Flight controller

International Space Station control rooms in Russia and in the United States.

Russian ISS Flight Control Room
ISS Flight Control Room 2006

Flight controllers are personnel who aid space flight by working in such Mission Control Centers as NASA's Mission Control Center or ESA's European Space Operations Centre. Flight controllers work at computer consoles and use telemetry to monitor various technical aspects of a space mission in real time. Each controller is an expert in a specific area and constantly communicates with additional experts in the "back room". The flight director, who leads the flight controllers, monitors the activities of a team of flight controllers, and has overall responsibility for success and safety.

This article primarily discusses NASA's flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. The various national and commercial flight control facilities have their own teams, which may be described on their own pages.

NASA's flight controllers

The room where the flight controllers work was called the mission operations control room (MOCR, pronounced "moh-ker"), and now is called the flight control room (FCR, pronounced "ficker"). The controllers are experts in individual systems, and make recommendations to the flight director involving their areas of responsibility. Any controller may call for an abort if the circumstances require it. Before significant events, the flight director will "go around the room," polling each controller for a go/no go decision, a procedure also known as a launch status check. If all factors are good, each controller calls for a go, but if there is a problem requiring a hold or an abort, the call is no go. Another form of this is stay/no stay, when the spacecraft has completed a maneuver and has now "parked" in relation to another body, including spacecraft, orbiting the Earth or the Moon, or the lunar landings.

Controllers in MOCR/FCR are supported by the "backrooms," teams of flight controllers located in other parts of the building or even at remote facilities. The backroom was formally called the staff support room (SSR), and is now called the multi-purpose support room (MPSR, pronounced "mipser"). Backroom flight controllers are responsible for the details of their assigned system and for making recommendations for actions needed for that system. "Frontroom" flight controllers are responsible for integrating the needs of their system into the larger needs of the vehicle and working with the rest of the flight control team to develop a cohesive plan of action, even if that plan is not necessarily in the best interests of the system they are responsible for. Within the chain of command of the MCC, information and recommendations flow from the backroom to the frontroom to Flight, and then, potentially, to the onboard crew. Generally, a MOCR/FCR flight control team is made up of the more seasoned flight controllers than the SSR/MPSR, though senior flight controllers cycle back to support in the backroom periodically. One example of the usefulness of this system occurred during the descent of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle, when "1202" and "1201" program alarms came from the LM. GUIDO Steve Bales, not sure whether to call for an abort, trusted the experts in the guidance backroom, especially Jack Garman, who told him that the problem was a computer overload, but could be ignored if it was intermittent. Bales called "Go!," Flight Director Gene Kranz accepted the call and the mission continued to success. Without the support of the backroom, a controller might make a bad call based on faulty memory or information not readily available to the person on the console. The nature of quiescent operations aboard the International Space Station (ISS) today is such that the full team is not required for 24/7/365 support. FCR flight controllers accept responsibility for operations without MPSR support most of the time, and the MPSR is only staffed for high-intensity periods of activity, such as joint Shuttle/ISS missions.

The flight controllers in the FCR and MPSR are further supported by hardware and software designers, analysts and engineering specialists in other parts of the building or remote facilities. These extended support teams have more detailed analysis tools and access to development and test data that is not readily accessible to the flight control team. These support teams were referred to by the name of their room in Mission Control, the mission operations integration room (MOIR), and are now collectively referred to by the name of their current location, the mission evaluation room (MER). While the flight controllers and their backrooms are responsible for real-time decision making, the MOIR/MER provides the detailed data and history needed to solve longer-term issues.

Unmanned U.S. space missions also have flight controllers but are managed from separate organizations, either the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for deep-space missions or Goddard Space Flight Center for near-Earth missions.

Each flight controller has a unique call sign, which describes the position's responsibilities. The call sign and responsibility refer to the particular console, not just the person, since missions are managed around the clock and with each shift change a different person takes over the console.

Flight controller responsibilities have changed over time, and continue to evolve. New controllers are added, and tasks are reassigned to other controllers to keep up with changing technical systems. For example, the EECOM handled command and service module communication systems through Apollo 10, which was afterward assigned to a new position called INCO.


