anomalies. SERS has been successfully deployed on a variety of missions with varying levels of automation. This paper first briefly describes satellite operations automation and the SERS system. The paper then focuses on the two factors that led to SERS' success: (1) support for varying levels of automation and (2) a successful development and deployment process that

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