During human space missions, the crew and ground personnel must function under high stress and workload, often with disrupted sleep patterns. Astronauts sometimes suffer from sleep deprivation during long spaceflight missions, which could potentially have an adverse effect on performance. Alion Science and Technology, an employee-owned, engineering, R&D, IT and operational solutions company, was awarded a $1.2 million contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a model-based software tool to predict the effects of astronaut fatigue on performance, particularly during workload transitions.
Under the three-year Space Performance Research Integration Tool (S-PRINT) project, Alion will develop human performance models to predict astronaut performance in various automation failure situations. Although long-duration spaceflights include highly automated systems, astronauts need to remain alert, particularly during a potential automation failure situation. In such a worst-case scenario, fatigue, complacency due to over-reliance on automation, and sudden workload transitions could create a challenging spaceflight mission.
Alion’s work consists of three phases: a literature review and meta-analyses phase for gathering data and quantifying long-duration mission effects on performance; model and tool development; and human-in-the-loop studies to evaluate and refine model predictions and address gaps identified in the meta-analyses. The human-in-the-loop studies will be conducted at Colorado State University.
“Alion’s human performance models will help NASA enhance astronaut performance by predicting the effects of fatigue on performance during automation mode transitions,” said Terri Spoonhour, Alion Senior Vice President and Manager of the Distributed Simulation Group. “S-PRINT will provide NASA with a method to evaluate and compare the effects of potential countermeasures to maintain optimal astronaut performance in long-duration space missions.”