Orion’s Smart Cockpit

NASA’s Orion crew vehicle’s smart cockpit will monitor the vehicle’s health, use synthetic, enhanced and virtual vision systems, have advanced on-screen symbology and may eventually employ a talking computer.

The Lockheed Martin-built Orion will use a glass cockpit that is derived from Honeywell’s Boeing 787 flight deck technology. Orion’s cockpit computers will carry out routine and repetitive system monitoring tasks, which Apollo-era astronauts had to do themselves.

Vehicle health management software is seen as key to automating this activity so the cockpit system only informs the astronauts, and ground control, about the spacecraft’s status when necessary. While the Shuttle’s cockpit’s screens are filled with data that astronauts have to interpret and act on, Orion’s displays will use graphics along with enhanced synthetic vision and additional flight related symbology.

The Orion’s symbology could include a pathway through the sky. There will also be software tools for astronauts to have enhanced situational awareness, which is the goal of the smart cockpit. NASA Ames Research Center is working on constraint based planning for Orion’s smart cockpit. Ames’ exploration technology director’s senior advisor Anthony Gross says, “we’re trying to get [Clarissa] implemented on Orion but it will probably be a later version.” Clarissa is software that guides astronauts through procedures for operating or maintaining space vehicle systems using natural language interaction, talking, with the crew member via a headset. It has been tested on the International Space Station.