Facing the end of the Space Shuttle program—not unlike the preceding culmination of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs—NASA and the Johnson Space Center Flight Crew Operations Directorate are confronting the challenge of transitioning training resources to focus on meeting the needs of the International Space Station and future commercial space systems. In the transition process, it is imperative that NASA retain resources to prepare astronauts to continue to achieve safety and mission success through the ISS and future space systems. To address the future resources needed, the committee was tasked to examine the requirements for crew-related ground-based facilities in the post-shuttle era. The committee was also asked to determine whether the Astronaut Corps’s fleet of training aircraft is a cost-effective means of preparing astronauts for the requirements of NASA’s human spaceflight program. To address those issues, the committee explored a variety of topics, including astronaut training and proficiency requirements, operator skills and high-performance aviation training, current and post-shuttle resources, and evolving training methods.
The post-shuttle Astronaut Corps faces several possible futures. One is an ISS-only scenario, in which astronauts will serve tours aboard the ISS through 2020 or even through 2025 and serve as crewmembers on transport vehicles to and from the ISS. Managers must also anticipate that commercial spacecraft developers will require NASA assistance and potential personnel “loans” to achieve rapid NASA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for transportation to and from the ISS. To promote safety and mission success and to avoid duplication and parallel training establishments among financially constrained commercial firms, it may be appropriate to consider the Astronaut Office and Astronaut Corps as a national asset that must be capable of supporting additional staffing requirements to assist such firms. Another such future could include the addition of a beyond-Earth-orbit flight program between 2016 and 2020 that would also require additional astronauts to aid in development and flight testing of the new system. Furthermore, eventual expeditions to deep space, the Moon, or nearby asteroids beyond 2020 could also be staffed by a slightly larger corps.
The training of astronauts in the post-shuttle era points toward a shift to skills-based training, as on the ISS, rather than the task-based regimen of the shuttle era. In the past, shuttle missions 1-2 weeks long lent themselves to intensive training focused on a well-defined set of tasks in the specific mission flight plan. On ISS expeditions lasting months, unanticipated pre-flight and in-flight changes in planned activities have often occurred, so members
FIGURE 3.1 The International Space Station as seen by space shuttle Discovery on March 25, 2009, after undocking. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
of the Astronaut Corps must possess a flexible, broad base of skills, including EVA, robotics, payload operations, in-flight maintenance, and potential emergency responses. The ISS is a large, complex orbiting laboratory facility that has many systems and tasks (Figure 3.1).
ISS training also features a sizable international component that deals with spacecraft, modules, and hardware from Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. The committee assumes that the international aspect will continue during the era of commercial spaceflight and remain a major facet of beyond-Earth-orbit operations if they occur.
A distinctive aspect of participating in spaceflight is that each astronaut is expected to arrive in space having already developed the individual skills necessary for real-time decision making in an operational environment. Exercising such skills relies on innate capability to set priorities among a variety of factors, from a keen appreciation of the risks associated with decisions that affect personnel safety to a sound understanding of the design specifications that affect vehicle reliability to the trade-offs that affect operational efficiency. Three prototypical decision-making behaviors provide a reasonable benchmark: skills-based, rules-based, and knowledge-based.1 That benchmark is used in other safety-critical, time-critical domains, such as commercial aviation and the civilian nuclear industry2 (see Appendix A). Likewise and arguably even more prominently, the astronaut training program must prepare astronauts to apply those different behaviors at appropriate times. Training astronauts to a suitable level of proficiency in the decision-making behaviors requires various training methods and facilities.
1 J. Rasmussen, Skills, rules, knowledge; signals, signs, and symbols, and other distinctions in human performance models, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics13:257-266, 1983.
2 Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, Human Performance Reference Manual, Atlanta, Ga., October 2006.
The committee’s second task was to address the agency’s ground training facilities. As NASA, the FCOD, and the Astronaut Office enter the post-shuttle era, astronaut training will be exclusively devoted to International Space Station missions. Throughout the era of the shuttle, NASA has possessed a vast ground infrastructure to support shuttle processing and on-orbit operations. In particular, the Johnson Space Center possessed many shuttle-related training facilities. They included the large mock-ups that bear a resemblance to the orbiters and are visible to public tours of the space center but also numerous other facilities and pieces of equipment, such as the Shuttle Mission Training Facility’s Guidance and Navigation Simulator. As this report was being written, NASA was in the process of decommissioning many of its simulators and trainers; most will be donated to museums or universities. See Table 3.1 for the disposition of the various NASA-operated shuttle ground facilities and trainers.
In addition, as this report was being written, the committee was informed that NASA had been contacted by potential commercial crew providers about leasing portions of some NASA facilities, such as the large Building 9 facility at Johnson Space Center, for commercial crew training, and having NASA astronauts aid in curriculum and simulator development. The discussions were still in a preliminary stage, and the committee had little information about them.
TABLE 3.1 Disposition of NASA’s Shuttle Ground Training Facilities
|Facility||Status Post-Shuttle||Final Location|
|Shuttle Mission Training Facility (SMTF) fixed base||Decommission||Adler Planetarium|
|SMTF motion base||Decommission||Texas A&M University|
|SMTF Guidance and Navigation Simulator||Decommission||Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum|
|Single System Trainers (3)||Decommission||1 to Texas A&M University
2 as static displays at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC)
|Dynamic System Trainers||Remain operational; support International Space Station (ISS) robotics and VV rendezvous training|
|Payload Trainer||Decommission||NASA JSC|
|Network Simulation System||Decommission||NASA JSC|
|Shuttle Engineering Simulator Dome||Decommission (committee recommends evaluating need)||NASA JSC|
|Space Station Training Facility||Remains operational; supports ISS training|
|Space Station Mockup Training Facility Part Task Trainer||Remains operational; supports ISS training Remains operational; supports ISS training|
|Full Fuselage Trainer||Decommission||Seattle Museum of Flight|
|Crew Compartment Trainer (2)||Decommission||1 to Air Force Museum
1 to Smithsonian Institution
|Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory||Remains operational; supports ISS training|
Systems Engineering Simulator Dome
One facility currently used for shuttle and ISS robotics and rendezvous training, the Shuttle Engineering Simulator (SES) Dome, is slated for decommissioning. The SES Dome is used by NASA to provide crew training and engineering analysis of on-orbit operations. It contains an orbiter aft cockpit mockup in the dome; an ISS cupola with a robotic work station; an orbiter forward cockpit integrated with ascent and entry simulation and launch and landing site scenes; an Orion crew station mockup; a reconfigurable operational cockpit; and the stand-alone Dynamic Skills Trainer for robotics, rendezvous operations, and ascent and entry training.3 The SES Dome is able to provide several areas of training, such as virtual reality laboratory scenes, plume modeling, high-fidelity berthing and docking contact and mechanism models, and vehicle guidance, navigation, and control.
