Cortona3D and the European Space Agency team up to design and develop an authoring environment that can build 3D interactive procedures

27 July 2011

The European Space Agency (ESA) heads all major European space activities, including cooperation to build and operate the International Space Station. Fail-safe astronaut training for the Automatic Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is pivotal for docking, bringing water and gas on board, off-loading waste, and then undocking the craft.

Cortona3D has previously worked with ESA to replace bulky, multilingual, old manuals with computer-based training solutions. The new training solutions had to cover the many control panels, tools, levers, valves, and racks of the ATV. It also had to simulate complex tasks in zero-gravity with unfailing accuracy. The latest 3D training technology from Cortona3D puts graphics, text, and interactive animations on one notebook PC screen or mobile device, making the previously used paper manuals obsolete. ESA has decided to take the next step and use interactive 3D documentation not only for their training but also for the task execution both in the spacecraft and the space station. This is mostly accomplished by the astronaut following “ground prepared” validated crew procedures as XML documents, with pictures and illustrations interspersed. Interactivity offered is limited mainly due to simple viewer controls like the high-lighting of the current instruction.

In the human space flight domain, there are currently no tool-sets available for authoring of 3-dimensional interactive animated crew procedures. Building upon the existing relationship with Cortona3D, ESA has once again made the decision to work with Cortona3D to design and develop an authoring environment that can build 3D interactive procedures (3D-PAT). This environment will support the interactivity of the 'VCR' control panel for the animation, camera management, physics simulation (e.g. speed, acceleration (incl. gravity)), collision detection, and illumination. The procedures authored are also aimed to be used in Augmented Reality scenarios.

As the space community looks forward to sending humans to Mars, it is clear that tools such as Cortona3D’s 3D interactive documentation tools will be critical in ensuring the success of dangerous missions. In theory, all future critical space operations and procedures could someday be learned, drilled, and rehearsed in the safety of highly interactive animated simulation.

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