Sustaining Engineering


In the frame of the bi-lateral agreements, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) has provided to NASA three logistic modules: Leonardo, Raffaello and Donatello. Since 2001 the Multi-Purpose Logistic Modules (MPLM), transported into the cargo bay of the Space Transportation System (STS), are used to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) with resources for: the astronauts’ life, the maintenance of the ISS itself and for the execution of the experiments in a micro-gravity environment.The module named Leonardo was modified to become a permanent element of the ISS and, in February 2011, the Permanent Multi-purpose Module (PMM) was delivered to complete the ISS configuration. To accomplish the agreement with NASA, ASI has assigned to ALTEC the task of providing the sustaining engineering support to NASA for MPLM and PMM modules. For this purpose it was built-up in ALTEC a ground control center connected to the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston (MCC-H) through the Italian network ASINet. The ALTEC center, called Mission Support Centre (MSC), is able to receive data, video and voice from the ISS via MCC-H and ASINet.
In the role of MPLM/PMM sustainer,  ALTEC has acquired  in these years a relevant experience in collaborating with the NASA teams: NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC,) for the preparation of the operation products to be used during the MPLM/PMM on-orbit operations by both the ISS and STS crew and the ISS and STS flight controllers; NASA Marshal Space Flight Center (MSFC), the MPLM’s owner, to which ALTEC provides engineering support in the resolution of all the technical issue; the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), to which ALTEC provides the engineering and logistic support for the management of the MPLMs and for the ground processing before the MPLM flights.
To facilitate the exchange of information with the NASA centers and to provide the required “on-site” support, ALTEC personnel is co-located at NASA JSC and KSC. An important task of the ALTEC personnel resident at JSC and KSC is to represent the ASI in the NASA boards requiring the participation of the International partners and the international participants to the ISS.
From the MSC the ALTEC sustaining engineering team has access to the ISS telemetry data and in particular to the PMM and MPLM data. Therefore, it is possible to perform in real time the monitoring of the PMM and MPLM performances. From the MSC it is also possible to provide support to NASA during the on ground tests performed in the KSC Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) during the pre-flight ground processing before each launch. 

Through a voice loop system, the ALTEC team receives information about the activities the ISS and STS crew is performing and participates to the technical discussions relevant to MPLM /PMM with the MCC-H Mission Evaluation Room (MER).

The MPLM/PMM Sustaining Engineering Team is part, trough the Mission Evaluation Room (MER), of the Multilateral System Engineering Team (MSET) which has the task of providing the engineering support to the International Space Station. Depending on the criticality of the event, this support is provided in real time during the on-orbit operation execution or off-line in case the support is aimed to the planning of the activities of next days. This support consists in the assessment of the performances of the system and in the execution of the analyses in support to the planning or trouble shouting activities. To carry on the MPLM and PMM sustaining engineering activities ALTEC uses a set of facilities and software tools  provided by ASI or specifically developed by ALTEC:

  • The Sustaining Engineering Module (SEM): a module to support failures and anomalies troubleshooting.
  • The Software Maintenance Facility (SMF): a software simulated environment for develop and qualify the MPLM/PMM flight software
  • The Mission Support Center (MSC): a support center for the receiving and processing data, video and voice from the ISS

The Logistics Information System (LIS): a software tool for logistic data management. The Logistics Information System (LIS) is a web-based information system aimed at supporting the management activities of Logistics and Maintenance and Engineering Support of complex systems.

LIS – Logistic Information System
The LIS provides warehouse and spare parts control, features functions relevant to management of maintenance requirements, planning and execution of preventative, corrective and evolutionary maintenance activities, an infrastructure-type function with the purpose of keeping track, in a continuous and reliable fashion, of the status and changes in configuration of physical products, maintain and make available a controlled archive of imagery about the product being supported and about product-related events, maintaining an electronic archive of those documents to be managed, for different reasons, by LIS functions, with version control and with constant interface with other LIS functions. The Mission Support Centre (MSC) represents the key element for allowing the PMM/MPLM Engineering Team to provide the sustaining engineering of MPLM/PMM. The MSC is part of the network developed by ASI to support the activities related to the ISS, ASINet. Through ASINet the MSC is connected to the JSC and KSC NASA centres.

MSC – Mission Support Centre

The MSC provides support real time during the PMM/MPLM mission operations, receiving real time data from Shuttle and ISS, providing access to mission voice loops and live video, as well as to mission archived data, to support mission simulations, to support real time ground test execution on PMM/MPLM at KSC and to access to all mission archived data for trend analysis. The MSC has been also equipped with a dedicated console with some capabilities allowing access to MSFC resources for P/L support. Several MSC capabilities, in particular Voice Loops and Video, can be extended to support P/L operations (as done during HPA and Elite S2 execution on board ISS). The MSC is composed by seven consoles (six dedicated to the engineering team and one to the ground controller) each of them having a workstations, for receiving real time telemetry data and data archive, a pc for database, documentation and data processing and the voice loop system for voice communication with NASA centres. ALTEC has developed the architecture of the ALTEC MSC and the software used for data management and archive. 

ALTEC takes part to the missions of the Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus commercial cargo craft that operates in the frame of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) to provide logistic support to the International Space Station (ISS).

Cygnus consists of a Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) and a Service Module (SM). The PCM will carry pressurized cargo and experiments up to the space station and pressurized disposal cargo away from the ISS for destructive reentry at the end of the mission. The SM provides power, propulsion, guidance, computation, and communications for the Cygnus. The Pressurized Cargo Module, manufactured by Thales Alenia Space Italy in Turin, leader for the manufacturing of pressurized modules for the ISS, will carry about 20 tons of cargo during nine different missions.Through ALTEC mission control room (Mission Control Center, MSC) TASI team receives data, voice and video from the ISS through the Houston’s Mission Control Center (MCC-H) and the ASINet communication network, for monitoring and control the system’s performances.

In support to TASI team, ALTEC has updated the data acquisition and processing systems of the MSC and will provide assistance to TASI personnel during the mission phases.