Robotics training and commercial rendezvous and docking procedure development will still be required in the near term. Resupply of the ISS is vital to its continued operation and will involve not only the Progress, ATV, and HTV spacecraft already developed but commercial vehicles, such as SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital’s Cygnus-1, which are in development, and possibly additional vehicles as well. Because the SES Dome is a unique facility that is not replicated elsewhere within NASA, the committee believes that it may be a valuable asset that NASA should evaluate for future use.
In addition to the shuttle facilities and trainers, NASA has numerous assets that are required for training astronauts in use of the International Space Station. Current NASA plans require that the facilities will be retained; for example, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory is still required for training astronauts for spacewalks.
Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory
The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), adjacent to Ellington Field at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, trains astronauts for extravehicular activity. The facility puts astronauts into a pool of water 40 feet deep, 102 feet wide, and 202 feet long that holds 6 million gallons. With proper weighting of their spacesuits, astronauts experience neutral buoyancy, enabling them to move their suits, tools, and equipment in a manner close to the orbital free-fall environment. Although gravity still makes dropped tools fall to the bottom of the tank and astronauts still know which way is “up,” they are able to move about and work on full-scale mockups of the shuttle and space station. In preparation for a 6-hour EVA, an astronaut might spend as much as 10 times that in underwater rehearsal, acquiring the skills and discipline necessary to accomplish EVA objectives.
Shuttle astronauts scheduled for multiple EVAs on an ISS assembly mission typically spent more than 200 hours training in the NBL. ISS expedition crews train in the NBL to develop EVA skills proficiency and to learn in detail the layout of the ISS structures that they will encounter while maintaining the outpost in orbit. While working for 6 hours in the depths of the NBL, astronauts are immersed in the physical and mental environment of a free-fall EVA (Figures 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5).
The committee queried NASA regarding studies of high-fidelity simulators to meet the Missions Operations Directorate or Flight Crew Operations Directorate crew training requirements. NASA informed the committee that three main factors drive the selection of simulator fidelity: the criticality and complexity of the task to be performed, the effectiveness of the different fidelity options, and budget. NASA also gave the committee the results of the Constellation Training Facility Trade Study, particularly the Orion Part Task Trainer, as an example of recent work that the agency has conducted. With the possible exception of the SES Dome, which may need to be retained for continued ISS training, the internal NASA facilities appear well suited to preparing ISS astronauts for safe and successful missions.
In addition to NASA facilities in the United States, ISS training facilities are distributed around the world: at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, Russia; at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany; at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tsukuba Space Center; and at the Canadian Space Agency. The international distribution of facilities not only complicates NASA astronaut training but introduces inefficiencies. For example, a NASA astronaut qualifying as a Soyuz flight engineer will spend 49
FIGURE 3.2 Astronaut training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
FIGURE 3.3 STS-63 astronauts Bernard A. Harris and C. Michael Foale prepare to exit Discovery’s airlock for a spacewalk. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA; GPN-2006-000022, available at http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/.
FIGURE 3.4 EVA mission specialist Pierre Thuot is seen making an attempt to capture the Intelsat VI communications satellite with the satellite capture bar on the Remote Manipulator System. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA; GPN-2000-001096, available at http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/.
weeks in the United States, 2 weeks in Europe, 31 weeks in Russia, 7 weeks in Japan, and 2 weeks in Canada. In addition, 12 percent of the time will be spent purely on travel from one training location to another4(Figures 3.6 and 3.7).
The committee’s third task was to address the agency’s fleet of astronaut training aircraft. The Space Shuttle program required several aircraft specifically for training astronauts on how to land the orbiter. Those aircraft are being retired or directed for other uses and were not addressed by the committee. The task refers instead to the fleet of T-38N Talon two-seat training aircraft (Figure 3.8).5
4 NASA, Certification of Flight Readiness Process Document: International Space Station Program, SSP 50108, Revision C, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., November 2006; NASA International Training Control Board, International Space Station Multilateral Advanced/Increment-specific Training Plan (MA/ITP), Version 7.0 Baseline, SSP 50170, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., March 2010; NASA Flight Crew Operations Directorate, Flight Crew Operations Space Flight Preparation Plan, CA-QMS-001, Revision F, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., August 2010; P.A. Whitson, NASA Astronaut Office, “Presentation to the NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, January 6, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011, pp. 55-57 and 64; P.S. Hill, NASA Mission Operations Directorate, “MOD Crew Training,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, March 1, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011.
5 The T-38N Talon aircraft is the flight readiness training aircraft specifically used for NASA’s spaceflight training needs. The Air Force uses the T-38C model, which is slightly different. The T-38N aircraft includes differences in communications and navigation, such as the addition of weather radar, a data link weather system, the terrain avoidance and warning system, the terminal collision avoidance system, GPS with localizer performance and vertical guidance approach capability, and redesigned electrical, inlet, ejector nozzle, and flight management systems. There are 7 Block 2 aircraft of the T-38N and 14 Block 3 aircraft. The Block 2 version from 1990 included the first “glass cockpit”
FIGURE 3.5 Astronauts G. David Low and Peter J.K. Wisoff attached to the end of the space shuttle’s robotic arm. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA; GPN-2000-001073, available at http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/.
In addressing this task, the committee considered several questions: What is the role of the T-38N aircraft? Why is such an aircraft necessary? Does its use by astronauts reduce the risk to the nation’s space effort? Could alternative aircraft fill the same role more cost effectively? Could a simulator or some combination of aircraft and simulators perform the same role more cost effectively?
The committee determined that the T-38N aircraft fulfill several roles for the Astronaut Office. One role is to enable the Astronaut Office to recruit and maintain military test pilots for the Astronaut Corps. Military test pilots who are selected by the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA to become astronauts are expected to maintain
design and safety upgrades. The Block 3 version from 2007 incorporated an electronic flight instrumentation system and several additional safety upgrades in compliance with NASA and FAA requirements. The T-38N has recorded no Class A mishaps (involving fatality, total disability, or more than $1 million in damage) in 100,000 flight hours since 2000.
FIGURE 3.6 Astronaut Ellen Ocha simulates an emergency egress procedure at Johnson Space Center’s Mockup and Integration Laboratory. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA; GPN-2000-001068, available at http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/.
