Status Report

International Space Station Payload Operations Concept and Architecture Assessment Study Final Report (Executive Summary)

By SpaceRef Editor
February 17, 2002
Filed under , ,

Note: This report, commissioned by NASA and prepared by the Computer Sciences Corporation in February, 2002 presents the results of the ISS Payload Operations Concepts and Architecture Assessment Study (POCAAS) prepared by the POCAAS Study Team. Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) formed the team in response to a Request for Proposal from the NASA Office of Biological and Physical Research. The study assessed the current ISS concept of payload operations and the associated flight/ground architecture for efficiency improvements.

Executive Summary

The Payload Operations Concept and Architecture Assessment Study (POCAAS) for the
International Space Station (ISS) was established by NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical
Research (Code U) to assess the current ISS concept of payload operations and the associated
flight/ground arc³P,cture for efficiency improvements. The study evaluated the potential for
time-phased reductions in the cost of payload operations through efficiency improvements to
existing systems, interim or permanent changes to existing requirements on systems, and changes
to the current concept of payload operations to take the most effective advantage of continuity in
ISS operations.

This Executive Summary presents the Study Team’s findings and recommendations. Additional
detailed findings and recommendations are contained in the body of the report.

ES-1. The payload operations organization performed admirably during the first year of
ISS research under extremely difficult circumstances.

More than 50 investigators have successfully conducted research on the ISS, and more than
50,000 hours of experiment run-time were conducted. This research was performed while the
ISS was in the process of major construction, despite significant system anomalies.

A steep on-orbit learning curve was experienced in managing a very complex space facility,
which imposed significant requirements and process constraints on the payload operations

ES-2. ISS researchers find the payload integration process, including payload operations,
to be unnecessarily and discouragingly difficult.

In comparison to past manned space programs, ISS requirements are too demanding, and
enforcement of compliance to these requirements is too strict. There are too many repetitive
reviews involving principal investigators (PIs) and payload developers (PDs). Processes are too
complicated and inflexible.

Researchers judge the reflight of a Space Shuttle or Spacelab payload on ISS to be 2 to 4 times
more difficult than the original flight on Shuttle/Spacelab. Reflight of an ISS payload on the ISS
is not as difficult as the first ISS flight, but significant repetitive work can be reduced.

Recommendation. Reengineer and streamline the payload integration process, including
payload operations.

ES-3. Payload operations are a relatively small component of ISS cost.>

Of an approximately $2 billion per year ISS Program budget, the ISS research budget of $284
million constitutes 14 percent. Within the research budget, the current $51 million payload
operations budget constitutes 18 percent, or 2.6 percent of the entire ISS Program budget.

While the payload operations budget does not appear disproportionate to other ISS Program
elements when judged against other comparable space programs, the payload operations cost can
be reduced.

Recommendation. Considering the interaction among all payload integration activities, and the
researcher issues, reduction in payload operations costs should be undertaken as part of a larger
streamlining of ISS payload integration.

ES-4. Payload operations cost can be reduced if a combination of actions is taken.

Program requirements must be modified to allow alternative implementations (e.g., for reflight
payloads). Program standards must be modified or interpreted to focus on intent, not rigid
adherence (e.g, detailed formatting of crew displays and procedures).
Information exchange requirements among ISS organizations and with researchers must be
streamlined to be more effective, less formal, and less redundant.
Operational processes and approval processes must be further simplified.
While some of these actions may be regarded as potentially reducing the efficiency of re­ch
resource utilization onboard the ISS, the Study Team believes that this need not be the case. The
Study Team believes the increase in researcher satisfaction and reduction in cost greatly
outweigh the risk.

Recommendation. Budget reduction should be preceded by a definitive program action,
working with the research community, to identify and define specific changes to reduce
complexity, increase flexibility, and reduce cost.

ES-5. ISS operations today are being largely conducted in ÒsortieÓ mode; an alternative
concept for long-term payload operations is Òcontinuous flowÓ.

