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Haughton-Mars Project Expedition 2005: Interplanetary Supply Chain Management & Logistics Architectures: Final NASA/MIT Report

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2006

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Download full report (3.6 MB PDF)

Executive Summary

The 2005 expedition to the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) research station on Devon Island was part of a NASA-funded project on Space Logistics. A team of nine researchers from MIT went to the Canadian Arctic to participate in the annual HMP field campaign from July 8 to August 12, 2005. We investigated the applicability of the HMP research station as an analogue for planetary macro- and micro-logistics to the Moon and Mars, and began collecting data for modeling purposes. We also tested new technologies and procedures to enhance the ability of humans and robots to jointly explore remote environments. The expedition had four main objectives. We briefly summarize our key findings in each of these areas.

1. Classes of Supply: First, we wanted to understand what supply items existed at the HMP research station in support of planetary science and exploration research at and around the Haughton Crater. We also wanted to quantify the total amount of imported mass at HMP and compare this with predictions from existing parametric lunar base demand models.

We completed an initial inventory of the HMP research station, totaling over 2300 individual items. The inventory was partitioned into a new functional-based classes of supply (COS) system for exploration logistics, as we discovered that none of the existing schemes, such as the one used for the International Space Station (ISS), were consistent or comprehensive enough. The 10 classes of supply comprise: (1) propellants and fuels, (2) crew provisions, (3) crew operations, (4) maintenance and upkeep, (5) stowage and restraint, (6) exploration and research, (7) waste management and disposal, (8) habitation and infrastructure, (9) transportation and carriers as well as (10) miscellaneous items. This system of classification was validated against the 14 categories of the Cargo Category Allocation Rates Table (CCART) for ISS and through an on-site inventory at HMP. Over the course of the 29-day field campaign we inventoried a total of 20,717 kg, about 46,000 lbs, of supply items. The mass breakdown showed that 45% of the mass was due to transportation vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), 20% were various types of fuels and propellants, 14% were crew provisions (mainly food) and 8% were exploration items and scientific equipment. While we did not capture the mass of the already erected structures, this inventory correlated well with our pre-HMP estimate of 23,740 kg. The inventory was subsequently implemented in an SQL relational database that can be accessed by multiple organizations via the internet. This database captures a total of 50 attributes for each supply class, sub-class and individual item. Customized reports can be easily generated for various users in the supply chain (planners, mission operators, load masters, explorers).

2. Macro-Logistics Transportation Network: Our second objective was to understand the nodes, transportation routes, vehicles, capacities and crew and cargo mass flow rates required to support the HMP logistics network.

In all, 56 individuals (scientists and support staff) visited HMP in 2005, producing a total of 683 crew-days on Devon Island, yielding an average stay of 12.2 days. We carefully tracked the flow of cargo and crew, with particular emphasis on the transportation arc between Resolute and HMP. While 19 Twin Otter flights, each with a payload capacity around 2400-2800 lbs, had been originally planned at the beginning of the season, 28 such flights actually occurred. These transported a total crew and cargo mass of 22,750 kg inbound and 12,430 kg outbound. We found that the inbound capacity utilization of flights was 73%, while the outbound utilization was only 40%. This was primarily so because of ongoing construction activity on base and the asymmetric usage of flights with incoming airplanes being mainly empty on the return flight during the first half of the season. Our analysis suggests ways in which flights can be used more effectively, primarily by smoothing the campaign schedule, more carefully planning and staging of cargo at Resolute and through establishment of a formal reverse logistics staging area on Devon Island. However, we also found that apriori optimized flight schedules are easily rendered obsolete due to the uncertainties of the Arctic environment including the weather, competing demands for airplanes from other field parties, and medical emergencies.

3. Agent and Asset Tracking: Since the current inventory management system on ISS relies heavily on barcodes and manual tracking, we wanted to test new automated technologies and procedures such as radio frequency identification (RFID) to support exploration logistics. To this end we conducted a set of both formal and informal RFID experiments at HMP and found that electronic tagging of supply items, people and vehicles on a research base opens up entirely new ways of managing inventory, understanding usage patterns in real-time and enhancing exploration planning and analysis capabilities. A formal RFID gate experiment in the MIT tent showed that RFID can save a factor of 2-3 in inventory management time. However, the accuracy of recording transactions with RFID was only between 70-85%. The main technical problems involved optimal antenna installation, as well as tagging of metallic items and objects containing liquids. RF interference issues in the 915 MHz and the 2450 MHz bands occurred with other equipment on base and demonstrated that future distributed sensing systems will have to be designed as an integral part of vehicles and habitats, rather than retrofitted as an afterthought. We also demonstrated new uses of the technology such as monitoring of personnel movements between modules, and ATV usage around the base. The expedition stimulated follow-on research on new applications, such as "smart cabinets" that are self-aware and can sense their own contents, as well as "fast checkout" of exploration vehicles with the help of handheld readers.

