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Capstone Project for NASA
Summer 2013


8 months


Project Lead (Primary)
User Researcher
Interaction Designer


Competitive Analysis
Contextual Inquiry
Usability Testing
Heuristic Evaluation



Balsamiq Mockups


Since the International Space Station is fully assembled, the mission has shifted from building to learning. Each day astronauts complete a multitude of tasks to further human knowledge about the world below by completing scientific experiments. In order to assist in completing these tasks, astronauts rely on a system of fixed laptops throughout the ISS to view their procedure documents. The current system is not ideal for efficiency and NASA tasked our group with improving procedure execution on the International Space Station (ISS) to increase scientific output. Before we began work, we created a mission statement that succinctly encapsulated our goal and would guide our team throughout the project.

Mission Statement

To explore operator workflow in isolated environments in order to optimize task execution.

Cluttered workspace in the ISS. Image courtesy of NASA.


We began our project with a literature review to gain an understanding of the domain in which astronauts work. Since we did not have the time to conduct research in space (and NASA declined our request to do so), we used the information from our literature review to create a list of analogous domains from which we could gather data. After making contacts with various people in these domains, we began our preliminary research. First we travelled to Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX to speak with domain experts to explore the research, existing system, environmental constraints, and users for whom we were designing. In the following weeks we interviewed people from all of the analogous domains in the chart below which allowed us to synthesis and model the relationships between the domain worker, their peers, and the technology upon which they rely.

Using the information we gathered from our literature review, competitive analysis, and field research, we created a list of 8 key issues that defined the challenges of our problem space. We used these issues to envision ways in which we could improve procedure execution. We came up with 411 ideas that we narrowed to a list of 100 feasible ideas. From this list we narrowed even further to 9 distinct visions. Finally, we decided to pursue the 3 visions we felt addressed the key issues most effectively using technology that was already available.

After relocating to Mountain View, CA for the summer, we presented our findings and visions to our clients at NASA before beginning work on our prototype. We tested low fidelity prototypes of different form factors and, after considering the results of each test, decided to pursue the head-mounted display for our final prototype. In order to evaluate what capabilities the current hardware offered, we attended the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, CA. Availability was the largest issue for all of the available hardware, followed closely by lack of sensors. We resolved availability by using the only device available at retail, the Epson Moverio BT-100 and added sensor capability by pairing it with a Google Nexus 10. The combination of devices allowed us to display images in the user's field of view while also leveraging object recognition and voice feedback via the tablet.


This project culminated with an Operational Readiness Test (ORT), dubbed Launch Day, in early August. Our prototype was used successfully to complete a simulated scientific procedure. For more information and updates, please check our project website.