Press Release

Media Invited to NASA’s Newest Communications-Delay Tests

By SpaceRef Editor
June 11, 2012
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HOUSTON — NASA is preparing to move exploration beyond Earth’s orbit, but communication delays will change how the agency conducts its missions. Reporters can see for themselves how NASA is planning for that change through NASA’s newest test project, the Autonomous Mission Operations (AMO). Journalists are invited to watch the simulations at 3 p.m. CDT Thursday, June 14 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, which currently are in development, will move humans farther away from low Earth orbit than ever before. These greater distances will cause communications delays to increase. Tasks that once were the responsibility of flight controllers in mission control will shift to the crews aboard Orion. AMO will investigate various ways astronauts and flight controllers can work through this challenge.

Reporters will meet members of one of the crews involved in the test and their support team. They also will tour the Deep Space Habitat, which is being used for the simulation, and the supporting control room. To participate in the activities, reporters should contact Brandi Dean at by 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 13.

The tests will simulate the return from a 30-day exploration of a near-Earth asteroid, which is part of a larger 386-day mission. Crews consisting of one astronaut and three flight controllers will perform simulated tasks under varying time delays — 1.2 seconds, 50 seconds and 5 minutes, one way — that impede to differing degrees real-time conversations with mission control. They will communicate through and evaluate the effectiveness of voice, text and video messages; written questionnaires; and computer timeline tools. The results should help identify the best communications tools for future exploration missions.

The AMO project is part of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Program consisting of small projects aimed at rapidly developing and demonstrating prototype systems for future human spaceflight missions. Projects in the program will help reduce risk, lower cost and test concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.

For updates on testing and interviews with members of the Autonomous Mission Operations research team, visit:

For more information on Advanced Exploration Systems and Autonomous Mission Operations, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.