Flight controllers are responsible for the success of the mission and for the lives of the astronauts under their watch. The Flight Controllers' Creed states that they must "always be aware that suddenly and unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences". Well-known actions taken by flight controllers include:

  • The Apollo 11 Lunar Module computer was overloaded because the astronauts forgot to switch off their upper-stage radar before switching on the downward-pointing radar. Guidance officer Steve Bales had only a few seconds to determine whether it was safe to land anyway or to abort the mission mere feet above the Moon. Bales was later honored for his role in the mission, when he was selected to accept the NASA Group Achievement Award from President Richard Nixon on behalf of the Apollo 11 mission operations team.
  • During the launch of Apollo 12, the Saturn V was struck by lightning which knocked out all telemetry and multiple command module systems. Seconds before mission abort, EECOM controller John Aaron determined that switching to the backup electrical power distribution telemetry conditioning would reveal the true nature of the issue.
  • During Space Shuttle mission STS-51-F, a main engine failed during ascent to orbit. Subsequently, indications were received of a second engine beginning to fail, which would have caused a mission abort, possibly including loss of the shuttle. Booster officer Jenny Howard Stein determined that the anomalous readings on the second engine were a sensor error and not an engine problem. At her direction the crew inhibited the sensor, which saved the mission and possibly the crew.

Common flight control positions

Flight Director insignia
Flight Director's insignia at JSC

There are some positions that have and will serve the same function in every vehicle's flight control team. The group of individuals serving in those positions may be different, but they will be called the same thing and serve the same function.[1]

Flight director

Leads the flight control team. Flight has overall operational responsibility for missions and payload operations and for all decisions regarding safe, expedient flight. This person monitors the other flight controllers, remaining in constant verbal communication with them via intercom channels called "loops".

Flight operations directorate (FOD)

Is a representative of the senior management chain at JSC, and is there to help the flight director make those decisions that have no safety-of-flight consequences, but may have cost or public perception consequences. The FOD cannot overrule the flight director during a mission. The former mission operations directorate (MOD) position was renamed FOD when the flight crew operations directorate (FCOD) was merged back with MOD beginning in August 2014.

Spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM)

Generally, only the spacecraft communicator communicates directly with the crew of a crewed space flight. The acronym dates back to Project Mercury when the spacecraft was originally termed a "capsule". NASA felt it important for all communication with the astronauts in space to pass through a single individual in the Mission Control Center. That role was first designated the capsule communicator or CAPCOM and was filled by another astronaut, often one of the backup- or support-crew members. NASA believes that an astronaut is most able to understand the situation in the spacecraft and pass information in the clearest way.

For long-duration missions there is more than one CAPCOM, each assigned to a different shift team. After control of U.S. spaceflights moved to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in the early 1960s, each CAPCOM used the radio call-sign Houston. When non-astronauts are communicating directly with the spacecraft, CAPCOM acts as the communications controller.

As of 2011, due to the shrinking size of the astronaut corps at the end of the Shuttle program, fewer astronauts are available to perform CAPCOM duties, so non-astronauts from the space flight training and flight controller branches also function as CAPCOM during ISS missions, while the role was filled solely by astronauts for the Apollo and Shuttle missions. Astronauts still take the CAPCOM position during critical events such as docking and EVA.

In the context of potential manned missions to Mars, NASA Ames Research Center has conducted field trials of advanced computer-support for astronaut and remote science teams, to test the possibilities for automating CAPCOM.[2]

Flight surgeon

The flight surgeon directs all medical activities during the mission – monitors crew health via telemetry, provides crew consultation, and advises the flight director. A private communication channel can be established between astronauts and the flight surgeon, to provide doctor–patient confidentiality.

Public affairs officer (PAO)

Provides mission commentary to supplement and explain air-to-ground transmissions and flight control operations to the news media and the public. The individual filling this role is often referred to colloquially as The Voice of Mission Control.

Apollo flight control positions

The flight control positions used during the Apollo era were predominantly identical to the positions used for the Mercury and Gemini vehicles. This was because of the similarity of the vehicle design of the capsules used for the three programs.