In current operations, each Increment (or Expedition) is treated as an entity [planning,
preparation, certification of flight readiness (COFR), crew changeout]. New payloads, however,
are manifested and certified by Earth-to-orbit-vehicle (ETOV) flight.
The sortie mode of operations was logical, effective, and efficient for early ISS assembly
operations. However, as the ISS Program moves toward sustained research operations on-orbit,
continuous operations become the objective.

In the alternative concept of continuous flow (Exhibit ES-1), the Payload Operations Integration
Function (POIF) manages on-orbit ISS payload operations more as a ship at sea. The operations
processes currently used by the POIF to manage day-to-day operations during an increment are
extended to eliminate the need to recertify payload onboard the ISS and its continuing operation.
The POIF has already introduced this mode of operation to some extent in the management of
crew procedures and displays. New payloads and payload supplies are logistically provided by
ETOV sorties, as is crew exchange.

A comparison of sortie (increment) mode to the continuous flow concept is shown in
Exhibit ES-2.

Recommendation. Adopt continuous flow processes where possible to reduce repetitious
increment-based activities.

ES-6. The current ISS payload operations architecture comprises four primary cost

The four primary cost elements are as follows:

  • Payload Operations Integration Function (POIF)

  • Payload Operations Integration Center (POIC)

  • Telescience Support Centers (TSCs)

  • NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) services

ES-6.1. The POIF provides essential ISS functions.

  • Integrating ISS payload operations (U.S. and international partner)

  • Facilitating performance of experiments by PIs and crew, and managing shared resources

  • Controlling the U.S. payload communications and data handling (C&DH) system, which includes the payload multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) system the KuBand communications system, and the onboard communications outage recorders

  • Controlling 11 onboard research facilities (8 EXPRESS Racks, MELFI, WORF, and ARIS)

POIF Cost Option 1. The Study Team recognizes that POIF cost was significantly reduced
previously through continuous improvement processes that are in place. However, the Team
believes that POIF cost can be further reduced through reduction of requirements, reduced
rigidity in standards, streamlined processes, and adherence to a minimum service level. The
Study Team performed a bottoms-up labor estimate for the POIF assuming incorporation of
POCAAS recommendations. The results of this labor ENewmate are shown in Exhibit ES-3.

Note that the POCAAS estimate was performed separately for three ISS mission phases (three
crew, pre-core assembly complete; three crew, post-core assembly complete; and six crew).
These phases were defined by the POCAAS in a mission model that reflects the differing numbers and complexity of payloads that can be supported by the ISS and its logistics systems in
these phases.

Three other POIF cost options were also evaluated.

POIF Cost Option 2. Delete planned Space Flight Operations Contract (SFOC) instructor
support for crew training on payloads. The training would still be performed at the Payload
Training Complex (PTC) at Johnson Space Center (JSC) by POIF staff, as it is currently being
performed. The Study Team judged that it is more cost effective to focus payload training
responsibility within one (POIF) organization.

POIF Cost Option 3. Provide POIF assistance to PIs/PDs above the minimum service level,
where the PIs/PDs need and request assistance. This option recognizes that PIs/PDs vary in their
experience level with space operations. This is especially true of first-time fliers, while PIs/PDs
with prior experience and PIs/PDs supported strongly by Research Project Office (RPO)
resources need only the minimum service level.

POIF assistance to inexperienced PDs has reduced development time, reduced overall cost, and
resulted in better operations products. This assistance can also allow PIs/PDs to focus on their
core competencies of science research and experiment development, while using experienced
operations personnel to translate experiment requirements into operations products and formats.

This cost option requires a staff of 10 to 15 operations interface engineers. The precise number
should be based yearly on an assessment of the planned payload manifest and, therefore, is
expected to change over time.

The operations interface engineers, if maintained in a separate pool within the POIF, can provide
an added role of advocacy for continuous improvement within the POIF, by aligning with the
perspective of the researchers.