FIGURE 3.7 The International Space Station includes equipment and personnel from many countries, and this requires NASA astronauts to travel to distant locations to train on equipment and requires international partner astronauts to train in the United States. Here a Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut participates in an extravehicular activity as a part of Expedition 17 on July 15, 2008. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
a minimum number of high-performance flight hours each month as provided by NASA through its flight operations at Ellington Field. If the high-performance proficiency jet training is eliminated, there is the possibility that the DOD will no longer provide military astronauts with flight test expertise, or the pool of exceptionally qualified pilots may decrease when they recognize that they may not have the opportunity to maintain flight proficiency; this could affect their military flight currency requirements, later promotions, and reintegration into their parent service.
Military test pilots will remain an important component of the Astronaut Corps, and the Astronaut Office has indicated that continuing to recruit them has high priority after the retirement of the space shuttle so that it can take advantage of their expertise in the operation of complex equipment in a high-stress and dangerous environment. However, even if that were not the case, the T-38N aircraft serves an important role in providing spaceflight readiness training (SFRT).
NASA has stated that a purpose of spaceflight readiness training is to maintain “a pervasive, high-performance aviation safety culture that has become the cornerstone for and continues to build upon an analogous space operations safety culture.” The committee agrees that such training is valuable, particularly for a diverse population of new astronauts.
New U.S. astronauts come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professional experience—from pilots, scientists, and engineers to medical doctors and educators. For example, the June 2011 Astronaut Corps of 61 included 50 men and 11 women; 17 are military, and 44 are civilian.
To give this diverse group of professionals a common experience base in a highly demanding operational environment, NASA exposes the Astronaut Corps to regular flights in high-performance aircraft (currently the Northrop T-38N). On most sorties, pilot astronauts or NASA instructors occupy the T-38N front seat, and a non-
FIGURE 3.8 T-38N jets in flight over NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California. SOURCE: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA/Jim Ross; ED07-0222-06, available at http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/multimedia/.
test-pilot astronaut student flies from the rear cockpit. When necessary, pilot astronauts receive instruction in the front seat from an instructor seated in the rear. The instructor pilots provide ground-based systems, procedural, and emergency training, sometimes using NASA’s T-38N cockpit simulator. In the air, the instructor pilots conduct flights to fulfill the SFRT training syllabus, addressing mission objectives of increasing complexity and difficulty for each astronaut or astronaut candidate. The instructor pilots evaluate astronaut in-flight performance and administer formal inflight evaluations to both pilot and non-pilot astronauts.
The requirements for spaceflight readiness training are outlined in the Astronaut T-38 Space Flight Readiness Training Syllabus.6 In particular, the committee notes that the Mission Specialist Annual Qualification Check listed in the syllabus indicates the broad range of activities that non-pilots are required to train for with the admonition to “RECOGNIZE ANY UNSAFE SITUATION/CONDITION!!!!” (emphasis in original). (See Box 3.1.)
As a review of the syllabus demonstrates, mission specialists do not serve as “passengers” in the back seat of the T-38N; they are part of the aircrew and have such responsibilities as operating communications and navigation equipment at night and under adverse weather conditions. Once astronauts are capable high-performance aircraft crew members, spaceflight readiness training aids in further developing Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills. CRM skills are those that can assist a cockpit crew in assessing emergency situations, recognizing task saturation, and avoiding critical errors in collective judgment that might result in an accident. In addition to practicing CRM
6 NASA Aircraft Operations Division, Astronaut T-38 Space Flight Readiness Training Syllabus, AOD 37515, Rev. C, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., July 2000.
in the shuttle mission simulators, each T-38N flight exposes the two crew members to a unique laboratory for practicing and developing skills in interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making. Exposure to the unscripted flight environment challenges astronauts to ignore distractions, set priorities for decisions, and get the best talents from the team to conduct a safe flight.
The agency’s goal is to develop essential spaceflight operator skills that will enable members of the Astronaut Corps to perform successfully in an unpredictable and dynamic environment where decisions have real-world survival consequences. T-38N flying has delivered a level of skill and experience that has proved to be a successful and acceptable standard of training for NASA astronauts in the shuttle, Soyuz, and ISS environments. Such preparation is directly applicable to spaceflight events, such as cargo vehicle “free-flyer” robotic capture, EVA operations, Soyuz ascent and re-entry, and ISS emergencies (which have included fire, depressurization, toxic contaminant release, and electrical failure). NASA’s experience in ensuring safety and mission success has shown that ground-based knowledge training alone is not sufficient to produce high confidence that a crew member can perform under duress in orbit. Operations skills, rapid response, successful “triage” under the high pressure of unexpected malfunctions, and cognitive processing abilities must be trained and developed. As flight hours fall below the current syllabus levels, astronaut cockpit performance suffers; NASA’s instructor pilots report degraded physical skills (hand-eye coordination) and decision-making skills. The instructors consider the current flight time levels and syllabus requirements as the minimum acceptable.
Detailing its resources available for knowledge, skills, cognitive, and rapid response training, NASA asserts that only a high-performance aircraft directly addresses the desired traits to provide high confidence in ensuring safety and mission success. As Table 3.2 indicates, the T-38N is currently the only Astronaut Corps training resource that combines the categories of skills, cognitive control, and rapid response training essential for an ISS emergency—for example, Soyuz ascent and entry, rendezvous and docking failures, complex ops (free flyer capture), and fire.
NASA is not the only spaceflight agency that recognizes the need for such training. For example, during the training for Spacelab 1 (STS-9) in 1983 and German Spacelab Mission D-1 (Deutschland-1) STS-65A in 1984-1985, all three German astronauts and the Dutch astronaut were required to attain pilot’s licenses by the German Aerospace Agency, and it provided a plane for them to fly. German Aerospace Agency management felt strongly about this flight experience before shuttle flight because it created a real-time operational environment for persons who had spent most of their career in the laboratory. Later, U.S. partners on the ISS (the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency) contracted with NASA for T-38N SFRT. According to NASA, the Russian cosmonauts are provided aircraft flight time, and, because the Chinese select their taikonauts from active military pilots, they are presumably providing them with flight currency. The Russians provide their cosmonauts much less aircraft training time because of resource constraints (the transfer of the Gagarin Training Center from Russian air force to civilian control resulted in the loss of all their aircraft except a modified Tu-154), but they do provide some. In addition, the Russians provide every trainee cosmonaut, whether military pilot or civilian engineer, with supplemental stressful training in the form of parachute jumping.
Three other astronaut training resources provide “rapid response training” (for instance, the building 9 modules), but only the T-38N provides the urgency of life and death decisions. There is a fundamental difference between a training situation in which trainees can walk away from their mistakes and one in which they cannot.
