Skip to main content

April's Flight Controller Quest

This afternoon/evening is my first "solo" shift as an Attitude Determination and Control Officer in Mission Control. Ohmygosh I'm so excited/nervous/anxious/NASA(!!!!!)...so excited I wrote you a poem. It's a poem by an engineer, so don't get too excited ;-) But I assure you my ISS flying skills are much better than my poem-writing skills. Also, I may be flying ISS over a city near you, check it out here
______________________________________________


I never imagined they would pick me, 
By heck and by golly I was an ADCO trainee!
Two years ago I stood out from the rest, 
But then came the learning, training and tests.

Oral exams for the four CMGs, 
Workbooks to study the two GNCs. 
Then came the part about two RGAs, 
And how we get power from the sun's rays. 

Wait, wait, wait....let's start at the beginning...here's what it means to be an ADCO - poem style:

Tom-Tom and Garmin work for cars and jets,
That's right, you guessed it...we fly with GPS.
Four antennas feed data to two boxes,
A way to navigate - even for rockets.

You won't hear Betty telling you to turn right, 
Or that you'll want to keep left at the fork - slight. 
We interpret the data here on the ground, 
To make sure the orbit is generally round. 

Two little black boxes, called the RGAs, 
Fill in the data, help us to propagate.
They may be small, and triangular in shape,
But inside they have lasers that define rate!

Together these instruments help us to fly, 
They send us data from up in the sky. 
We determine orbit parameters, 
State and attitude of astro-travelers.

To keep the correct orientation, 
We have to balance the entire space station. 
Four CMGs use properties of science, 
Stabilize ISS, decrease prop reliance. 

External torques can cause ADCO concern, 
Leaks, thrusters and arrays - it's a lot to learn. 
Simulations help us train a LoAC,
By the end you could say, "Hey, she has a knack!"

Its not over yet, we have some computers,
A hellofa lot of them, it's not a rumor!
As ADCO we focus on two GNCs, 
When they operate right, our minds are at ease. 

These compys perform tons of calculations,
Filtering, vibrations, and some summations.  
They run loops, check systems, and send commands, 
The details are difficult to understand. 

Then we gather the brain cells we can muster, 
To learn about the Russian Segment's thrusters. 
There are a bunch, and their logic is complex,
But useful to avoid space debris objects. 

Working on console is more than technical, 
It requires good comm, and being flexible. 
Discipline, teamwork, toughness, confidence,
Responsibility, vigilance, and competence. 

So that's what I do in Mission Control, 
Keep 'er straight and level (avoid barrel rolls).
It's quite the dream job - its mine anyway, 
I just want to jump up and shout, "Hurray!!"

______________________________________________

The Acronyms (in order of appearance):
- ADCO: Attitude Determination and Control Officer
- CMG: Control Moment Gyroscope
- GNC: Guidance, Navigation and Control Computer
- RGA: Rate Gyro Assembly (each made up of 3 Ring Laser Gyros)
- GPS: Global Positioning System
- Prop: Propulsion
- ISS: International Space Station
- LoAC: Loss of Attitude Control (a big failure ADCO must know how to recover from)

Comments

  1. Congrats to you, Nerdy April, for all your hard work has paid off. I did get an email that it will be flying by tonight, so don't try to land it in our backyard! ha You will do a fine job on your own, just breathe! Congrats again! Aunt Vicki

    ReplyDelete
  2. Congratulations April, You have made us so proud, knowing all the hard work and study that you've done over the last 10 years. Pinch yourself tomorrow when you drive under the NASA entry by those two T-38's. Dad & Mom

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Who has two thumbs and loves comments? Nerdy April!!! Type one out and hit publish!

Popular posts from this blog

The road to curing Type 1 Diabetes

From the moment of diagnosis, the road is rough, the learning curve is steep and the stakes are literally life or death. The map is less-than-helpful - paths originating from virtually every corner, coalescing at a center point (aka "diagnosis") and bursting back outwards - some paths cross and wrap around each other but others are isolated. And even with all of these roads, most of the territory is uncharted - how did we all get here and how will we all exit? Where are the obstacles we haven't found yet? Which passage holds the key to unlocking the solution?

On any given day I feel pretty isolated with this disease - I'm the only T1D in my group at work, the only one in mission control, the only one in my family. I go through the logistics of calling insurance companies, ordering supplies, changing sites and troubleshooting malfunctions mostly on my own. Even those pesky carbs really only get counted in my brain, no group think for a meal bolus here. But there is b…

Hot OJT

Last week I had the chance to mentor a newly certified ADCO trainee - the NASA process is called "Hot On-The-Job-Training", or Hot OJT. What makes it "hot" you ask? Well, essentially I am hands off - he is sitting at the console, working all the plan reviews and updates, making calls to other flight controllers and to the flight director, reacting to anomalies and preparing material for the shift handover. My job is to act as the fault tolerance - a backup ADCO of sorts.

Tuesday was his last official day and by Wednesday morning he was in the backroom sending commands to ISS in preparation for the docking of a three-person Soyuz.


The beauty of this system is the gradual buildup in responsibility. There is a subtle shift from student, to subject matter expert, to fresh operations trainee to advanced trainee and finally to certification and real-time operations flight controller - the process takes two years on average and is considered by many to be enough specializ…

International Travel with Type 1 Diabetes

Whew! Back from one international trip and on to another next week! I will admit my eyes roll every time I get the "we're gunna need to pat you down" talk at TSA, but international travel is a whole different animal. I thought it might be fun to see what goes through my brain and into my bags for these types of trips!


I wouldn't be a NASA Flight Controller if I wasn't good at planning, the key to international travel as a T1D is PLANNING!

3 months prior

Assess supplies. Mine come in 90-days supplies so I like to inventory at least 3 months prior and make a plan to order more early if the trip is going to coincide with the end of my 90-day stock. In my experience supply companies are usually pretty good about adjusting orders as needed if you tell them the reason for the early request - just mention you have an international trip coming up and want to make sure to have plenty of supplies (and backups!) in time. Request a loaner insulin pump. It's likely the comp…
01 09 10