Automation and autonomy are key elements in realizing the vision for space exploration. The NASA Exploration Technology Development Program (ETDP) has been developing several core autonomy capabilities, one of which is called a procedure representation language (PRL). PRL can be automatically translated into code that can be executed by NASA-developed autonomous executives.

PRL provides for access to spacecraft and habitat telemetry, includes constructs for human centered displays, allows for the full range of human interaction, and allows for automatic methods of verification and validation. But most important, PRL is being developed with a graphical authoring system that enables non-computer specialists to write automated procedures.

Additions and enhancements to the PRL language let automated planners take better advantage of the PRL-generated procedures. Specifically those changes concerned the explicit representation of (1) resources that the procedure requires, (2) execution constraints with respect to other procedures, and (3) decomposition of large procedures.

EVA and SPARTAN flight control procedures were modeled, and from that modeling, extensions to the PRL were developed that add planning information — resource, constraints, and sub-procedural information — to produce code useable by automated planning software.

Mission planners (both human and automated) will benefit by being able to schedule procedures into an activity plan in a consistent fashion, and detect conflicts in resources and effects between and across procedures. Providing the enhanced PRL with a consistent semantics is especially significant for verification and validation (both manual and automated) of PRL procedures, and for allowing different types of automated planners developed by NASA to use PRL generated procedures.

This work was done by Russell Bonasso, David Kortenkamp, and Scott Bell of TRACLabs, Inc.; and Mark Boddy of Adventium Enterprises for Johnson Space Center. MSC-24521-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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