Despite their impressive overall credentials, not all astronaut candidates come to NASA with operational skills and experience. High-performance aircraft training has instilled and expanded candidates’ capability and competence in performing in a fast-paced spaceflight environment. The committee noted that commercial spacecraft developers also call for cockpit proficiency as the fundamental underpinning of training of new crew members.
The T-38N’s safety record reflects both the quality of maintenance and the aircrew experience: no lives have been lost in nearly 40 years. Although two NASA pilots died in a January 1972 crash during an instrument approach in the fog, the last T-38 accident that caused the death of an astronaut occurred in 1967. The last T-38 major accident (Class A) occurred in November 1982, and involved no fatalities. Since then, NASA has flown more than 270,000 T-38N accident-free hours, compiling an impressive 0.00 mishap rate; this rate compares favorably with
Excerpt from Astronaut T-38 Space Flight Readiness Training Syllabus
MS ANNUAL QUALIFICATION CHECK
The purpose of the MS annual qualification check is to ensure that the MS is proficient in assisting the pilot in normal and emergency situations. Crew coordination, checklist procedures, instrument procedures, and s stems knowled e should be emhasized
Expected Standards of Proficiency for Mission Specialist Crew Duty Day Extenders
NOTE For details on expected aircrew proficiency e standards, see AOD 33869, T-38 Aircrew Proficiency Standards.
• Be able to quote or write all boldface items from memory
• Have the following ops limits memorized: EGT flight limits, nozzle limits, minimum fuel, oil pressure limits, hydraulic pressure limits
• Calculate TOLD from the checklist
• Check weather, NOTAMs, and servicing availability if going cross-country.
• File a flight plan, copy clearances, get ATIS, and program flight plan in FMS
• Perform all preflight inspections including aircraft walk-around, parachute and ejection seat preflight
• Communicate with ATC (ideal), or understand radio transmissions (minimum)
• Navigate: select EHSI/EADI screens as requested by pilot or for the situation; have required navigation aids, displays, altitudes, headings, MDA’s, and courses set in order to accomplish the SID/STAR/ en route navigation/approach
• Direct an inflight divert
• Verify correct aircraft configuration
• Compute final approach airspeeds
• Ensure completion of checklists (specifically, “Before takeoff,” through “after landing”
• Have a basic knowledge of systems and emergencies
• Be able to locate emergency procedures in the PCL during flight, and execute them
• Have a thorough understanding of ejection system, lap belt, parachute, and oxygen system
• RECOGNIZE ANY UNSAFE SITUATION/CONDITION!!!!
a. Complete Boldface and Ops Limits Test
b. Grade and review written exams
c. Brief FOD prevention
d. Brief Cabin Pressure Loss
e. Brief a procedure selected from the following list:
• weather radar
• approach categories
• cold weather procedures
• weather minimums
f. Brief an Emergency Procedure (EP) selected from the following list:
• generator failure
• Nav System failure
• radio out
• Hydraulic systems
• Engine systems
• landing gear systems
g. Standard Briefing from In Flight Guide
h. Ejection Seat Briefing (before or after the flight)
Prior to flight MS will:
• Check PIF
• Check Weather
• Check Notams
• File Flight Plan
• Calculate Take off and Landing Data
MANEUVER PROFILE - REQUIRED ITEMS
a. Manage comm and nav on instrument approaches.
b Perform area maneuvers (if weather permits - optional)
1. Engine shutdown and relight
3. Aerobatics (optional).
c. Simulated Emergency Procedures
1. Aircraft emergency
d. Perform visual patterns. ([international partners] demonstration - optional)
1. Heavyweight single-engine
2. Single-engine touch-and-go and go-around (climb to 2,000 feet AGL).
3. No flap
4. Minimum run.
EJECTION SEAT BRIEFING
a. Ejection envelope (0 feet, 50 knots)
2. Parachute straps
3. Other items.
1. Body position (head, elbows in, feet)
2. Trigger guard (trigger guard, leg guard movement).
1. Beat the system
3. Check parachute canopy
4. Four line cut
5. Survival kit deployment
6. Landing, body position, parachute release.
e. Emergency ground egress
f. Parachute accessories
1. Survival kit (in parachute)
2. Beeper, radio
3. Strobe light.
g. Survival kit contents
SOURCE: NASA Aircraft Operations Division, Astronaut T-38 Space Flight Readiness Training Syllabus, AOD 37515, Rev. C, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., July 2000, pp. 97-99.
TABLE 3.2 Resources Capacity to Provide Astronaut Knowledge, Skills, Cognitive, and Rapid Response Training
|Training Resource||Knowledge||Skills||Cognitive||Rapid Response|
|Building 9 Airlock||√||-||-||-|
|Building 9 Modules||√||-||-||√|
|Building 9 Racks||√||-||-||-|
|Building 9 SSRMS||√||√||-||-|
|Dynamic Skills Trainer||√||√||-||-|
|Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory||√||√||√|
|Space Station Training Facility||√||√||-||√|
|Single System Trainers||√||-||-||-|
|Virtual Reality Laboratory||√||√||√||-|
|NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations||-||√||√||-|
|National Outdoor Leadership Seminar||-||√||√||-|
NOTE: Many resources cover several categories, but the T-38N training aircraft is the only resource that NASA has that can provide skills, cognitive, and rapid response training. SOURCE: NASA Astronaut Office, “Ensuring the Readiness of the Astronaut Corps: A White Paper,” NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., March 25, 2011.
the U.S. Air Force rate of 1.09 (fiscal year [FY] 2005-FY 2009), the U.S. Navy rate of 1.28 (FY 2005-FY 2009), and the U.S. Marine Corps rate of 1.90 (FY 2005-FY 2009).7
It is particularly relevant to post-shuttle operations that ISS crew experience over the last decade has reflected how actual spaceflight anomaly responses correlate with emergency response preparation typically found in an aircraft environment. ISS astronauts and cosmonauts have had to react to more than 850 anomalies over 10 years of ISS operations that required critical, rapid responses and multitasking skills, for example,
• The Soyuz TMA ballistic re-entry after Expedition 6 on May 3, 2003, was caused by a flight control avionics failure. The ballistic re-entry mode subjected the crew to more than 8 Gs during re-entry and shifted the landing site more than 500 km up-range. The physical demands and strict, timely procedural discipline required during this potentially dire incident were similar to those demanded in T-38N training.
