Purdue University Graduate School
Pritchard MS Thesis.pdf (4.59 MB)

A Simulation-Based Study of Operational Vulnerabilities and Contingency Planning for Smart Extraterrestrial Habitats

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posted on 2023-06-14, 20:34 authored by Kenneth A PritchardKenneth A Pritchard

Although decades of experience in human spaceflight have produced and refined a wealth of operational knowledge, the unique challenges posed to long-term extraterrestrial surface habitats will require new approaches to mission design. The key objectives of this thesis are to develop an understanding of 1) how to use simulation to study these habitats and 2) how to make contingency plans for these habitats under complex, changing conditions. In order to accurately represent the challenges posed, we identify the common qualities of mission architectures that are likely to be present in near-future habitats. These qualities are used to formulate sample crew schedules that contribute to developing realistic models for meaningful research. We discuss the development of such models and demonstrate the suitability of simulation to enable the design and study of resilient space habitats. Simulation can be used as a tool to understand the challenges and consequences associated with decision making, as well as the importance of resilient design choices in a hazard-prone environment. We then identify aspects of vulnerability in space habitat mission operations, the subfactors that influence changes in habitat vulnerability, and the effects of each identified category of vulnerability. These ‘vulnerability factors’ are subsystem availability, environmental conditions, safety control options, and recent events. Each vulnerability factor has several subfactors that influence its change during a mission.

The set of vulnerability factors is significant because each captures some category of behavior in surface habitats that changes over time and impacts the likelihood or consequences of risks to the habitat. We use these vulnerability factors to formulate six research questions which can be addressed via simulation-based research. A simulation set plan is developed to highlight the significant concepts at play in each research question. Finally, we conduct trials and analyses of these questions via simulation by injecting faults into a modular coupled virtual testbed for space habitats. The results of the simulations are used to develop lists of key implications for each vulnerability factor in practice. In addition, the lessons learned over the course of simulation set design and the usage of the simulation tool are discussed to support future simulation-based research efforts. We conclude by summarizing the major findings and potential for future work in the area.



National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Karen Marais

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Shirley Dyke

Additional Committee Member 2

Dengfeng Sun

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