Architectures for Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

by Roger A. Davidson, California Inst of Technology, Pasadena, United States,
Susan C. Murphy, California Inst of Technology, Pasadena, United States,

Abstract: One of the most vital, but often overlooked, research areas for space missions is flight operations. The imbalance is caused by many factors. Among them, the manner in which space missions are funded encourages postponement of the majority of operations funding until it is too late to significantly affect mission and spacecraft design. Even so, operations is becoming a major cost driver as missions are extended to or are designed for longer operational lifetimes, such as the Earth Observing System (EOS) and Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) missions. Clearly then, mission designers will benefit by considering operability at the outset rather than as an afterthought as they develop our future space missions. An important subset of operations is mission control which comprises the real-time operational functions. The functions are performed by a mission control team in a control center using tools which are part of the ground data system. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is currently converting, flight project by flight project, to an innovative control center data system created by the Space Flight Operations Center (SFOC). The SFOC data system is a distributed, open architecture for telemetry delivery, and it is enabling advancement towards improved automation and operability, as well as new technology, in mission operations at JPL. In this paper, we communicate the scope of mission control within mission operations. We explain the concepts of a mission control center and how operability can impact the design of a control center data system. We provide examples of JPL's mission control architecture, data system development, and prototype efforts in the JPL Operations Engineering Laboratory. Finally, we share our perception of and strategies for the future of mission control architectures.

Subject Headings: Control systems | Space exploration | Flight | Information management | Architecture | Data processing

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