Aptima’s ‘Space Situational Awareness’ Tool
Aptima Developing Tool to Improve ‘Space Situational Awareness’
Contract with Air Force Research Laboratory applies human performance expertise to space command and control (C2) operations
Woburn, MA, – April 25, 2011 – For the US military, space is indeed the next frontier for global operations, yet it’s a harsh and complex environment that can wreak havoc on satellites and other airborne systems. Determining the problems and attributing cause is often a complex assessment for space operators. Aptima is developing SATCAST, the Space Awareness Toolkit for Calculating Anomalies to Satellite Tasking, an intelligent software tool designed to help clarify these critical assessments and enhance overall Space Situational Awareness (SSA).
Aptima, which applies human-centered engineering to challenging military problems, is developing SATCAST through a contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Human Effectiveness Directorate (AFRL/RH, Wright-Patterson AFB).
As the hub of space information processing, the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) draws on a worldwide network of data as to the status of thousands of space objects, the space environment, and potential adversary actions. JSpOC personnel, who work to comprehend this space picture, face intensive cognitive demands to share data, expertise, and coordinate tasks across this global informational grid. To address the challenges that JSpOC and other organizations in the space enterprise face with net-centric, distributed operations, SATCAST offers an innovative solution. Aptima’s development of SATCAST could assist in such operations to support a range of operator needs engaged in space situational awareness.
“When satellites experience an anomaly, there’s an immediate need to know whether it’s due to the environment, system health, or adversarial attack,” said Aptima principal investigator Dr. Paul Picciano. “There’s a wide range of phenomena interacting in complex ways that make anomaly attribution very challenging. In a distributed organization, that can place enormous demands on the human operator to determine what information they need, where it resides, and what actions to take.”
Through intelligent fusion algorithms and intuitive design, SATCAST will reduce the ‘gray matter fusion’ required by operators, integrating workflow improvements and display features that support SSA.
SATCAST in Action
As the international community increasingly leverages space, crowding it with thousands more objects that need to be tracked, incidents such as the recent Iridium-Cosmos collision point to the potential for a growing problem. JSpOC operators contend with a large flow of information via visual displays, phone, and chat communications, along with a litany of tasks, all of which they need to mentally fuse and process. SATCAST will function as a real-time aid to anticipate the operator’s needs, providing insight on the data required, generating alerts, routing tasks, and more.
Development of SATCAST is being funded by the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. As a Phase II contract, Aptima is leveraging research in workflows and human performance to develop a deployable product for the Department of Defense.
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Aptima, Inc. is a leading human-centered research, development, and engineering company that works primarily for the military research labs, DARPA, and NASA. We optimize the fit between people, the technology they use, and the organizations in which they work. Aptima’s innovative approach integrates social science and engineering to produce new knowledge and new technologies that ensure mission success. Aptima is headquartered in Woburn, MA, with offices in Washington, DC and Dayton, OH.For more information, please visit www.aptima.com.