Booster systems engineer

The booster systems engineer monitored and evaluated performance of propulsion-related aspects of the launch vehicle during prelaunch and ascent. During the Apollo program there were three booster positions, who worked only until trans-lunar injection (TLI); after that, their consoles were vacated. Booster had the power to send an abort command to the spacecraft. All booster technicians were employed at the Marshall Space Flight Center and reported to JSC for the launches.

Control officer

The control officer was responsible for the lunar module guidance, navigation, and control systems – essentially the equivalent of the GNC for the lunar module.

Electrical, environmental, and consumables manager (EECOM)

The EECOM monitored cryogenic levels for fuel cells, and cabin cooling systems; electrical distribution systems; cabin pressure control systems; and vehicle lighting systems. EECOM originally stood for electrical, environmental and communication systems. The Apollo EECOM was responsible for CSM communications through Apollo 10. Afterward the communication task was moved to a new console named INCO.

Perhaps the most famous NASA EECOMs are Seymour "Sy" Liebergot, the EECOM on duty at the time of the oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13, and John Aaron, who designed the drastically-reduced power budget for its return.[3] Aaron also saved the Apollo 12 mission by realizing that using the backup power supply for telemetry of analog capsule sensors would allow diagnosis of all the seemingly-unrelated problems caused by a lightning strike.

Flight activities officer (FAO)

The FAO planned and supported crew activities, checklists, procedures and schedules.

Flight director

The flight directors held overall control of all of the individual positions in the MOCR. Some Apollo era directors were:

  • Gene Kranz, White Flight. Apollo missions 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16 and 17.
  • Glynn Lunney, Black Flight. Apollo missions 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 15.
  • Gerry Griffin, Gold Flight. Apollo missions 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
  • Milt Windler, Maroon Flight. Apollo missions 8, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
  • Cliff Charlesworth, Green Flight. Apollo missions 8, 11 and 12.
  • M. P. (Pete) Frank, Orange Flight. Apollo missions 12, 16 and 17.

Flight dynamics officer (FDO or FIDO)

Responsible for the flight path of the space vehicle, both atmospheric and orbital. During lunar missions the FDO was also responsible for the lunar trajectory. The FDO monitored vehicle performance during the powered flight phase and assessed abort modes, calculated orbital maneuvers and resulting trajectories, and monitored vehicle flight profile and energy levels during reentry.

Guidance officer (GUIDANCE or GUIDO)

The guidance officer monitored onboard navigational systems and onboard guidance computer software. Responsible for determining the position of the spacecraft in space. One well-known guidance officer was Steve Bales, who gave the go call when the Apollo 11 guidance computer came close to overloading during the first lunar descent.

Guidance, navigation, and controls systems engineer (GNC)

The GNC monitored all vehicle guidance, navigation, and control systems. Also responsible for propulsion systems such as the service propulsion system and reaction control system (RCS).

Integrated communications officer (INCO)

The INCO was responsible for all data, voice and video communications systems, including monitoring the configuration of in-flight communications and instrumentation systems. Duties also included monitoring the telemetry link between the vehicle and the ground, and overseeing the uplink command and control processes. The position was formed from the combination of LEM and CSM communicator positions.


Supervised the network of ground stations that relayed telemetry and communications from the spacecraft.

Organization and procedures officer (O&P)

Supervised the application of mission rules and established techniques to the conduct of the flight.

Retrofire officer (RETRO)

Drew up abort plans and was responsible for determination of retrofire times. During lunar missions the RETRO planned and monitored Trans Earth Injection (TEI) maneuvers, where the Apollo Service Module fired its engine to return to earth from the moon.

Telemetry, electrical, EVA mobility unit officer (TELMU)

Monitored the lunar module electrical and environmental systems, plus lunar astronaut spacesuits. Essentially the equivalent of the EECOM for the lunar module.

Shuttle and Space Station flight controllers

NASA currently has a group of flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for the International Space Station (ISS). The Space Shuttle flight control team (as well as those for the earlier Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs) were also based there. Console manning for short-duration and extended operations differed in operational philosophy.

