Using Optimization to Improve NASA Extravehicular Activity Planning
Felker, Paul W.
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Extravehicular Activity (EVA) is a specialized function performed during spaceflights in which two or more astronauts don spacesuits to perform tasks on the exterior of their spacecraft. An extensive and iterative planning process is required to prepare for each highly choreographed EVA operation. The current planning process relies heavily upon time-consuming heuristic approaches by subject matter experts to essentially "hand-build" each EVA plan. This research develops the EVA Planning Model (EPM), a linear, mixed-integer program intended as a proof-of- concept demonstration for employing formal mathematical optimization techniques to EVA planning. The EPM is thoroughly tested to verify that it functions as intended and is evaluated by expert EVA planners using actual task information. We find that the EPM proves the concept that formal mathematical optimization can be used to aid in subject matter experts in EVA development and planning. It is particularly useful in allowing the evaluation of alternative planning inputs and thorough assessment of EVA plan impacts resulting from external changes.
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