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  • Innovative Solutions for Maintaining On-Orbit Crew Skills Proficiency: A Key to Successful Long Duration Space Missions

    Paper number



    Ms. Lindsay Evans, Canadian Space Agency, Canada


    Ms. Elaine Greenberg, Canadian Space Agency, Canada



    Ensuring crew safety and mission success is critical for human space flight, and relies on the specialized skills of crewmembers to perform their on-orbit tasks. Since skills degrade over time, the training community must find innovative and effective ways to maintain crew proficiency, especially for long-duration missions. This paper will address the challenges associated with maintaining crewmembers’ skills on-orbit and will recommend solutions to ensure that crew safety and mission success are not at risk.  
    The International Space Station (ISS) is a prime example of the need for proficiency training, since it hosts a limited number of crewmembers who must remain highly skilled in various systems, including robotics, which are key to the assembly and maintenance of the ISS. Currently, CSA trains astronauts and cosmonauts to perform robotic operations onboard the ISS using the Canadarm2, and has observed a number of on-orbit operational errors that can be attributed to loss of skills proficiency. Similar proficiency issues will soon become an important concern for our International Partners, once the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEM RMS), including the Small Fine Arm (SFA), and the European Robotic Arm (ERA) are installed on the ISS.  Although the recommendations in this paper are focused on maintaining ISS robotics proficiency, they can also be applied to future human space exploration. 
    Maintaining robotics proficiency on board the ISS has been a challenge for two reasons. Firstly, there are no robotics training simulators currently onboard thereby requiring crewmembers to use the real system for training purposes. This limits the scope of operational scenarios they can practice and the type of skills in which they can remain proficient (e.g. there exists limited capability to perform proficiency training for EVA maneuvering operations). Secondly, crew time is limited and it has been difficult to schedule training time within their already busy workday. While every effort is made to ensure that the primary operator remains proficient in robotics, in some cases, the other trained operators onboard lose their proficiency, resulting in the ground performing the required supporting duties. 
    Given the high-precision robotics tasks anticipated for ISS, such as the HII Transfer Vehicle (HTV) free-flyer capture, maintaining robotics proficiency will become increasingly critical for mission success. The need for alternative training approaches becomes apparent, as well as methods for assessing crew performance remotely, and regaining proficiency if it is lost. 
    This paper will address the key issues associated with proficiency training during long-duration space flight, as well as innovative and effective methods for ensuring that crewmembers continue to meet their performance standards - an inevitable requirement if we are to meet the recent initiatives set forth for manned missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-05-B4.4.06.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.