The Rendezvous and Proximity Operations Program (RPOP) is realtime guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) domain piloting-aid software that provides 3D Orbiter graphics and runs on the Space Shuttle’s Criticality-3 Payload and General Support Computer (PGSC) in the crew cockpit. This software provides the crew with “Situational Awareness” during the rendezvous and proximity operations phases of flight. RPOP can be configured from flight to flight, accounting for mission-specific flight scenarios and target vehicles, via initialization load (I-load) data files. The software provides real-time, automated, closed-loop guidance recommendations and the capability to integrate the crew’s manual backup techniques.

The software can bring all relative navigation sensor data, including the Orbiter’s GPC (general purpose computer) data, into one central application to provide comprehensive situational awareness of the rendezvous and proximity operations trajectory.

RPOP also can separately maintain trajectory estimates (past, current, and predicted) based on certain data types and co-plot them, in order to show how the various navigation solutions compare. RPOP’s best estimate of the relative trajectory is determined by a relative Kalman filter processing data provided by the sensor suite’s most accurate sensor, the trajectory control sensor (TCS). Integrated with the Kalman filter is an algorithm that identifies the reflector that the TCS is tracking.

Because RPOP runs on PC laptop computers, the development and certification lifecycles are more agile, flexible, and cheaper than those that govern the Orbiter FSW (flight software) that runs in the GPC. New releases of RPOP can be turned around on a 3- to 6-month template, from new Change Request (CR) to certification, depending on the complexity of the changes.

This work was done by Heather Hinkel, Scott Tamblyn, and William L. Jackson of NASA’s Johnson Space Center; Chris Foster of Jacobs Engineering (ESCG); Jack Brazzel and Thomas R. Manning of McDonnell Douglas Space Systems; and Fred Clark, Pete Spehar, Jim D. Barrett, and Zoran Milenkovic of Lockheed Martin. MSC-24473-1