The Space Shuttle (and prior program) flight controllers worked relatively brief periods: The several minutes of ascent, the few days the vehicle was in orbit, and reentry. The duration of operations for Space Shuttle flight controllers was short and time-critical. A failure on the Shuttle could leave flight controllers little time for talking, putting pressure on them to respond quickly to potential failures. The Space Shuttle flight controllers generally had limited capability to send commands to the shuttle for system reconfigurations.

In contrast, the ISS flight controllers work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This allows the ISS flight controllers time to discuss off-nominal telemetry. The ISS flight controllers have the opportunity to interface with many groups and engineering experts. The mentality of an ISS flight controller is to preempt a failure. Telemetry is closely monitored for any signatures that may begin to indicate future catastrophic failures. Generally, ISS flight controllers take a prophylactic approach to space vehicle operations. There are command capabilities that ISS flight controllers use to preclude a potential failure.

Shuttle flight control positions

Many Apollo program mission control positions were carried forward to the Space Shuttle program. However, other positions were eliminated or redefined, and new positions were added.

Positions remaining generally the same:

  • Booster
  • FAO
  • FDO
  • Guidance (became guidance and procedures officer, or GPO)
  • GNC
  • INCO (became instrumentation and communications officer)

Positions eliminated or modified:

  • EECOM (duties split up)

Assembly and checkout officer (ACO)/payloads

Responsible for all Space Shuttle-based activities related to construction and operation of the Space Station, including logistics and transfer items stored in a multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) or Spacehab. Also responsible for all Shuttle payloads, from Spacehab to the Hubble Space Telescope to deployable satellites. On Shuttle missions that did not dock with the ISS, this position was known as payloads.

Booster systems engineer (BOOSTER)

Monitored and evaluated performance of propulsion-related aspects of the launch vehicle during prelaunch and ascent, including the main engines and solid rocket boosters.[4]

Data processing system engineer (DPS)

Responsible for data processing systems in a space flight. This included monitoring the onboard General Purpose Computers (GPCs), flight-critical, launch and payload data buses, the multi-function electronic display system (MEDS), solid-state mass memory (SSMM) units, flight critical and payload multiplexer/de-multiplexer (MDM) units, master timing unit (MTU), backup flight control (BFC) units and system-level software.

The Space Shuttle general purpose computers were a critical subsystem, and the vehicle cannot fly without them.

Emergency, environmental, and consumables management (EECOM)

EECOM's revamped Space Shuttle responsibilities included the atmospheric pressure control and revitalization systems, the cooling systems (air, water, and freon), and the supply/waste water system.

MPSR positions

  • Life support – monitored atmospheric pressure control systems, O2/N2/CO2 maintenance and management, air cooling equipment, waste water systems,
  • Thermal – monitored water and refrigerant coolant loop systems, supply water maintenance

EECOM's critical function was to maintain the systems, such as atmosphere and thermal control, that keep the crew alive.

Electrical generation and integrated lighting systems engineer (EGIL)

Monitored cryogenic levels for the fuel cells, electrical generation and distribution systems on the spacecraft, and vehicle lighting. This was a portion of the job formerly done by EECOM.

MPSR positions

  • EPS – provided expert support monitoring of the fuel cells, cryo system, and electrical bus system

Extravehicular activity officer (EVA)

Responsible for all spacesuit and spacewalking-related tasks, equipment and plans when the EVA took place from the shuttle.

Flight activities officer (FAO)

Planned and supported crew activities, checklists, procedures, schedules, attitude maneuvers and timelines.

MPSR positions

  • Attitude and pointing officer (Pointing) – Generated and maintained the attitude timeline, monitored the executions of all attitude maneuvers, provided attitude maneuver inputs for the crew, generated star pairs and attitudes for IMU aligns.
  • Message and timeline support (MATS) – Created messages based on MCC inputs, created the execute package, monitored crew activities and assessed impacts to the timeline.
  • Orbital communications officer (OCA) – Transferred electronic messages to the crew, synced the crews e-mail, uplinked and downlinked files for the crew.
  • Timeline – Generated the pre-flight timelines for the flight plan, monitored in-flight crew activities, coordinated activities with other flight controllers.