• During Expedition 16 (October 2007-April 19, 2008), a fray in a guide wire resulted in tearing between two photovoltaic panels during redeployment of a solar array. Ground teams worked rapidly with shuttle and station crews to develop repair procedures. Astronauts aboard the ISS fashioned structural reinforcements known as “cufflinks,” and during a spacewalk they cut the damaged guide wire, freed the solar array, and installed the reinforcements to permit full extension of the array. The close ground-space coordination and critical safety procedures implemented to mitigate EVA hazards were similar to practices experienced in a high-performance aircraft environment.
7 NASA Flight Crew Operations Directorate, “Presentation to the NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, January 5, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011; R.N. Clark, NASA Aircraft Operations Division “Presentation to the NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, January 6, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011.
• As Expedition 16 landed on April 19, 2008, the commander, a biochemist researcher, attributed her successful ability to execute emergency procedures as the Soyuz flight engineer during the return flight to Earth and to keep focused on tasks during a 7 G off-nominal ballistic re-entry to spaceflight crew readiness training in the T-38N. The commander was convinced that this unexpected high-stress situation might have ended less successfully if there had been no prior flight experience in private aviation or the SFRT program.
• During Expedition 22 (September 2009-March 2010), both primary and backup command and control computers failed aboard the ISS. Caution and warning alarms sounded, and control was lost over all core systems in the U.S. orbiting segment of the ISS, including communications. The crew responded with a complex recovery procedure that used a third computer and restored communications long enough to respond correctly when two successive failures occurred. The crew relied on training and systems knowledge to cut off an errant telemetry stream coming from the Columbus Laboratory. The required crew situational awareness, coordination between crew and ground, and concise communication during repeated outages were responses similar to those developed in high-performance aircraft training.
• On Expedition 23 in August 2010, an ISS external coolant pump failed during crew sleep, cutting ISS power by half and requiring rapid reconfiguration of essential core systems. The crew worked extensively with ground teams to obtain a stable ISS configuration and in the following weeks performed three critical EVAs to replace the pump and restore cooling. The required crew resource management, situational awareness, communications skills, and critical response under time pressure were similar to skills demanded in high-performance aircraft training.8
With such examples highlighted from the hundreds of anomalies that ISS astronauts encountered, the NASA approach to flight crew training is the result of 50 years of successful experience that has led to certified astronaut crews that conduct safe operations in a demanding, unforgiving, and hazardous environment. NASA’s astronauts have included people who did not originate in a flight organization or career (such as Apollo scientist-astronauts, space shuttle mission specialists, ISS flight engineers, and educators), and such training brought them to a level of operational capability in which they could meet or exceed safety and mission success requirements.
Other countries besides the United States recognize the importance of some form of aviation training for their astronauts. Professional space crew members in Russia and China also draw from a pool of experienced pilots for the same reasons as the United States. Star City management is concerned that its 2009 transition from the Russian Air Force to the civilian Roscosmos has reduced its access to training aircraft. International Space Station partners Canada, the European Space Agency, and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) provide pilot training for their crew members in their home countries, “reimburse” NASA to provide T-38N flight readiness training before mission selection, or both.
Flight training and the issuance of pilot licenses require demonstrated and evaluated proficient operation of aircraft in both nominal and stressful and abnormal situations: incipient stalls, loss of engine, loss of instrumentation, and so on. Although the systems of one aircraft may not be the same as those of another, the pilot’s critical decision-making skills do transfer and constitute part of the evaluation process by a Federal Aviation Administration examiner. The Federal Aviation Administration has recently ruled that all commercial space vehicle crew members must have at least a valid FAA flight license if they are to be qualified to command commercial space vehicles.
Commercial pilots are able to re-certify in new planes via simulators. However, an Air Transport Pilot license requires 1,500 flight hours. Pilots are initially hired as “first officers” who are then positioned to gain hundreds or thousands of hours of flight experience under the supervision of a captain, and pilots remain subject to annual airplane check rides. George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation of the FAA,
8 NASA Astronaut Office, “Examples of Actual Spaceflight Anomalies with Correlation to Training/Preparation for Emergency Response,” attachment to “Responses to Questions for NASA on Space Flight Crew Issues,” submitted to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., March 1, 2011.
informed the committee that he considered it “inconceivable” that private or commercial pilots would ever be licensed for operations without prior flight experience—simulator training is insufficient.
The reality of spaceflight operations is that crew members must demonstrate
1. Hand-eye coordination in fast-moving dynamic and stressful flight environments (high G, reduced pressures in pressure suits, claustrophobic spaces, and other physical and psychological stresses).
2. Critical decision making in the same environments (such as real-time nominal, off-nominal, and emergency operational procedures; problem solving; responding to unexpected events outside the training syllabus and procedures; scanning multiple computer displays; entering commands; and changing radio frequencies).
3. Ability to multitask in these environments and make triage decisions.
4. Ability to execute all of these tasks while communicating with other crew members and external communication sources (FAA in aviation and Mission Control in spaceflight) and demonstrating good Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills.
The committee was briefed by Bryan O’Connor, then the head of NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, on the role of crew training in NASA’s overall safety and mission assurance process. O’Connor informed the committee that “flight crew operations is an integral part of formal agency risk management.” He further stated that “Decisions involving crew safety risk require formal concurrence by the cognizant technical authorities, as well as formal consent to take the risk by the flight crew (and their supervisory chain) before the program, project, or operations manager may formally accept the risk.” One input to the risk management process is the contribution of the SFRT program to crew training for rapid response to time-critical emergency situations under flight environment pressures.
The spaceflight readiness training requirement is not tied to a specific mission but is derived from safety and mission success requirements established by NASA Headquarters. Although that requirement is not expressly documented at the NASA Headquarters program level, it is developed by FCOD in response to the Headquarters-controlled safety and mission success requirements and embedded in the NASA JSC-level Certificate of Flight Readiness (CoFR) for safe operations of flight. This CoFR is required for any launch of a U.S. astronaut—whether on a U.S. spacecraft, such as the shuttle, or on a non-U.S. spacecraft, such as the Soyuz—and must be provided to NASA Headquarters before a launch is approved. The flight readiness review processes and timelines requiring the signed CoFR are identified in Figure 3.9 for the ISS and in Figure 3.10 for Soyuz.
