Space Logistics – Lessons Learned from NASA Space Flights

NASA published “Logistics Lessons Learned from NASA Space Flights” in 2006. The study identifies logistics needs for space exploration and challenges in the development of past logistics architectures, as well as in the design of space systems. The study was intended to be used as guidance in the development of an integrated logistics architecture for future human missions to the Moon and Mars.

Logistics architectures for future human missions

The report summarizes the logistics practices for the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) and the International Space Station (ISS) as of 2006, and examines the practices of manifesting, stowage, inventory tracking, waste disposal, and return logistics. The key findings of the examination were that, while the practices do have many positive aspects, there are also several shortcomings. These shortcomings included a high-level of excess complexity, redundancy of information/lack of a common database, and a large human-in-the-loop component.

The analysis gathered logistics lessons learned from NASA human spaceflight programs as of 2006, as well as validating those lessons through a survey of the opinions of space logisticians. To consider all perspectives on logistics lessons, the analysis included review of multiple sources within NASA, including organizations with direct and indirect connections with the system flow in mission planning. The analysis also utilized crew debriefs, the lessons learned repository for the ISC Mission Operations Directorate, Skylab Lessons Learned, and the Lessons Learned Information System.

In conducting the research, information was consolidated into a single spreadsheet of 300 lessons learned. The data was then distilled into the top 7 lessons learned across programs, centers, and activities.

The Top 7 Lessons Learned

  1. Resulting problems from lack of stowage specification may include growing time demands for the crew, loss of accountability, loss of access to operational space, limits to housekeeping, weakened morale, and an increased requirement for resupply. Therefore, include stowage requirements (volume, mass, reconfigurability, etc.) in the design specification.
  2. A common logistics/inventory system, shared by multiple organizations would decrease the problem of differing values for like items across systems.
  3. Packing lists and manifests do not make good manual accounting systems. Parent-child relationships are fluid and need to be intuitively handled by a system updated by the movement of both parents and children.
  4. Commonality is a prime consideration for all vehicles, systems, components, and software in order to minimize training requirements, optimize maintainability, reduce development and sparing costs, and increase operational flexibility.
  5. Design for maintenance is a primary consideration in reducing the logistics footprint. An optimization is preferable, taking into account tools, time, packaging, stowage, and lifecycle cost.
  6. Plan for and apply standards to system development. A simple example of this is standard and metric tools. In most cases, where there are multiple standards, there is an interface required, and the interface then requires support.
  7. Include return logistics requirements in the design specification. Understand and model packaging requirements, pressurization, and reparability/disposability for the return or destructive reentry of items ahead of time.