The role of PLUTO (Plug-in Port UTilization Officer) and the growth of the International Space Station (ISS) have exceeded the capabilities of the current tool PiP (Plug-in Plan). Its users (crew and flight controllers) have expressed an interest in a new, easy-touse tool with a higher level of interactivity and functionality that is not bound by the limitations of Excel.

The PiP Tool assists crewmembers and ground controllers in making realtime decisions concerning the safety and compatibility of hardware plugged into the UOPs (Utility Outlet Panels) onboard the ISS. The PiP Tool also provides a reference to the current configuration of the hardware plugged in to the UOPs, and enables the PLUTO and crew to test Plug-in locations for constraint violations (such as cable connector mismatches or amp limit violations), to see the amps and volts for an end item, to see whether or not the end item uses 1553 data, and the cable length between the outlet and the end item. As new equipment is flown or returned, the database can be updated appropriately as needed. The current tool is a macro-heavy Excel spreadsheet with its own database and reporting functionality.

The new tool captures the capabilities of the original tool, ports them to new software, defines a new dataset, and compensates for ever-growing unique constraints associated with the Plug-in Plan. New constraints were designed into the tool, and updates to existing constraints were added to provide more flexibility and customizability. In addition, there is an option to associate a “Flag” with each device that will let the user know there is a unique constraint associated with it when they use it. This helps improve the safety and efficiency of real-time calls by limiting the amount of “corporate knowledge” overhead that has to be trained and learned through use.

The tool helps save time by automating previous manual processes, such as calculating connector types and deciding which cables are required and in what order.

This project provides a better onboard tool for the crew to safely test ideas for reconfigurations before calling the ground, and send the changes directly. The layout provides clear detail for power channels, module locations, and data ports, and allows for intuitive “drag-anddrop” connections from the database. The software will allow only compatible connections to occur, and will flag violations if they exist. It also allows the user to flag unique constraints that might not be caught by the software’s existing rules and calculations.

The PiP Tool includes reporting capabilities that allow the user to export database information and configuration information to Excel to share with others or run detailed comparisons and searches as needed.

This work was done by Kathleen E. Andrea-Liner, Brion J. Au, Blake R. Fisher, Watchara Rodbumrung, Jeffrey C. Hamic, Kary Smith, and David S.Beadle of the United Space Alliance for Johnson Space Center. MSC-24872-1

Software Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2012 issue of Software Tech Briefs Magazine.

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