The SFRT requirements are not mission unique but are focused on the crew’s vital role in safety and mission success. Specifically, before every human spaceflight mission, FCOD is required to sign the CoFR, as documented in the Flight Crew Operations Space Flight Preparation Plan. As provided to the committee by NASA, the certification of crew readiness includes an assessment of the training and preparedness of the individuals and the entire crew. Addressing mission-specific readiness, the Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) signs a CoFR on completion of systems, EVA, robotics, payloads, in-flight maintenance, and emergency training. In addition, the FCOD certifies that both individual performance and combined crew performance are acceptable for the mission. The FCOD assessment is based on a compilation of training evaluations, instructor-astronaut evaluations (EVA, robotics, and emergency), peer evaluations for expeditionary training events, astronaut performance boards, T-38N skills and Crew Resource Management, and instructor-pilot evaluations. The training of NASA astronauts in aircraft is documented and tracked at the Aircraft Operations Division. Then, at the Flight Readiness Reviews, the heads of FCOD and MOD certify that the crew members are able and ready to conduct the mission safely and successfully.
As the size of the Astronaut Corps has decreased, NASA has also reduced the number of T-38N aircraft that it operates and currently has less than half the number that it operated only 10 years ago (Figure 3.11). With the retirement of the space shuttle, the FCOD is planning to retire the four Shuttle Training Aircraft and to reduce the T-38N fleet from the current 21 to 16 by FY 2013. It is planned that as many as four T-38Ns will be placed in flyable storage at El Paso, Texas, for possible replacement and in the event that circumstances for fleet augmentation
FIGURE 3.9 International Space Station Flight Readiness Review Process timeline. SOURCE: NASA Astronaut Office, “Ensuring the Readiness of the Astronaut Corps: A White Paper,” March 25, 2011.
FIGURE 3.10 Soyuz Flight Readiness Review Process timeline. SOURCE: NASA Astronaut Office, “Ensuring the Readiness of the Astronaut Corps: A White Paper,” March 25, 2011.
FIGURE 3.11 T-38N fleet size. SOURCE: NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex.
The 2008 Fleet Planning Study
change (for example, demands from the commercial sector or other identified needs). This reduction will leave the FCOD with the T-38N and its reimbursable research aircraft: 2 WB-57s, 1 C-9, and 1 B377. The FCOD will also continue to operate a Gulfstream III mission support aircraft that will continue to be used for mission contingencies and to transport returning ISS crew members from the landing zone to Houston.9
In March 2008, the FCOD culminated a multimonth Fleet Planning Study to determine the best aircraft or mix of aircraft to serve as its SFRT fleet. Several “attribute factors” were considered in this study. The aircraft or mix of aircraft must challenge experienced pilots, must train and develop inexperienced members of the Astronaut Corps, and must be able to instill spaceflight skills and attributes, specifically, discipline, priority-setting, crew coordination, communication, decision making, and spaceflight environment adaptation. As potential aircraft to improve SFRT, the aircraft evaluated in the Fleet Planning Study were the T-45 Goshawk U.S. Navy jet trainer aircraft, the T-6 Texan U.S. Air Force and Navy propeller trainer aircraft, the Premier 1A twin engine business jet, the Beech 400XP twin-engine business jet, the Learjet 60 twin-engine business jet (also in use with the FAA), the Cirrus single-engine propeller light aircraft, and the Lancair single-engine propeller light aircraft.
The primary conclusion of the Fleet Planning Study was that the T-38N provided more SFRT attributes than any other aircraft or combination studied and should be retained for continued use. In a fiscally unconstrained environment, the study asserted, having the option to supplement the T-38N fleet with another aircraft type might offer training advantages and, possibly, long-term cost savings, although maintaining proficiency in two aircraft would require further evaluation for both safety and astronaut availability. If a new aircraft fleet could be purchased, the Learjet 60’s side-by-side seating, similar to Soyuz and CCS capsule configurations, could be valuable in developing crew teamwork and coordination skills applicable to the Soyuz. In addition, if the objective became allowing non-militarily trained astronauts to function as pilots in command, the T-6 would offer a pathway via an aircraft that, although highly capable, did not approach the performance of the T-38N. The study concluded that the T-38N was the best available alternative, especially inasmuch as there would be serious challenges in acquir-
9 NASA Aircraft Operations Division, “Presentation to the NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, January 6, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011, pp. 6-7.
ing additional aircraft, including funding, competitive procurement requirements, and NASA Headquarters and congressional approval.
Although the committee lacked the time or resources to investigate the various aircraft options considered by NASA, it did review data concerning the possible acquisition of other high-performance two-seat jet aircraft from the military, such as the Air Force’s F-16. They are newer than the T-38N but have a higher operating cost than the T-38N, apart from the cost of acquiring the aircraft and modifying them for NASA use.
For astronauts aboard the ISS, essential spaceflight operation skills must be developed to meet the goal “to be able to operate as a team member in a highly dynamic, fast-changing, and sometimes unpredictable environment, with real-world, life-dependent consequences.”10 Crew members are required to learn crucial performance elements in (1) knowledge (what you know), (2) skills (what you can do), (3) rapid response (how you react), and (4) cognitive processing (how you think). Emergency response is incorporated into skills, rapid response, and cognitive processing.
The FCOD has made obvious and logical choices regarding which resources and facilities to retain and which to close. In a presentation before the committee, the MOD stated that its “task analysis process also identified minimum facility requirements necessary to complete training” and that its “requirements identified lowest cost minimum fidelity options for providing adequate crew training.” Given that premise, the committee examined all training resources, including the T-38N fleet, which became its major focus. It is possible that some of the high-stress, time-critical training accomplished by SFRT and the T-38N could be performed, or at least augmented, in a high-fidelity ground-based ISS simulator; however, no such simulator exists, and its developmental cost may make this path prohibitive. Such a notional simulator would be capable of developing teamwork and rapid assessment of systems, conditions, and contingency planning in a time-constrained environment. Even with such characteristics, the committee concluded that this type of ISS simulator would still be unable to provide disorientation training and highly variable G-loading in connection with clear real-world consequences.11
No ISS simulator today can create a high-fidelity emergency training scenario. On-orbit training can compensate for that lack of fidelity, but it might also run the risk of creating a real emergency. Regardless of the current state of simulator capability, the committee notes that the ability to simulate emergencies on the ground would prove valuable, as NASA learned from the Apollo 13 experience.
On the basis of its task to examine the SFRT program and its T-38N fleet, the committee formulated a straightforward question that could be posed by others both inside and outside government: Why is high-performance flight training required by NASA and DOD and not just ground-based simulator training before a first operational flight? The short answer to the question is rooted in “risk” and “safety”—or, put simply, it is to avert the loss of life, the loss of multibillion-dollar international assets, or mission failure. The expanded answer lies in the fact that there are external environmental factors in real flight that do not occur in simulators and that even if they could be simulated, they cannot be simulated without great expense—probably rivaling in-flight training in both capital investment and operating costs. Those factors affect operational performance physically and psychologically. If astronauts are not exposed to them in training before they experience them in real flight operations, both crew safety and mission success are exposed to risk and the possible loss of life.
