Modern avionics permit user interfaces on spacecraft to be performed on computer screens instead of with physical controls. This saves a great deal of weight; however, it presents challenges with representing all the various controls and gauges as well as flight procedures and data on the limited screen real estate available in a practical cockpit.

The CAU primary flight display screen.
A standardized set of icons was developed and integrated in a user interface capable of fulfilling needed crew interactions to control a spacecraft. It utilizes the electronic procedure system (eProc) to present procedures to the crew and greatly reduce crew workload to operate a modern spacecraft.

The Space Shuttle Cockpit Avionics Upgrade (CAU) Display Atlas provides a visualization of the most recent iteration of the space shuttle glass cockpit from the perspective of the various crewmembers. The CAU cockpit includes a total of nine multi-functional display units (MDUs), all of which can display the complete suite of CAU format as tailored to each GNC major mode. Edge keys located along the lower bezel are used to navigate among the formats.

The CAU Display Atlas starts up with an overall view of the nine MDUs in the spatial configuration they would have in the cockpit. The application is then set up with the default displays for Major Mode 101 preselected in each MDU. From there, the user can view the default display configuration for each one of the Major Modes by selecting the desired mode from the “Set PASS GNC Major Mode” drop-down menu. The user can also view the cockpit from the perspective of the various crewmembers by selecting the appropriate option in the “View” drop-down menu. Navigation among the various displays available for the current Major Mode is provided by clicking on the corresponding edge keys.

Each display format actually includes a series of static pictures illustrating some of the major graphical item states for this display. This software represents an approach to controlling a spacecraft that is both practical and refined with extensive evaluation by members of the crew office as well as the NASA operational community.

This work was done by Lee Morin, Nicholas Patrick, Neil Woodbury, Robert McCann, and Bruce Hilty of Johnson Space Center; Patrick Laport and Tim Verborgh of Aerospace Applications North America, Inc.; and Patrick Henry of SAIC. MSC-25184-1/5-1/6-1


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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