The Deep Space Network (DSN) is a collection of three sites around the globe. The positioning of the sites, 120° longitude apart, allows at least one site to see every patch of sky at all times, thus facilitating continuous coverage for any deep space spacecraft that partners with the DSN.

One of the key people charged with the Deep Space Network support activities is the Link Control Operator (LCO). Among other duties, the LCO prepares the necessary hardware to track the spacecraft, tracks the spacecraft, and stows and tears down the equipment links after the track has passed. Currently, a single LCO monitors and commands one or two simultaneous supports. However, the number of supports will increase to three or more within the next five years under the DSN Follow the Sun initiative.

This work investigated how link control operators monitor supports. With the current system, the subsystem details reside on each subsystem display. Operators scan across six physical monitors to find necessary information to monitor their supports. Operators lack a low-level summary display; that is, a centralized display with detailed information about the health of various subsystems.

Summary displays have been tried before; a set of displays was created to provide high-level (roll-up) information about the state of the various subsystems. However, LCOs avoided them, since high-level roll-ups did not help assess support health. LCOs needed to see the actual numbers coming from the station telemetry.

To address the identified need of an aggregate low-level summary display, a display called the Postage Stamp was developed. LCOs identified a number of critical pieces of information that lead to an understanding of support health, and incorporated all of these elements in a single display. The Postage Stamp is meant to be scaled up to be seen from a distance, scaled down to be shown on an operator’s monitor alongside other displays, and arranged next to other Postage Stamps for other supports. Color was used to indicate state elements, and data and formats familiar to what operators currently use to indicate support health information.

This work was done by Alexandra Holloway, Bryan Duran, Scott Davidoff, and E. Jay Wyatt of Caltech; and Sourjya Roy Sinha of Indiana University for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This software is available for license through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and you may request a license at: https://download.jpl.nasa.gov/ops/request/request_introduction.cfm . NPO-49720


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2017 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.