Operators of the Deep Space Network (DSN) attend to numerous tasks with the overall goal of providing continuous support for the world’s deep space missions. This high-stakes operations environment requires operators to understand the state of the DSN and predict what will happen next. Under the Follow-the-Sun initiative that requires remote operations of the highly complex telecommunications equipment, operators will need to remain aware of the state of the entire network rather than just their own facility, and transition fluidly between periods of low activity and periods of high demand.

A micro-display was designed that enables operators to see, at a glance, the state of a DSN support, including its subsystems. Using in-depth, user-centered, and participatory design techniques to identify information requirements, the Postage Stamp was designed for individual operators to be able to maintain awareness of their assigned supports. However, under Follow-the-Sun, operators must remain aware of all supports. The area occupied by the Postage Stamp must shrink to allow operators to see the state of the entire system, e.g., via a big board posted prominently in the operations room.

Micro-displays are tools for mental model re-alignment, helping operators to keep mental models of how the system works and behaves, aligned with the changing state of the complex system. Data-driven micro-displays, such as the Postage Stamp and Mini-Stamp, display information about the system in a consistent way. Like a traffic light, the format of the micro-display never changes; the operator always knows where to look to find a specific piece of information. The Mini-Stamp always looks like the Mini-Stamp, and all of its data fields always lie in the same place on the micro-display. Real-time data flows through the Mini-Stamp to provide information to the operator.

The main portion of the Mini-Stamp micro-display shows the antenna number and its status. This antenna-centric view of a DSN support reflects staffing and scheduling practices at the sites around the globe. The antenna number corresponds to the unique antenna identifier, and its status is antenna action (stowed, slewing, tracking, stowing, stopped/brakes).

The uplink portion of the Mini-Stamp shows whether the transmitter is enabled, and whether there are errors, warnings, and/or alerts for the uplink of the support. The downlink portion of the Mini-Stamp shows whether the receiver shows a lock on the spacecraft signal, and whether there are errors, warnings, and/or alerts for the downlink of the support. The symbols portion of the Mini- Stamp is intended to show whether data is being received, and whether there are errors, warnings, and/or alerts for the data/symbols portion of the support.

This work was done by Dr. Alexandra Holloway of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Dan Broderick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to NPO-49895.