Graduate Capstone Project Sponsored by NASA JPL 


The Europa Clipper mission, set to launch in the 2020s, will place a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter in order to determine whether or not conditions could be suitable for life on its icy moon Europa. Nine instruments have been selected to conduct science discoveries.The mission requires careful planning, modeling, and simulation years before launch and while in orbit. It has to been ensured that scientists and engineers work cohesively and collaboratively to meet the same science goals. We have been brought on by NASA-JPL to design a solution to assist instrument scientists and engineers in speeding up decision making processes in planning and scheduling.

How might we

promote cohesion across instrument teams to decrease time spent on negotiation and conflict resolution?



Will Oberleitner

Gabriel Hughes

Daphne Liang



Visual Design

Interaction Design

User Research


Primary User:  Instrument scientists

Secondary User: Science planners

Problem Space

We uncovered bottlenecks that happen when trying to change plans for the spacecraft across instrument teams that are frequently set years in advance. Time to make science decisions needs to be cut down to improve planning efficiency.

Semi-structured Interview

We had 18 remote skype interviews total across Cassini, Mars, and Europa missions, We Hear first-person perspectives about mission operations and identify pain points about operations and software.


Iterative Diagramming

We incorporate the diagram into semi-structured interviews and ask them "does this fit your mental model. The diagram is refined iteratively to help us understand the planning&scheduling process as much detail as we can.

Competitive Analysis

We analyzed 8 tools, which can be categorized as resource management, conflict merge and data visualization. 


Afinity Diagram

We categorize data from literature review and semi-structure interview. It helps us gain insights and design principles.




Fragmentation of software tools across teams makes collaboration difficult and contributes to conflict.


Science rules the mission, but ensuring the health and safety of the spacecraft is paramount.


While some automation is welcome, it is still crucial that humans remain the arbiters in all aspects of decision-making.


#1 Personnel Journey Map

Understand the general decision making process from data downlink to uplink and how negotiation and conflicts happen.

#2 Conceptual Map

highlights the recommendations and pitfalls we learned from participants, when designing an automated scheduling tool.

Design Phase


To translate our research insights into valid design solutions, we went through brainstorming that narrows down to five concepts.

We sketched 90 concepts and pined them up on the board. We categorize them and picked five most feasible concepts that are closest to our problem space.


To better understand the interaction flow and user case for the concepts we generated, we sketched five storyboards that illustrates how the targeted user solve different problems. The storyboard on the right demonstrated the scenario that scientists manipulate science activities in a 3D spatial view.

Request view to see scheduling requests from other teams.

Keep track of resource usage, safety check and real-time spacecraft related information.


Capability of changing suggested activities parameters.


Suggest science activities that meet users' requirements.



Search for science opportunities by adding their own requirement 




Timeline view to see schedule conflicts  with other teams temporally

Hi-Fidelity Prototype


Instrument scientists work with their own planning tool for scheduling the instruments that often conflicts with other instrument teams. They don't have access to the most updated spacecraft status. Working separately and blindly slows down the scheduling process and one integrated software is expected to test what-if scenarios for making science decisions.

Spatial View


A 3-D spatial view gives the latest updates and status of the spacecraft. It allows scientists across teams to test what-if scenarios by visualizing spacecraft status updates and any conflicts in 3D view when making changes to science plans.

Based on users' input requirements, the system offers a list of suggested science activities that meet their requirements. The spatial view visualizes any spacecraft condition update in 3-D spatial view when the user selects a new plan from the left panel or making changes to the plan.


The timeline view layers all activities from all instrument teams. It offers NASA scientists visiblity to all other teams' activities and highlights conflicts.


Timeline View

Not all instrument can be on at the same time. Temporal conflicts across instrument teams always happen and it always consumes much time to identify what/when conflicts are and resolve conflicts.


The system notifies conflicts and users click to go to timeline view to know more about the conflicts. Click on one of the listed conflicts to know details in a timeline view, change science activity parameter and send requests to the conflicted team for resolving conflicts.


During heated negotiation, instrument scientists always request resources such as time and power with other teams. They expect a tool for more efficient negotiation and communication.


The inbox function is built for action required, open request and history for facilitating communications across teams. Users send out requests with reasons specified to the conflicted team so that the conflicted team is prompted to to change their plan for resolving conflicts.

Request View

The inbox function that collects all science requests. Click one to check details and prompt the user to decide whether to change the current plan or have further communication for resolving the pending conflict.


Finding Two

©2018 by Victoria Song.