POIF Cost Option 4. Provide additional POIF resources to plan for payload operations with the
IPs. Limited process and procedural preparation has been accomplished to date for IP payload
operations interfaces.

A dedicated team of 5 or 6 operations personnel is needed in 2003Ð2004 to develop the IP
interfaces and to support an increased level of simulations to validate procedures and train both
IP and POIF staff. The precise size of this effort requires further analysis.

Implementation Considerations. The Study Team identified a number of implementation
considerations that should be observed if the Team recommendations are accepted.

A balance should be maintained between Federal Government and private-sector (contractor)
staffing. The Government component is essential both to exert Government responsibility and to
maintain continuity in the core skill base. The current contract for POIF contractor labor is
assumed to end in fiscal year (FY) 2004, due to expiration of the current NASA 50000 contract
late in that year.

Capability should also be retained to rotate POIF staff between on-console real-time shifts and
preparation work performed in the normal office work environment. This rotation is essential for
retaining both staff and skills.

A phase-in of the POCAAS minimum service level model is required to accomplish changes in
current requirements, documentation, and operating practices, and to avoid disruption to ongoing
payload operations. Exhibit ES-4 shows a recommended phase-in profile. The profile reflects a
transition in FY 2002Ð2003 to the minimum service level model. A transition from the three-crew,
pre-core assembly complete payload traffic model (30 payloads/increment) to the higher
three-crew, post-core assembly complete payload traffic model (40 payloads/increment) begins
in FY 2005, based on the POCAAS mission model. Although IP payload operations may begin
in FY 2005, the total payload workload does not change until FY 2006. The additional initial
effort required for integration of the IPs into payload operations is separately accounted for in
Option 4. The transition to the six-crew payload traffic model (70 payloads/increment) begins in
FY 2008.

The assumed Federal Government staff level in FY 2003 and subsequent is an arbitrary fraction
of the total staff.

POIF Recommendations.

POIF Cost Option 1 – Minimum Service Level. The Study Team recommends that this option
be adopted, with an appropriate phase-in, and conditional upon similar ISS Program changes in
payload integration that are necessary for success of the option.

POIF Cost Option 2 – Elimination of SFOC Training Instructors. The Study Team
recommends adopting this option. A level of SFOC funding must still be maintained to support
PTC maintenance.

POIF Cost Option 3 – PI/PD Assistance. The Study Team recommends that this option be
adopted, subject to a review of the planned payload manifest and the needs of manifested

POIF Cost Option 4 – IP Operations Preparation. The Study Team recommends reviewing
this option with respect to IP agreements, processes, and timing. Timely preparations for IP
payload operations are essential to avoid disruption and loss of science return.

ES-6.2. The POIC provides the essential core information technology infrastructure
necessary to conduct payload operations.

The POIC performs the following functions:

  • Real-time (RT) and near-real-time (NRT) telemetry processing

  • Command processing

  • POIC and remote command and display processing

  • KuBand data distribution via the Payload Data Service System (PDSS) to the Internet

  • Local and remote voice communications (HVoDS/IVoDS)

  • Local video distribution

  • Operations tools hosting

POIC development was completed within the past year, and a final major software delivery is
scheduled for the second quarter of CY 2002. As development tasks were completed, the POIC
contractor staff was reduced from 250 in March 2001 to a planned 125 in March 2002. Systems
of this type typically require approximately 1 year to stabilize operation after completion of

The POIC systems, as designed and implemented, are highly capable, highly distributed, and
relatively complex to operate. The Study Team found that technology refreshment is essential to
reducing the cost of operating the POIC, as well as to maintain system effectiveness:

  • Some POIC equipment is nearing end-of-life or economical operation

  • Newer technology allows system consolidation and lower maintenance or operating cost

  • Simplification and increased automation of operations, arising in part from newer
    technology, is essential to reduce labor cost

  • Technology refreshment requires investment for reengineering hardware and software,
    and for acquiring new technology hardware

POIC technology refreshment should include the following:

