Communicating the current International Space Station (ISS) configuration and also potential ISS configurations is a necessity during ISS trade studies and Ops Con development. Often, multiple configuration options will need to be communicated. Doing so without a means of displaying an image of the description can be very confusing. Historically, visual information needed for presentations and meetings was conveyed using still images or pre-generated videos. This form of information provides only a single view, and it is not always at the optimum location.

The Visual International Space Station Configuration Viewer (VIC) is a software tool to assist with visualizing and communicating the current and potential ISS configuration to a wide audience. The tool consists of a simplified three-dimensional model of the ISS external configuration that allows the user to interact using a mouse or keyboard, and manually reconfigure the ISS with pre-defined elements, vehicles, and cargo.

VIC can be used in a meeting environment, or viewed in a user’s office environment, providing research before a meeting, collaboration during a meeting, and verification and documentation post-meeting. VIC allows a user to drag/rotate/zoom a medium-resolution, 3D model of the ISS; view the ISS from above or set the viewpoint to one of five external cameras to view what can be seen from the camera; and relocate and/or add major elements based on recently discussed ISS configuration options. It also enables users to attach multiple visiting vehicles to approved port locations, attach cargo elements to approved locations, change the attitude of the ISS, rotate solar arrays and radiators, and view defined keep-out zones.

VIC uses the Unity Game engine as the display package for the graphics, making the program cross-platform. VIC has the capability to directly integrate results from the ISS robotics analysis group, allowing a real-time viewing of analysis from any viewpoint. VIC incorporates an XML input file that defines all of the allowed relations for placement of elements, vehicles, and cargo. This file enables constraints and positions to be verified against analysis group data, and rapidly changed without altering the source code if necessary.

This work was done by Sharon Goza and David Shores of Johnson Space Center; and William Leu, Raymond A. Kraesig, Eric L. Richeson, Clinton P. Wallace, Moses Hernandez, and Cheyenne C. McKeegan of Tietronix Software Inc. MSC-25339-1


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This article first appeared in the September, 2014 issue of Software Tech Briefs Magazine.

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