Flight dynamics officer (FDO or FIDO)

Responsible for the flight path of the Space Shuttle, both atmospheric and orbital. FDO monitored vehicle performance during the powered flight phase and assessed abort modes, calculated orbital maneuvers and resulting trajectories, and monitored vehicle flight profile and energy levels during re-entry.

MPSR positions

  • Abort support (ascent only) – provided expert support during the powered flight portion of an RTLS or TAL
  • ARD support (ascent only) – maintained the abort region determinator processor which is used to predict trajectory capabilities during powered flight
  • Ascent support team (ascent only) – monitored the winds and weather at the launch site, help compute day-of-launch updates
  • Dynamics – maintained the inputs to the mission operation computer for all processors
  • Entry console – provided expert support for entry, approach, and landing
  • Entry support team (ascent and entry) – monitored the winds and weather at the various potential landing sites, prepare trajectory adjustments
  • Landing support officer (LSO) team – maintained the airspace at any landing site, dispatch Search and Rescue teams if needed, act as first liaison in case of a landing outside the US
  • Nav support team – responsible for maintaining the on-board navigation (telemetry) and the ground navigation (tracking)
  • Profile support (rendezvous only) – assisted the FDO with rendezvous profile evaluation and determination
  • Range safety team (ascent only) – tracked the falling external tank and solid rocket boosters
  • Targeting (ascent only) – provided expert support for abort to orbit (ATO) or abort once around (AOA) trajectories
  • Track – coordinated tracking site data flow and data requests
  • Weather – a member of the spaceflight meteorology group who provided worldwide weather data

External links

Ground controller (GC)

Directed maintenance and operation activities affecting Mission Control hardware, software and support facilities; coordinated space flight tracking and data network, and Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system with Goddard Space Flight Center.

Guidance, navigation, and controls systems engineer (GNC)

Monitored all shuttle guidance, navigation and control systems.

MPSR positions

  • GNC Support: Provided support to the orbit GNC officer during the orbit phase of flight.
  • Control: Provided support to the ascent/entry GNC officer during those phases of flight.
  • Sensors: Provided support to the ascent/entry GNC officer during those phases of flight.

Instrumentation and communications officer (INCO)

Responsible for all data, voice and video communications systems, including monitoring the configuration of in-flight communications and instrumentation systems. Duties also included monitoring the telemetry link between the vehicle and the ground, and overseeing the uplink command and control processes. The INCO was the only position that uplinked commands to the orbiter. This position was a direct evolution of the integrated communications officer from the Apollo program.

MPSR positions

  • RF COMM: MPSR lead and responsible for the Ku-band and S-band communication systems.
  • INST: Responsible for uplinking commands and telemetry flows.
  • DATA COMM: Responsible for recording and downlinking telemetry that wasn't streamed live and the FM communication system.

Mechanical, maintenance, arm, and crew systems (MMACS)

Responsible for Space Shuttle structural and mechanical systems, monitoring auxiliary power units and hydraulic systems, managing payload bay door, external tank umbilical door, vent door, radiator deploy/stow, Ku-band antenna deploy/stow, and payload retention latch operations, landing gear/deceleration systems (landing gear deploy, tires, brakes/antiskid, and drag chute deploy), and monitoring the orbiter docking system. MMACS also followed use of onboard crew hardware and in-flight equipment maintenance. This represented another portion of the job formerly done by EECOM, with additional responsibilities added by the specific requirements of Space Shuttle operations. The MMACS officer served as the point of contact for PDRS, Booster, and EVA during periods in a mission when these positions did not require constant staffing.

MPSR positions

  • MECH – provided expert support monitoring of mechanical, hydraulic, and landing gear systems
  • MECH 2 – provided extra support during the dynamic ascent and entry phases of flight
  • IFM – In-flight maintenance support
  • Crew systems/escape – responsible for operations of onboard crew hardware and the crew's launch and entry suits
  • Photo/TV – responsible for the "loose" camera operation and maintenance, such as still cameras and camcorders, and the integration of video into and out of the orbiter's TV monitors

Payload deployment and retrieval system (PDRS)

Responsible for Space Shuttle remote manipulator system (RMS) or "robot arm".

