Meridian: Optimizing telemetry predictions for NASA spacecraft systems engineers

challenge  |  exploratory research  |  ideation & prototyping  |  final concept


When the Mars Opportunity Rover was deployed in 2004, its mission was meant to last just 90 days. Over a decade later, it's still going strong — but its tools are showing their age.

at a glance
Since 2004, the Mars Opportunity Rover has relayed information back to Earth. Telecommunications operators at NASA make tactical decisions every day about where to drive the rover so that scientists may study the surface of Mars. However, a number of conditions must be assessed before operators can plot a route: Everything from the location of overpassing satellites to the orientation of the rover to the topography of the Martian terrain can affect the quantity of data available for transfer.

The existing tool used by operators was complex, time-consuming, and distributed across various interfaces. To improve this work process, we were asked to design a new data visualization tool.

Our final system was the subject of our paper, "Towards Design Principles for Visual Analytics in Operations Contexts", accepted to the ACM CHI '18 conference.

Note: This was one of three data visualization systems designed over a 10 week period for NASA and Caltech. Please reach out to learn more about designing for cybersecurity anomaly detection and 3D stem cell image segmentation.
NASA rover model

Our client
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally-funded R&D center managed by the neighboring California Institute of Technology. JPL is primarily responsible for building and operating robotic spacecraft, but its functions also include Earth-orbit operations, astronomy missions, and management of the Deep Space Network.

This project was sponsored by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and ArtCenter College of Design. For more information, please visit the program site.

NASA lab
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