A methodology of computer-aided planning has been developed to (1) accelerate the generation of plans for activities within complex systems of personnel and equipment; (2) increase the quality of the plans thus generated; and (3) decrease the difficulty of predicting and responding to the effects of changes in plans, requirements, resources, and/or other constraints. Originally intended for application to planning of missions of the space shuttle and other spacecraft, the methodology could also be applied to strategic business planning, management of projects, general scheduling, and planning of manufacturing processes and systems.

The KAMPS Software is divided into four modules, each of which performs a different set of functions.

The three principal components of the methodology are (1) an ontology of mission planning; (2) knowledge-based algorithms and conceptual (including mathematical) models for the analysis of plans; and (3) the Knowledge Aided Mission Planning System (KAMPS) computer program, which embodies the ontology, algorithms, and models. The KAMPS software implements a structured method for planning and re-planning. The KAMPS planning method involves (1) a template-based approach to the generation of plans; (2) representation, from alternate perspectives, of knowledge about plans, application of plans, and maintenance of plans; and (3) qualitative and quantitative analysis of plans for prediction of the effects of changes.

The ontology and an associated theoretical framework were developed to enable detailed characterization of the world for the purpose of performing mission planning in this domain. The ontology and framework provide a conceptual foundation for knowledge-based creation, maintenance, and analysis of plans. The development of the ontology included the characterization of the key entities involved in the mission-planning process, and of the relationships and constraints that govern the behavior of those entities. This development effort resulted in a characterization of the ontology and the production of information models and process models for the mission-planning domain.

KAMPS provides means for capturing the information that pertains to the flight-design process, reasoning with this information to assist in developing plans, and to assist in the analysis of the effects of plans and of changes. KAMPS is based on a very clear and succinct modeling paradigm in which all of the information is managed in three views: product-centered, activity centered, and resource-centered. The concepts that occur in each of these views and the relationships among the various concepts were studied and are implemented in KAMPS. The use of KAMPS for the flight-design process is expected to encourage the user to perform modeling and design according to the best practice and research conventions, which have been incorporated into KAMPS.

KAMPS incorporates a rich library of qualitative and quantitative conceptual models for predicting the effects of changes. Temporal effects are included in quantitative predictions; effects on values, processes, inputs, and outputs are included in qualitative predictions.

KAMPS facilitates modeling of products and activities at multiple levels of abstraction. KAMPS also supports planning and reasoning at multiple levels: For example, upper managers can use KAMPS to do planning at a relatively abstract level, whereas middle managers can use KAMPS to perform planning at a more detailed level.

Once experience with KAMPS results in the accumulation of sufficient pertinent information about flights and templates, it should be possible to use KAMPS as means to provide detailed information on the flight-design process that is detailed, standardized, and more complete than the information in the flight-design handbook used heretofore for training. In comparison with the handbook, KAMPS presents relevant information in ways that are more interactive, modular, and graphical. Thus, KAMPS can serve as both a means to document the NASA flight-design process and as a tool for training.

This work was done by Benjamin Perakath and Blinn Thomas of Knowledge Based Systems, Inc., for Johnson Space Center. MSC-22830

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2000 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.