Propulsion engineer (PROP)

Managed the reaction control thrusters and orbital maneuvering engines during all phases of flight, monitored fuel usage and propellant tank status, and calculated optimal sequences for thruster firings.

Rendezvous (RNDZ)

Responsible for activities such as trajectory operations related to the rendezvous and docking/capture with another spacecraft, including Mir, the ISS, and satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

Trajectory officer (TRAJ)

Assisted the FDO during time-critical operations, responsible for maintaining the various processors that helped determine the shuttle's current and potential trajectories. A FDO was certified as a TRAJ first. Shares the FCR with FDO.

Transoceanic abort landing communicator (TALCOM)

One of the few members of Shuttle Mission Control not physically present in Houston. If an emergency had occurred, such as loss of one or more main engine during a Space Shuttle launch, requiring the shuttle to land at one of the contingency landing sites in Africa, Europe or the Middle East, TALCOM would have assumed the role of CAPCOM providing communications with astronauts aboard the crippled orbiter. Like CAPCOM, the TALCOM role was filled by an astronaut. Three astronauts were deployed to the alternate landing sites in Zaragoza Air Base and Moron Air Base in Spain, and Istres Air Base in France. These astronauts flew aboard weather reconnaissance aircraft to provide support at the selected landing site.[5]

ISS flight control positions to 2010

The International Space Station flight control positions used by NASA in Houston are different from those used by previous NASA programs. These differences exist primarily to stem the potential confusion that might otherwise follow from conflicting use of the same name in two different rooms during the same operations, such as when the space shuttle was conducting mated operations with the space station. There are also differences in the control positions because of differences in the operation of the two. The following is a list of those flight controllers located in Mission Control Center – Houston. There are several other control centers which house dozens of other flight controllers that support the vastly complex vehicle.

Positions formerly used but eliminated or modified:

  • Assembly and checkout officer (ACO) – Retired position at end of shuttle. Was responsible for the integration of assembly and activation tasks for all ISS systems and elements. Coordinated with station and shuttle flight controllers on the execution of these operations. Was also the front room position to ACO Transfer who was responsible for the exchange of cargo between the shuttle and the ISS.
  • Cargo integration officer (CIO) – Former front room position that answered for ISO and PLUTO
  • Station duty officer (SDO) – During early phases of ISS, when the vehicle was free-flying (no shuttle present) and uncrewed, the SDO and GC were the only positions on duty, and would call in the appropriate personnel if any problems arose.

Starting in 2001, the ISS flight control room has consolidated six of the below positions into just two, to reduce staffing during low-activity periods. This concept is known as Gemini. After Assembly complete, the Gemini concept was eliminated in the realignment of the core ISS flight control positions.

  • TITAN (Telemetry, Information Transfer, and Attitude Navigation) is responsible for Communication & Tracking (CATO), Command & Data Handling (ODIN), and Motion Control Systems (ADCO).
  • ATLAS (Atmosphere, Thermal, Lighting and Articulation Specialist) is responsible for Thermal Control (THOR), Environmental Control & Life Support (ECLSS), and Electrical Power Systems (PHALCON). ATLAS is also responsible for monitoring Robotics (ROBO) and Mechanical Systems (OSO) heaters, as those consoles are not supported during the majority of Gemini shifts.

Attitude determination and control officer (ADCO)

Works in partnership with Russian controllers to determine and manage the station’s orientation, controlled by the onboard motion control systems. This position also plans and calculates future orientations and maneuvers for the station and is responsible for docking the ISS with other vehicles.

MPSR positions

  • HawkI – Pronounced (Hawk-eye) – provides expert support monitoring of all US GNC systems, leaving the ADCO to coordinate with other flight controllers and MCC-M. Hawki is actually a strung-together set of common engineering abbreviations for quantities that affect or reflect ISS attitude, primarily chosen because they fit well enough to make a name:
    • H – Momentum.
    • α – angular rate.
    • ω – angular velocity.
    • k – kinetic energy.
    • I – moment of inertia.

Biomedical engineer (BME)

The BME monitors health-related station systems and Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) equipment. The BME provides technical and operational support for CHeCS and all other medical operations activities. Along with the SURGEON, the BME serves as a Medical Operations Branch representative to the USOS Flight Control Team.