4. Micro-Logistics (EVA): Finally, we wanted to understand the micro-logistical requirements of conducting both short (<1 day) and long traverses in the Mars-analog terrain on Devon Island. Micro-logistics involves the movement of surface vehicles, people and supplies from base to various exploration sites over short distances (<100 km).

At HMP we developed a standardized way of recording objectives, parameters and constraints for Extravehicular Activities (EVA) suitable for surface exploration. We applied this methodology to document a total of 8 traverses. On each traverse three main classes of items were brought along: consumables (e.g. water), safety equipment (e.g. UHF radios) and research equipment (e.g. cameras, rock hammers). More importantly, we found that none of the EVAs were conducted exactly as planned, primarily due to impassability of the originally planned path. Therefore, real-time re-planning tools and new surface mobility strategies and vehicles, such as an ATV-towed planetary camper, should be high priority initiatives in this area.

Conclusions: Our main conclusion from the 2005 expedition is that the HMP research station is indeed quite analogous to a Moon and Mars exploration base in some regards. Logistics involving surface transportation in and around base, equipment for scientific research (mainly planetary geology) at the Haughton Crater, field- and telemedicine, the autonomous greenhouse as well as the satellite communications and computational infrastructure map well to the parametric models we have developed for space exploration logistics requirements. Other aspects, however, primarily those involving human habitation, food and the abundance of water are clearly not analogous. Other significant differences are relatively frequent opportunities for resupply, and generous stowage space at HMP. This report provides details regarding areas were logistical lessons and data were obtained, and where further research is needed.

Recommendations: Our recommendations for HMP logistics, specifically, center on creating a more formal estimation and planning process for crew and cargo. This could be achieved by smoothing the campaign schedule, more strongly emphasizing reverse logistics between HMP and Resolute, and creating a longer term funding, transportation and warehousing plan with a planning horizon beyond a single season. A safety-critical item at HMP is the relatively informal way in which various fuels and propellants are managed, stored and marked. The biggest uncertainty remains around actual water usage.

Recommendations for NASA Exploration logistics focus on the creation of a web-based, unified, relational logistics information architecture based on a functional supply classification. We believe that this has the potential to avoid many current concerns in the future. Further research into RFID and other distributed sensing technologies and their integration into vehicle and habitat design is critical. The need to have real-time knowledge of locations and status of agents and assets at both orbital and surface nodes on the Moon and Mars will be of critical importance to both ensure safety, avoid shortages and improve operational efficiency.

From an exploration perspective we found that HMP– despite the identified differences with a Lunar or Martian base – is an ideal research environment for interplanetary logistics, because it:

  • represents a "semi-closed" system similar to a Moon/Mars base
  • features a rich, yet manageable, set of agents (crew), supply items and vehicles
  • is subject to a thin, uncertain supply line, and extreme environmental conditions
  • provides natural usage patterns to analyze the movement of crew and cargo in the
  • context of a planetary-analog research base on Earth

Future research at HMP will involve refinement of the current inventory, expansion of the HMP supply chain network model beyond the arc between Resolute and HMP, comprehensive RFID tagging, reading and automated database management as well as documenting EVA logistics requirements for overnight traverses, with the possibility of air-dropping caches at optimal locations in the Haughton Crater. Related research activities will include new surface mobility architectures, spacesuit experiments and the use of autonomous rovers as scouts.

Participants of the 2005 MIT-HMP Expedition:

Prof. Olivier de Weck (lead), Prof. Jeffrey Hoffman, Jaemyung Ahn, Julie Arnold, Erica Gralla, Xin (Mike) Li, Jessica Marquez, Sarah Shull, Matthew Silver

Cambridge, January 1, 2006

Haughton-Mars Project Expedition 2005
Interplanetary Supply Chain Management & Logistics Architectures
Final Report
January 1, 2006
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Principal Investigators: Prof. Olivier de Weck, Prof. David Simchi-Levi
Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), Exploration Systems Research & Technology
(ESR&T) Program, Project (ECP-BAA): ASTP-ASCT-3836
Contract Number: NNKO5OA50C
Contract Name: Interplanetary Supply Chain Management & Logistics Architectures
Period: April 28, 2005 – April 27, 2007

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