Aerospace Applications North America is part of NASA’s Cockpit Rapid Prototyping Laboratory (RPL), located at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. The RPL’s main focus is to define and develop the whole suite of over 60 display formats for NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
In this project the responsibility of our team is to prototype display formats as part of an integrated cockpit simulation hosted on various Orion cockpit mockups around the Johnson Space Center, and to implement test scenarios to help decide on final design issues such as:
- Types of controls during the different phases of the flight.
- Organization of the display formats and navigation.
- Hardware selection and ergonomics.
- Operational concepts.
- Display format specification and prototyping.
The suite of displays includes a Primary Flight Display (PFD) which gets automatically reconfigured for each flight phase, an electronic procedures system which allows users to execute procedures on the cockpit displays and interact with each displays to fetch telemetry data or cue commands, a Caution and Warning (C&W) display that links fault messages to recovery procedures, a generic display engine that simplifies the implementation of tabular display formats, and a series of schematic displays representing the various Orion systems.
The prototype display software also includes its own internal state-based simulator, which allows mission operation specialists to animate the displays without needing to program complex algorithms. Additionally, the internal simulator provides connectivity with external data sources, through a simple UDP-based interface.
The software includes a graphical representation of display edge keys, for convenient use on a desktop or laptop computer, or can be configured for mockup use, where actual physical keys can be used to operate the displays. The same can be said for cockpit switch panels, as a fully functional software model of the Orion switch panels is part of the system, and can be used to drive the simulations when the hardware panels are not connected.