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Console Handbooks

The International Space Station (ISS) is monitored constantly by teams of flight controllers in the Mission Control Center. Each flight controller has unique knowledge of the core system(s) or secondary system(s) that they monitor. The flight controllers sit at a workstation, or console within the Mission Control Center. On the consoles there are numerical and graphical displays of information relating to their console position. These displays are updated regularly with data retrieved from the ISS.

To help understand the complex systems of the ISS, each console position has a Console Handbook. These handbooks help the flight controller understand the data collected from the ISS. The console handbooks include all types of data that are needed for the successful operation of the console position.

Many different kinds of data are transmitted from the ISS on a regular basis. The console handbook contains information on the systems they monitor, and how theses systems relate to the safe and continuous operation of the ISS and its crew on a day-to-day basis. The console handbook may contain everything on how a complicated system works, to why a button onboard the ISS is a specific color and what that color means.


CAPCOM: Capsule Communicator

The Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) is the primary contact for communicating with the crew onboard the ISS from Mission Control Center (MCC)-Houston. The term "CAPCOM" originated from early crewed spaceflight, when all spacecraft used a capsule design. Until 2001, only astronauts were assigned to CAPCOM duties. Now, highly experienced engineers and trainers have been selected to serve as CAPCOM for the ISS.

CAPCOM communicates through the use of voice loops (collections of audio communication from individuals which are tied together on an intercom through a satellite link). CAPCOM also coordinates crew communications with other spacecraft communicators supporting the mission which may be in other locations - such as Huntsville, Alabama; Munich, Germany; Tskuba, Japan or Moscow, Russia.


GC: Ground Control

The Ground Control (GC) position is responsible for controlling the ground/space networks and MCC-Houston systems used during mission operations, or for simulations or testing. The GC position manages and controls MCC-Houston maintenance policy and information, ground systems command, control, communications systems reliability, information circulation assurance and the availability and reliability of space communications systems. It is the primary point of contact for configuring and troubleshooting of data, command and trajectory systems and hardware or software issues (including systems which interface with space/ground networks). The GC position serves as the focal point for the continuous flow of command, data, control data and information to international partners and supporting rooms. It relies on support and expertise from the Operations Support Team (OST) for end-to-end commands, data communications, voice, video, MCC platform and operation and service of computer systems. The GC position also serves as the Fire Warden and Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for MCC-Houston.


ISE: Integration and Systems Engineer

The Integration and Systems Engineer (ISE) ensures that software and hardware systems from visiting vehicles (crewed and uncrewed supply vehicles) will work with the computer systems on the ISS. Examples include the physical ability to dock to the ISS, successful power source connections and the compatibility of both wired and wireless communications.

Since the ISE is also responsible for ensuring the safety of the ISS when visiting vehicles are docked, the ISE closely monitors the system performance of visiting vehicles and the state of the Caution and Warning messages.

The ISE also works with the Visiting Vehicle Officer (VVO) and communicates with both the visiting vehicle's flight control team and the Flight Director, making safety recommendations to the Flight Director as needed.


ISO: Inventory Stowage Officer

The Inventory Stowage Officer (ISO) is responsible for the real-time tracking of United States (U.S.) inventory onboard the ISS. The ISO manages a five-part database called the Inventory Management System (IMS), which keeps track of all the items on the ISS and their stowage locations.

The IMS database servers are located at five prime databases: onboard the ISS, and in MCC-Houston, MCC-Moscow, Tsukuba in Japan (Japanese Control Center) and COL-CC (European Control Center). Just before a Progress (a Russian uncrewed supply craft) launches, a sixth server is linked into the IMS at Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

For files that are similar but not identical, a new file (called a delta file) is created, which records the differences between the two previous files. The ISO imports and exports these delta files to capture daily updates at each of the five prime databases. The ISO also provides the ISS crew with daily stowage notes - information on what is needed (or available) for the day's activities and where the related items are located.


OSO: Operations Support Officer

The Operations Support Officer (OSO) plans and coordinates all internal vehicle maintenance activities onboard the ISS. The OSO manages the development, training and analysis of maintenance tasks on the ground prior to carrying the tasks out in orbit, and keeps the Flight Director aware of the status of repairs. The OSO is also responsible for the internal mechanisms which attach pressurized modules to the ISS, as well as external mechanisms which attach research cargo and spare pallets (portable platforms on which goods are placed for storage or moving) to the truss.


