Adaptable Environment for Space Operations

Sonalysts began research and development of the Adaptable Environment for Space Operations (AESOP) to provide a standard UI environment for Satellite C2 (SATC2) that can be leveraged and customized for any satellite mission. The AESOP design includes a runtime application that renders the user environment and a set of standard User Interface (UI) controls, displays, and methods in the form of a Software Development Kit (SDK). The SDK provides the capability to customize the standard environment for any satellite mission. The SDK package includes an AESOP guidelines document that provides a framework in which future developments can be seamlessly integrated within the environment, maintaining a consistent User Experience (UX) AESOP. Throughout Phase I and Phase II, Sonalysts adopted a user-centered approach to design, gathering feedback from approximately 70 operators, mission commanders, orbital analysts, payload operators, and domain experts with over 586 man years of experience across the 50th OSS, 1-4 Space Operation Squadrons (SOPS) and their Reserve Squadrons, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron (SES), the Small Satellite Program (SSP) and other Experimental Missions at AFRL/Space Vehicles Directive (RV), the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC), and the National Space Defense Center (NSDC). We conducted four Targeted Ideation Development Events (TIDEs) with the user community to brainstorm new user interface concepts to improve SATC2 operations and collaboration between space organizations. As part of these events, Knowledge Elicitation (KE) sessions were held with operators, consisting of semi-structured interviews to understand operator mental models on operations. From the TIDE and KE sessions, dozens of ideas were introduced, forming the design seeds. Using human factors design principles, we evolved these design seeds into UI mock-ups of the AESOP system. The mock-ups were further vetted through focus groups with operators to address specific user interface changes.

Sonalysts has evolved the mock-ups into a prototype of the AESOP System to support operational use cases. Using this prototype, the AESOP functionality was tested against an existing legacy SATC2 system in formal user testing so that the overall effectiveness of AESOP could be empirically assessed. The results included:

  1. Operators were able to detect, diagnose, and resolve anomalies in significantly less time with AESOP than they could with the Legacy Human Machine Interface (HMI).
  2. On average, participants experienced less workload with AESOP than they did with the Legacy HMI.
  3. Participants rated AESOP as being significantly more usable than the Legacy HMI, rating it approximately 30 points higher than the Legacy HMI, on average.

AESOP provides an enterprise-wide standard operator interface that is based on sound, data-driven, human factors and UX research. Using lessons learned and information collected from the operators, AESOP also provides intuitive interfaces and behaviors that can be used across multiple satellite systems and payloads. This solution produces the following benefits:

  • Increased Human-System Effectiveness: By providing an environment based on user-centered design principles and employing standard UI guidelines of simplicity, consistency, and efficiency, the operator will be able to monitor satellite conditions and respond to or initiate actions quickly, efficiently, and with greater accuracy. The increased Situational Awareness (SA), decreased task completion times, and increased speed of decision-making will make operators more effective and lethal in Contested and Degraded Operations (CDO).
  • Increased Collaboration: Sonalysts collected input from a wide variety of Operational Squadrons on how to increase collaboration between the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of the space community (across the USAF, Intelligence Community, and USSTRATCOM). This input was included in the user interface designs to increase shared situational awareness through cross-organizational information flow and collaboration.
  • Reduced Training Time: Standard intuitive interfaces and behaviors reduce the knowledge load and learning time for first-time operators, while reducing the delta-training requirements for operators cross-training to new satellite systems. By increasing commonality, operators will be able to switch to different satellite missions with less of a learning curve, providing a more adaptive manning structure to the USAF at a lower cost.
  • Reduced System Development Time and Increased Adaptability: Providing a standard environment that can be extended through the use of an SDK, development and integration of third-party user displays and analytics applications requires less development time. The environment is data-driven, and provides presentation separation from the underlying processing and business logic for greater development efficiency. By providing an SDK, the environment can be extended to handle diverse mission needs by enabling software developers to create new displays and interfaces for each mission or system. These extensions will be easier to develop due to the fact that the SDK provides common controls and methodologies that can be re-used by each system, driving down development costs across the entire space enterprise.

In summary, the AESOP system increases operations effectiveness and prepares the USAF for new challenges presented by the CDO space environment that is now a reality.

The Adaptable Environment for Space Operations was designed directly from user input to provide a user interface for multiple satellite missions.

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