  • Performance of reengineering in FY 2002Ð2004 directed at cost reduction

  • Consolidation of servers, with consideration of leasing operational servers beginning in
    FY 2004 and refreshing them at 3-year intervals thereafter

  • Provision of sufficient robustness and reserve capacity to allow maintenance on an 8-
    hours-per day, 5-days-a-week nominal basis

  • Completion of the ongoing transition from workstations to PCs for command and display

  • Porting of the Payload Planning System (PPS) software to the IBM platform used for the
    Crew Planning System (CPS), and elimination of the current DEC platform
  • Increased automation of configuration and reconfiguration control

These changes should allow the reduction of sustaining engineering and operations staffs in FY
2005 and subsequent by approximately 20 percent, in addition to substantial reduction in license
and hardware maintenance costs.

Recommendation. Reengineer the POIC to reduce cost. Make a $6 million investment over the
FY 2002Ð2004 time period above FY 2002 budget guidelines, and reduce the operating budget in
FY 2005Ð2011, achieving a reduction of $36 million (18 percent) from the FY 2002 budget
level over the 10-year period FY02Ð2011.

ES-6.3. The four Telescience Support Centers (ARC, GRC, JSC, and MSFC) are
multifunction but research discipline-focused facilities.

  • Real-time operations integration and control of ISS discipline-dedicated, facility-classracks
  • Provision of remote operations resources for PIs/PDs located near the TSC

  • Other synergistic Research Program Office (RPO) activities that vary by TSC

The Ames Research Center (ARC) TSC is designed around the operation of space biology
payloads that include animal habitats and animal experimentation. These payloads require
extensive ground control experiments in parallel with the flight experiments, and extensive
prelaunch support to activities at the launch site. However, this class of experiment is a heavy
user of crew time and is, therefore, expected to be curtailed during the three-crew mission
phases. The ARC TSC also supports the Avian Development Facility (ADF) and the Biomass
Production System (BPS) experiments.

The Glenn Research Center (GRC) TSC is designed around the integration of experiments using
the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) and the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). However, the FIR
and CIR are not scheduled for launch until CY 2005. Their operation, originally planned for use
with multiple payload inserts per increment, is now expected to involve only one payload insert
per increment during the three-crew mission phase. The GRC TSC also currently supports the
Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) payload.

The Johnson Space Center (JSC) TSC is designed around the integration of experiments using
the Human Research Facility (HRF), which is currently in operation. Additionally, the JSC TSC
supports other biotechnology experiments [currently Biotechnology Specimen Temperature
(BST) and Biotechnology Research (BTR)], Active Rack Isolation System ISS Characterization
Experiment (ARIS-ICE), Earth observations, and EARTHKAM.

The Marshal Space Flight Center (MSFC) TSC supports Material Science Glovebox (MSG) and
Biotechnology Glovebox facilities, as well as Protein Crystal Growth payloads.

Recommendation. Transfer TSC budgets from payload operations to the respective RPOs, and
treat the TSCs as science discipline facilities rather than common-use payload operations
facilities. Their costs should be justified on the basis of the payloads they support, and judged
relative to the cost of equivalent remote PI services. (Code U had already taken this action prior
to the POCAAS). The RPOs should consider deferral of ARC and GRC capabilities (and costs)
until those facilities are needed for facility rack support.

ES-6.4. NISN costs and increasing budget trends are counter to current commercial costs
and trends.

The NISN budget for ISS payload operations services shows an increase of 10 percent per year
through FY 2006. However, the budgeted NISN costs are more than twice the current cost for equivalent commercial services, and commercial long-line costs are decreasing at a rate of 40
percent per year.

Recommendation. Pursue alternative means of providing communications services at lower

Recommendation. Defer the requirement for distribution of ISS onboard video to the TSCs and
RPIs (approximately $780,000 per year). (This recommendation does not affect experiments
with video data embedded in the experiment data stream.) Any experiments needing ISS video in
their operations should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and less expensive means of video
transmission sought. For example, NASA TV has been used in the past for this purpose.

