Stottler Henke Wins Contract to Support Operational Use of Aurora-KSC Scheduling System at NASA

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Artificial intelligence software enables real-time, near-optimal scheduling while reducing manpower needs for NASA’s next generation Space Launch System

Stottler Henke Associates, Inc. today announced the award of a contract with Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. to support operational use of Aurora-KSC, an advanced software system for scheduling ground processing operations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the Space Launch System (SLS). Based on Stottler Henke’s Aurora™ intelligent scheduling software, Aurora-KSC greatly reduces the manpower required from expert schedulers while shortening turnaround time when scheduling SLS processing operations. The Space Launch System is the world’s most powerful rocket, designed to travel to asteroids, Mars, and beyond. Jacobs Engineering Group provides testing and operations support services to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

To process payloads, prepare vehicles for launch, and launch the vehicles, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) must efficiently manage the use of unique, expensive and limited resources such as the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Launch Equipment Test Facilities, launch pads, mobile launchers, crawlers, general and specialized processing facilities, numerous smaller facilities and resources, and manpower. For example, the Vehicle Assembly Building is one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, originally built to support vertical assembly of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program.

Managing ground operations is extremely challenging. Schedules must obey complex constraints imposed by ground rules, safety requirements, and the unique needs of processing vehicles and payloads destined for space. For example, some operations are designated as hazardous, which means that when they are being performed, other activities cannot be performed in a defined volume of space. In addition, schedules must be generated at multiple time scales and synchronized. Launch manifests are planned years in advance to allow time to produce the launch vehicles and payloads, daily ground operations are often planned to the minute, and countdowns are planned to the second.

Since the 1990s, Stottler Henke has been working with NASA KSC to provide intelligent scheduling systems for managing ground operations more efficiently. For 18 years, Stottler Henke’s Automated Manifest Planner (AMP) and its successor system, Aurora/AMP, generated short- and long-term schedules of Space Shuttle preparation and refurbishment activities before and after each flight, automatically setting the launch dates for the Shuttle program. Aurora software was also used to schedule the use of floor space and other resources at the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), the world’s largest low-particle clean room environment where International Space Station components were prepared for space flight.

Aurora-KSC is the newest scheduling software developed by Stottler Henke for Kennedy Space Center. Aurora-KSC improves the scheduling of ground-based processing, verification, and validation for the Space Launch System. Enhancements include near-optimal schedules, faster scheduling in response to changes and what-if queries, reduced requirements for highly skilled human planners, and data exchange with Primavera P6 project management software. Faster scheduling is especially important when re-planning is necessary close to launch time.

Aurora™ is the world’s leading planning and scheduling system that uses artificial intelligence. It was originally developed to help NASA tackle difficult, mission-critical scheduling problems with complex constraints by incorporating the judgment and experience of expert human schedulers. Most other systems use simple rules to select and schedule activities and assign resources to carry them out. Often, these schedules are far from optimal. Aurora outperforms conventional software because it uses artificial intelligence technologies to encode and apply extensive scheduling knowledge and rules. The Boeing Company uses Aurora to manage the process of building the Boeing 787 Dreamliner™ commercial airliner, and NASA used Aurora at Kennedy Space Center to schedule International Space Station payload and Shuttle processing activities. Other users of Aurora software include Pfizer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Korean Aerospace Industries, Massachusetts General Hospital, Bombardier Learjet, Alaska Airlines, the US Air Force, and the US Navy. Aurora was featured in NASA’s Hallmarks of Success video series which showcases successful spin-off technologies.

Founded in 1988, Stottler Henke Associates, Inc. applies artificial intelligence and other advanced software technologies to solve problems that defy solution using traditional approaches. The company delivers intelligent software solutions for education and training, planning and scheduling, knowledge management and discovery, decision support, and software development. In 2012, Stottler Henke, in a White House ceremony, was awarded the prestigious Tibbetts award, which honors small businesses for outstanding technical achievements and innovativeness. US Government agencies have designated ten Stottler Henke systems as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) success stories. Four Stottler Henke systems have been included in Spinoff, NASA's showcase of successful spinoff technologies. Stottler Henke was the subject of a NASA Hallmarks of Success video profile for its work developing and later commercializing advanced scheduling and training software systems. Stottler Henke received a “Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning” award for innovative technology. Stottler Henke was named one of the "Top 100" companies making a significant impact on the military training industry by Military Training Technology magazine for 2016 and eleven previous years. Stottler Henke has received a Blue Ribbon from Military Training Technology magazine, recognizing it as a company that leads the industry in innovation. Email: info(at)stottlerhenke(dot)com.  Web: http://www.stottlerhenke.com.

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James Ong
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