The European Space Agency has been testing a tool developed by Finnish research agency VTT as part of its training and operations system. The tool, using augmented reality, has been developed to support astronauts in training and operations during a space flight.
In space, says VTT, astronauts need to perform maintenance and repair tasks. To support them, they have completed thorough training, and have access to detailed instructions on computer screen and, if necessary, to experts on ground.
A permanent contact with ground could improve the crew performance, but communications is limited on exploration missions to Moon and Mars. However, the agency warns, delving any deeper into operations in training could make the training period unreasonably long.
VTT has now developed a tool that contributes to ESA's goal to give unambiguous guidance to astronauts in complex maintenance and repair tasks both during the space mission and when training for it before the flight.
The use of augmented reality makes the tool unique. The work instructions are provided as text, graphics or speech to the astronaut's Microsoft HoloLens-AR head mounted display. For example, an arrow [simulation] may directly indicate a lever in the device being serviced and show in which direction it is to be turned. The astronaut may also access the device's service history on his or her AR display as well as its status report that is being observed both in space and on the ground.
"The tool we have developed reduces the risk of human error and significantly speeds up the work performance. It is also extremely well suited for both supervised and individual training of astronauts. The tool uses augmented reality in a new way that is of great help in demanding maintenance and installation tasks of critical importance with a view to security or financial costs in other sectors as well, such as mines, paper mills and nuclear power plants," commented Principal Scientist Kaj Helin from VTT.