When one examines the skill mix required of professional astronauts who operate spacecraft and their systems in nominal, off-nominal, and emergency situations, skills include academic achievement and technical knowledge,
10 NASA Astronaut Office, “Presentation to the NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, January 6, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011, p. 61.
11 NASA Astronaut Office, “Presentation to the NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations,” presentation to the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, January 6, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011, pp. 61-64.
physical capabilities, and compatible psychological attributes. The academic and technical knowledge requirements for selection and mission training (for the specific vehicle and for unique mission attributes) are well documented. Astronaut selection criteria and general training curricula for the ISS, Soyuz, and international resupply vehicles have been examined as part of this study.
The physical and psychological attributes of astronaut candidates that are tested during selection are also well documented. However, manifestations of some of the attributes (such as performance during stressful situations) are not usually observed until astronauts are in real situations. A candidate may pass the psychological examination, but such an examination will not reveal whether he or she can work with another astronaut in an emergency procedure when both engines flame out at 41,000 feet over a thunderstorm or when power interruptions occur on orbit.
That line of candidate examination and committee questioning leads to exploring the principal differences between ground-based simulators and aircraft and spacecraft training. The differences are principally physical and psychological. For example, consider acceleration and G loads and the stress of the confined physical environment:
1. Acceleration and G loads. High-performance aircraft, such as the T-38N, accelerate from zero to Mach 1.3, exposing crewmembers to loads through their body and on their arms while they are controlling the vehicle, monitoring displays, and taking notes on their knee boards. The accelerations in the T-38N can expose crew members to up to +7.33 and down to –3.5 Gs. In comparison, the space shuttle topped out at 3 Gs, and on a Soyuz during ballistic re-entry, crew members experienced up to 8 Gs. In addition, the accelerations and the varying vector directions affect the vestibular system and can cause nausea. During all this, crew members must be focused on the vehicle and their individual crew position responsibilities. In the event of an emergency, they are required to focus on the task and ignore their environment. Ground-based simulators, even ones that are motion-based, do not expose crew members to accelerations and G loads, because emergency procedures are conducted in a normal 1 G environment.
2. Confined stressful physical environments. High-performance aircraft operating above 13,000 feet require that crew members wear helmets and oxygen masks even as they are restrained by harnesses in an ejection seat. Crew members are connected to supplemental oxygen, which forces oxygen into their masks in the event of a pressure loss. Similarly, crew members flying to the ISS, either in the past aboard the space shuttle or now and in the future aboard the Soyuz, launch in a pressure suit and helmet and strapped into a seat with a safety harness (NASA has currently contracted for six flights per year to be launched aboard Russia’s Soyuz through 2016). Simulators are incapable of simulating the real claustrophobic environment of a spacecraft because a crew member can simply walk out of the confined area. In a spacecraft, that is impossible.
a. Although the NASA space shuttle simulators could provide supplemental oxygen and suit cooling to simulate the in-flight suited environment, the experience clearly was missing the accelerations, unusual attitudes, and G loads. However, crew members were able to integrate all their “part task” training mentally because they had the knowledge of what those stressful environments felt like during their T-38N SFRT training.
b. In comparison, the Soyuz trainer in Star City, Russia, allows the use of the Sokol pressure suit but is not motion based. The first exposure of the crew members to the actual vehicle is a few weeks before flight when they travel to Baikonur for a fit check in their custom-made Soyuz seat.
During the Apollo program, vehicle training stressors included heat and vibration. Crew members aboard the Soyuz also experience heat and vibration and may encounter them in future ballistic-type vehicles. Those stressors can still be experienced in high-performance jet training flights.12
3. Exposure to a realistic psychological stress environment. Astronauts training in high-performance jet aircraft are immersed in a fluid environment that demands constant mental attention, focus, and decision making. Unlike in a simulator, there is no “Pause” button in the aircraft to enable the crew members to escape challenging or deteriorating situations. Short of using their ejection seats, the crew must work together to stabilize and overcome
12 NASA, Flight Crew Operations Directorate Strategic Plan, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex., September 2006, p. 30.
whatever situation they encounter. Astronauts report that the high-stress aviation environment closely mimics the stresses of spaceflight and prepares them for the timely, accurate responses needed aboard a spacecraft.
On the basis of the evidence presented to the committee, the Astronaut Office has established and maintains an effective training program to ensure mission safety and success. No other occupation has quite the same set of requirements, but some related industries have a number of the same issues. Notable among them is the operation of nuclear reactors by the Navy and by the civilian power generation industry. The operation of civil and commercial aircraft in the nation’s air transportation system requires a number of the skills that are required by the astronauts. In those and other stressful, fast-paced occupations that require life-or-death decisions, research efforts are under way to examine and possibly improve the techniques and technology used to train individuals or teams. The substantial body of literature that is evolving will help to provide a more rigorous basis for many of the training methods in use and to develop training technologies and strategies to improve training outcomes.
In the commercial aviation industry, it is possible for a pilot to make his or her first landing of a revenue flight in a new aircraft type after only performing simulator training, that is, without conducting a training flight in the aircraft. However, that is not similar to first-time astronaut flight, for several reasons. The airline pilot who flies a new aircraft for the first time will already have many flight hours in other aircraft and probably will also have flown several flights in the new aircraft type under observation by an experienced captain. Although commercial aviation has increased the use of simulators, they are not adequate substitutes for flight experience.
The committee also heard from a representative of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (typically referred to as Naval Reactors), which has adopted a training model that blends operational training in a fully functional reactor with supplemental training that uses a high-fidelity simulator. Its curriculum is focused on control room watch standers—a corollary with the ISS or any follow-on NASA vehicle. A basic underpinning of the Naval Reactors process is a coupling of the candidate’s fundamental understanding of first principles and in-depth knowledge of system design and operation. In the Naval Reactors comparison, a level of competence must be demonstrated on watch in a fully functional reactor plant dedicated to candidate training, and watch standers are integrated into a team setting in which individual performance can be evaluated during both steady-state and simulated emergency situations. With that skill set as a foundation, Naval Reactors complements a person’s training with simulated performance of routine and emergency tasks by using a computerized model of the propulsion plant that allows for skill development or remediation of deficient elements of performance. A foundation of the simulator training is maintaining an environment identical with that found in an operational power plant. The Naval Reactors approach is that a failure to do so could result in negative training, so deviations are scrupulously avoided. A further benefit of the Naval Reactors simulator model is that scenarios beyond the design basis can be examined to evaluate opportunities for improvement in design or operation. For spaceflight applications, it is reasonable to substitute a high-performance aircraft for the Naval Reactors training reactor and to supplement both curricula with computerized simulators to develop the candidate fully in a cost-efficient manner that blends safety and cost.
