Published: June 18, 2018

Authors: Benjamin J. Mellinkoff, Matthew M. Spydell, Wendy Bailey, Jack O. Burns

Abstract: NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle will launch humans to cislunar space in the early 2020s to begin the new era of space exploration. NASA plans to use the Orion crew vehicle to transport humans between Earth and cislunar space where there will be a stationed habitat known as the “Deep Space Gateway” (DSG). The proximity to the lunar surface allows for direct communication between the DSG and surface assets, which enables low-latency telerobotic exploration. While this exploration method is promising, the operational constraints must be fully explored on Earth before being utilized on space exploration missions. This paper identifies two constraints on space exploration using low-latency surface telerobotics and attempts to quantify these constraints. One constraint associated with low-latency surface telerobotics is the bandwidth available between the orbiting command station and the ground assets. The bandwidth available will vary during operation. As a result, it is critical to quantify the operational video conditions required for effective exploration. We designed an experiment to quantify the threshold frame rate required for effective exploration. The experiment simulated geological exploration via low-latency surface telerobotics using a modified commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) rover in a lunar analog environment. The results from this experiment indicate that humans should operate above a threshold frame rate of 5 frames per second. In a separate, but similar experiment, we introduced a 2.6 second delay in the video system. This delay recreated the latency conditions present when operating rovers on the lunar farside from an Earth-based command station. This time delay was compared to low-latency conditions for teleoperation at the DSG (≤0.4 seconds). The results from this experiment show a 150% increase in exploration time when the latency is increased to 2.6 seconds. Read more...