PAO: Public Affairs Officer

The Public Affairs Officer (PAO) is the Flight Control Room's point of contact for the news media and the general public. The PAO provides explanation for activities such as a vehicle launching or docking with the ISS, as well as comments to help explain communications and flight control operations. The PAO also plans public affairs-related crew activities (such as crew interviews) in coordination with the rest of the MCC-Houston team. The PAO is often referred to as the mission commentator, or "The Voice of Mission Control".


PLUTO: Plug-in-Plan and Utilization Officer

The Plug-in-Plan and Utilization Officer (PLUTO) maintains and coordinates changes to the U.S. segment of the electrical Plug-in Plan (PiP), which tracks the organization of all on-orbit portable equipment and associated constraints. The PLUTO is also responsible for certain Station Developmental Test Objectives, or SDTOs (testing of equipment) during the mission. This includes testing of the Wireless Instrumentation System (WIS) and also of ROBONAUT activities.

The PLUTO Flight Control Team is responsible for the Space Station Computer (SSC) and the Joint Station Local Area Network (JSL).


PTG: Pointing Officer

The Pointing Officer (PTG) provides a number of reports to the Flight Director, including communication predictions (such as determining when the ISS antennas have a clear view of communication satellites enabling scheduled usage of the ISS), any clear views of "something of interest" (called target lines-of-sight, or LOS, computations), research cargo attitude optimization (or best orientation so that the payload sensor is pointing at the desired target but still maintaining vehicle's power, thermal, communication, ect.), onboard systems monitoring and user pointing requirements (inform user such as payload customer, FCR team, or crew, which direction to look to see a specific target). If the (Public Affair Officer) PAO wanted a video recording of a hurricane using the ISS external cameras the pointing officer would calculate the time of the observation and the orientation of the cameras for the event.

The PTG generates network service requests for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) and for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) providers (such as Dragon and Cygnus). This activity includes determining which vehicle communications antenna to use (based on mission requirements) and the antenna's ability to see the communications satellites. The PTG also provides unique target line-of-sight data to the crew, flight control team and ISS payloads for specific targets of interest (such as hurricanes, cities, ground areas and space-based targets).


RIO: Remote Interface Officer

The Remote Interface Officer (RIO) serves as the primary contact point between the U.S. and International Partner (IP) Flight Control Teams. The RIO provides effective communication and coordination of real-time activities between all IP control centers.


ROBO: Robotics Support Officer

The Robotics Operations Officer (ROBO) is responsible for planning, coordinating and executing all robotic operations aboard the ISS. The ROBO monitors the robotic systems during their operation, conducts a variety of operations from the ground, troubleshoots problems and creates "work-arounds" when problems occur.

The robotic systems and associated equipment are part of the Mobile Servicing Systems (MSS), which have played a key role in the assembly of the ISS. These systems move around equipment and supplies, support astronauts working in space and service instruments (as well as other research cargo attached to the ISS). They also perform ISS surveys using cameras.

There are several components to the MSS. One major component is the robotic arm called the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), or Canadarm2. This arm rests on a platform called the Mobile Base System (MBS), and is capable of handling large payloads and assisting with visiting vehicles that are docking. Another part of the MSS is a two-armed robot called the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), or "Dextre" for short. This is a smaller robot which handles delicate assembly tasks on the ISS.


SURGEON/BME: Surgeon/Biomedical Engineer

The Surgeon/Biomedical Engineer (Surgeon/BME) console is responsible for the health and safety of the crew. The console is made up of three positions, a surgeon (SURGEON), a biomedical engineer (BME) and a Space Environment Officer (SEO).

The SURGEON position is a certified NASA flight surgeon that monitors the crew's physical and psychological health. The SURGEON discusses medical, family and psychological issues privately with each crewmember, and provides health status updates for crewmembers to the Flight Director.

The BME provides technical and operational support for the health-related ISS systems, equipment and activities.

The SEO monitors the crew's exposure to radiation, ensuring that levels are within limits that are deemed to be safe.