ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli to test augmented reality on the International Space Station

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli will be headed to the International Space Station (ISS) on July 28, 2017 for his third long-duration mission. He recently completed an intensive training session at the ESA European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany.

One of the experiments to be performed by Paolo Nespoli is ARAMIS, which stands for “Augmented Reality Application for Maintenance, Inventory and Stowage”. ARAMIS uses mobile wireless and augmented reality technologies to assist ISS astronauts on maintenance and checking operations, as well as the reorganization of onboard stowage.

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Thales Alenia Space is leading this project, on behalf of the Italian space agency. We asked project Principal Investigator Giuseppe Lentini to share his insights.

Q. Giuseppe, what’s your role on this project?

A. As Principal Investigator, I’m in charge of the scientific aspects, and I also manage the research team to make sure the experiment meets its goals.

Q. What’s the main aim of the experiment?

A. The experiment is designed to demonstrate that a mobile device (a standard tablet, in this case), equipped with a dedicated augmented reality application and a wireless connection to the station database, can increase the efficiency and precision of operations on the station. For the experiment, we are using two main scenarios, one for maintenance in Node 2 and one providing crew aid to manage stowage - two of the most time-consuming activities on the ISS.

Q. How can augmented reality help astronauts on the ISS?

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Augmented reality provides crew members with information that enhances their perception of their surroundings. In some cases, it “translates” operational instructions and symbols (such as flight procedures) to clarify the information being displayed; in other cases, we draw on the experience gained in programs such as Node 2 and the Permanent Multipurpose Module – both built by Thales Alenia Space – to display computer-generated images over Paolo’s actual views, to help him better understand his assigned tasks and enhance his situational awareness. For the demonstration we chose simple tasks, since our main goal is to validate this technology.

If properly applied, this type of technology could significantly improve onboard operations, both planned and especially unplanned.

Thales Alenia Space provides half of the Space Station's pressurized volume!

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The ISS holds a special place in the hearts of Thales Alenia Space’s engineers. The company has provided fully half of the pressurized volume on the ISS, including Nodes 2 and 3, the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), the Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLM) and the Cupola, the Columbus lab structure, and the cargo modules for the ATV resupply vessels. Thales Alenia Space also builds, on behalf of Orbital ATK, the pressurized cargo modules (PCM) for the Cygnus resupply vessels. Another Cygnus will be launched in the coming months. Stay tuned for the latest info.  

Cartoon: © Thales Alenia Space/Briot
Photo 1: © NASA
Photo 2: © ESA/Stéphane Corvaja