Recommendation. Defer the requirement for an increase in the current 50Mb/sec KuBand
communications rate until a justified payload requirement is defined, which would remove $24.9
million from the FY 2004Ð2006 budget. Evaluate alternative implementation alternatives that are
available at less cost to meet any defined requirement.

ES-6.5. The POCAAS options identified above result in a 28 to 32 percent reduction in the
FY 2002Ð2011 payload operations costs.

Exhibit ES-5 illustrates the cost reduction over time. The options included assume an integrated
ISS Program reduction in requirements and documentation imposed on payload integration and
operation. The cost shown includes all payload operations budget items (POIF, POIC, PTC,
TSCs, NISN, and PPS) and all POCAAS-recommended options.

ES-7. The Study Team considered a variety of alternative payload operations
architectures, and evaluated six alternatives that encompass other variants.

A notional evaluation of the 10-year cost and research resource utilization of the six architecture
alternatives considered is shown in Exhibit ES-6. Other evaluation factors were also separately

The Study Team found that while the current architecture is sound, reengineering requirements,
processes, and functions, as described previously in Section ES-6, can significantly reduce cost.

The alternative architectures studied have higher recurring costs than the reengineered current
architecture, and each alternative has additional operating disadvantages. The alternative
architectures have large nonrecurring costs associated with their implementation. None of the
alternatives was found to have a strong technical advantage over the current architecture.

Recommendation. Reengineer the current payload operations architecture. The Study Team
recommends against the alternate architectures studied.

ES-8. The Study Team evaluated a variety of alternate mission concepts and recommends
two for consideration.

A notional evaluation of the 10-year cost and research resource utilization of the six mission
concept alternatives considered is shown in Exhibit ES-7. Other evaluation factors were
considered separately.

In the campaign mode, the analysis assumed that one discipline was given overriding priority in
assignment of resources available to payloads during an increment. Resources available in excess
of the discipline requirements were then allocated to other disciplines. Each of the three major
discipline areas (life sciences, microgravity sciences, and commercial applications) was given
priority on an increment, in sequence.

Use of the full campaign mode increases overall resource utilization but has potential negative
effects on research requiring frequent and continuing access to ISS. This situation occurs because
only limited or no resources are available to the nonpriority disciplines on two of three

However, the analysis suggests that partial campaign mode strategies, in which resource
priorities are set over shorter time periods than an increment, or the priority discipline is given
less than total priority, offer increased resource utilization while avoiding the negative effects on

Recommendation. The program should continue to evaluate campaign mode variants to
maximize research achievements.
The Study Team believes that increased crew time for payloads is essential to realizing the
research objectives of the ISS. Access of career researchers to ISS, either as part of the career
astronaut corps or as payload specialists from the research community, is also essential to
realizing the research objectives of the ISS.

Recommendation. The ISS Program should pursue increased research crew time, including
extended duration orbiter (EDO)/Soyuz options, as possible within funding constraints.

ES-9. Recommended Summary Action Plan

  1. Establish a standing ISS Program Research Operations Council, comprising experienced
    NASA researchers and senior NASA managers, with authority to oversee efforts to
    enhance research operations and reduce cost.

  2. Formulate and annunciate a Program policy directed toward increasing flexibility in
    requirements, standards, and processes, with the goal of enhancing research, reducing
    cost of integration and operations associated with research, and increasing customer (i.e.,
    researcher) satisfaction.

  3. Develop a plan for evolution of research operations, and establish accountability for the
    accomplishment of the plan.

  4. Conduct an audit of payload integration and operations requirements, with participation
    of experienced researchers.

  5. Review information exchange requirements among researchers and Program elements,
    with a focus on eliminating duplication of inputs, reducing workload, and fostering

  6. Review payload integration and operations processes with the objective of simplification
    and workload reduction.

  7. Move toward the concept of continuous operations.

SpaceRef staff editor.