Shewhart control charts have been established as an expedient method for analyzing dynamic, trending data in order to identify anomalous subsystem performance as soon as such performance would exceed a statistically established baseline. Additionally, this leading indicator tool integrates a selection methodology that reduces false positive indications, optimizes true leading indicator events, minimizes computer processor unit duty cycles, and addresses human factor concerns (i.e., the potential for flight-controller data overload). This innovation leverages statistical process control, and provides a relatively simple way to allow flight controllers to focus their attention on subtle system changes that could lead to dramatic off-nominal system performance. Finally, this capability improves response time to potential hardware damage and/or crew injury, thereby improving space flight safety.

Shewhart control charts require normalized data. However, the telemetry from the ISS Early External Thermal Control System (EETCS) was not normally distributed. A method for normalizing the data was implemented, as was a means of selecting data windows, the number of standard deviations (Sigma Level), the number of consecutive points out of limits (Sequence), and direction (increasing or decreasing trend data). By varying these options, and treating them like dial settings, the number of nuisance alerts and leading indicators were optimized. The goal was to capture all leading indicators while minimizing the number of nuisances. Lean Six Sigma (L6S) design of experiment methodologies were employed. To optimize the results, Perl programming language was used to automate the massive amounts of telemetry data, control chart plots, and the data analysis.

This work was done by Jeffery T. Fitch, Alan L. Simon, John A. Gouveia, Andrew M. Hillin, and Steve A. Hernandez of United Space Alliance for Johnson Space Center. MSC-24530-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.