NASA appears to have an effective plan for retiring shuttle-era ground-based facilities and is already implementing that plan. Most ISS training facilities will be retained. The committee’s only disagreement with NASA concerns the retirement of the SES Dome. The committee concluded that there may be a near-term use for this facility and that NASA should study other possible uses for it.
Many required attributes cannot be trained for in simulators because they lack the spectrum of physical and psychological stresses encountered in spaceflight: accelerations, unusual attitudes, unexpected variables, pressure changes, external communications, and so on. There is also an inability in spaceflight to pause or freeze a situation or to walk away if a situation deteriorates to near loss of control.
Elimination of a high-performance airplane environment both for screening new “non-flight-experienced” astronaut crewmembers and for keeping all crew proficient in the attributes described above appears to introduce
an unacceptable crew performance safety risk into the operation of multibillion-dollar spacecraft in return for relatively small savings in training costs.
That risk is not trivial and has been mitigated to date by a training and flight proficiency syllabus designed by both the Astronaut Office and professional instructor pilots—most of them with thousands of hours of prior military flight experience. Those subject-matter experts designed a syllabus that has demonstrated its success in (1) keeping trained pilots proficient in the skills for which they were selected as they wait for years between spaceflights, (2) bringing non-pilots to a skill level of safe spaceflight readiness and keeping them proficient, and (3) eliciting experience-based examples that show that successful performance in dire, real-life spacecraft situations was attributable in large part to the training experience gained in high-performance SFRT aircraft.
The value of SFRT is reinforced by the Ellington Field professional flight instructors, who have observed degradation in physical skills (specifically, hand-eye coordination) and decision-making skills when flight hours fall below the current syllabus levels—and the instructor pilots consider these currency hours and syllabus as providing a minimum level of training.
The end of the Space Shuttle program will substantially change many aspects of the U.S. human spaceflight program (Figure 3.12). It appears to the committee that high-performance aviation training is a high-confidence, experientially proven method for ensuring a common, minimum level of preparation for the dynamic, unpredictable, and hazardous environment of spaceflight that is certain to be encountered by U.S. astronauts in the coming decade and beyond. It is vital to protect and pass on the historical investment in the training and experience base that enables safe and successful human spaceflight operations. That legacy will help to ensure the success of future U.S. space exploration programs and commercial flight initiatives.
FIGURE 3.12 Space shuttle Endeavour at the International Space Station in May 2011. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
Finding 3.1. The NASA plan for post-shuttle retirement of shuttle-specific training facilities is generally appropriate. However, the Shuttle Engineering Simulator Dome may be useful in training for future activities, such as rendezvous and docking operations during commercial transportation of ISS crew.
Recommendation 3.1. NASA should evaluate potential future requirements for the Shuttle Engineering Simulator Dome and, if it will be needed, should preserve this facility.
Finding 3.2a. Now that the shuttle is retired, the specific spaceflight crew operations shift from shuttle operations and ISS assembly to Soyuz and ISS nominal and emergency operations, ISS payload operations, and ISS maintenance. The requirements for training of flight crews for those ISS operations include emergency response training, extravehicular activity operations, and the full suite of nominal operations for U.S. and international partner ISS elements, including Soyuz. Thus, the ISS ground-based training facilities are required for the support of crew training for future operations and maintenance of the ISS.
Finding 3.2b. The requirements for U.S. astronaut training include international partner ISS element operations at international partner facilities and Soyuz operations in Russia. The U.S. international partner agreements also require that the United States provide for enhancing skill proficiency and training for the international partner astronauts.
Recommendation 3.2. NASA should retain the capability and training facilities to conduct International Space Station (ISS) mission-specific training after retirement of the space shuttle to ensure the continued safety and mission success of ISS operations.
Spaceflight Readiness Training
Finding 3.3a. The spaceflight readiness training requirement is derived from safety and mission success requirements, not tied to any specific mission. Although the requirement is not expressly documented at the NASA Headquarters program level, it was developed by the Flight Crew Operations Directorate in response to NASA Headquarters-controlled safety and mission success requirements and embedded at the level of the NASA JSC Certificate of Flight Readiness for safe operations of flight, which is then provided to NASA Headquarters. Any changes in spaceflight readiness training need to be made with great care because changes can result in increased risk to safety and mission success.
Finding 3.3b. Spaceflight readiness training using high-performance aircraft has been demonstrated and documented to prepare crews for successful and safe spaceflight, dating back 50 years, from the inception of the Mercury program to the current International Space Station program. SFRT is more than just flying—the full spectrum of experiences gained is not restricted to the operation of high-performance aircraft but extrapolates to crew resource management and performance under stress. SFRT is used effectively internationally to produce qualified members of the Astronaut Corps who are independent of crew position or vehicle design.
Recommendation 3.3. To ensure continued safety and mission success, NASA should maintain a spaceflight readiness training program that includes high-performance aircraft.
Finding 3.4a. FCOD maintains the Astronaut Corps and provides the capability to conduct SFRT.
Finding 3.4b. High-performance aircraft present conditions, including crew disorientation and rapid fluctuation in G-forces, under which the flight crew must carry out complex tasks in a stressful and potentially life-threatening environment. That combination of unique environments, demand for rapid, critical decision making, and historical evidence convinced the committee that SFRT provides experience-based training that cannot be duplicated by current or, to the best of the committee’s knowledge, projected alternative techniques or technologies.
Finding 3.4c. Given the current investment in the existing T-38N fleet, this fleet is the most cost-effective means of providing SFRT in the near term. In the long term, new technology that may be a more cost-effective means of providing SFRT might be demonstrated and proved.
Finding 3.4d. The size of the T-38N SFRT fleet is projected to fall to 16 aircraft in 2013.
Recommendation 3.4. NASA should retain the T-38N fleet for spaceflight readiness training and should fund the fleet at a level commensurate with the projected required size of the post-shuttle Astronaut Corps.
Learning from Other Occupations
Finding 3.5. Substantial research is being undertaken on selection and training of personnel in related high-stress occupations. Some of that work is leading to continually improving methods and technologies for training for team and individual performance in stressful high-risk situations.
Recommendation 3.5. NASA should continue to monitor training methods and technologies in related fields for possible ways to enhance the astronaut selection and training process.