Communication and tracking officer (CATO)

Responsible for management and operations of the U.S. communication systems, including audio, video, telemetry and commanding systems.

Environmental control and life support system (ECLSS)

Responsible for the assembly and operation of systems related to atmosphere control and supply, atmosphere revitalization, cabin air temperature and humidity control, circulation, fire detection and suppression, water collection and processing and crew hygiene equipment, among other areas.

Extravehicular activity officer (EVA)

Responsible for all spacesuit and spacewalking-related tasks, equipment and plans when the EVA takes place from the ISS.

Inventory and stowage officer (ISO)

Responsible for the daily tracking and inventory of all US cargo on the ISS. ISO is the integrator for all cargo that is delivered to and from the ISS for ATV, HTV, Dragon, and Cygnus vehicles.

Integration systems engineer (ISE)

A specialist position, the ISE is the systems liaison between ISS and visiting vehicles that are berthed to the US side of ISS. The ISE flight control is responsible for the safety of the ISS such that the visiting vehicle can safely approach, berth, and integrate with the ISS. This includes HTV, Dragon, Cygnus, and even special missions like the deployment of Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). ISE works closely with VVO.

Onboard data interfaces and networks (ODIN)

The ODIN is responsible for the Command and Data Handling (C&DH) system, the Portable Computer System (PCS) computers, the Caution & Warning (C&W) system, overall responsibility for commanding, and interfaces with International Partner avionics systems. The C&DH system consists of the Multiplexer/DeMultiplexers (MDMs) which are the ISS computers. Core software in each MDM (not User Application Software), the MIL-STD-1553 data busses, Automated Payload Switches (APSs), fiber optic network, Payload Ethernet Hub Gateway (PEHG), and the Ethernet network. This does not include the Ops LAN, Station Support Computers (SSC), or file server.

MPSR positions

  • Resource avionics engineer (RAVEN)

Operations planner (OPSPLAN)

Leads the coordination, development and maintenance of the station's short-term plan, including crew and ground activities. The plan includes the production and uplink of the onboard station plan and the coordination and maintenance of the onboard inventory and stowage listings.

MPSR positions

  • Real time planning engineer (RPE)
  • Real time planning engineer support (RPE-Support)
  • Orbital communications adapter officer (OCA)
  • Onboard data file and procedures officer (ODF)

Operations support officer (OSO)

Charged with those logistics support functions that address on-orbit maintenance, support data and documentation, logistics information systems, maintenance data collection and maintenance analysis. The OSO is also responsible for mechanical systems—such as those used to attach new modules or truss sections to the vehicle during assembly.

Plug-in port utilization officer (PLUTO)

The name PLUTO is inherited from the flight controller's original role, which was to maintain and coordinate changes to the U.S. segment of the electrical plug-in plan (PiP). The PiP is the tracking of portable electronic equipment, making sure equipment connected is compatible and does not violate constraints, and will not overdraw the power source. Along with this, PLUTO is responsible for maintaining the OPSLAN (Operations Local Area Network) and the JSL (Joint Station LAN). PLUTO has remote desktop administration and monitoring capability to the network from the ground. The PLUTO is also responsible for certain Station Developmental Test Objectives, or SDTOs during the mission. This includes programming the Wireless Instrumentation System (WIS) and also remote desktop commanding for ROBONAUT activities.

MPSR position

  • Hydra

Power, heating, articulation, lighting control officer (PHALCON)

Manages the power generation, storage, and power distribution capabilities.

Remote interface officer (RIO)

Formerly known as the Russian interface officer. Responsible for integrating operations between MCC-Houston (MCC-H) and the other International Partner (IP) Control Centers. RIO is a FCR-1 position in MCC-Houston and works closely in conjunction with the Houston Support Group (HSG) teams located at the IP Control Centers:

  • HSG-Moscow (HSG-M): Team of NASA Flight Controllers working with Russian Flight Controllers at MCC-Moscow (MCC-M). Responsible for integrating operations between MCC-H and MCC-M. HSG-M also has taken over operations of the US segment of ISS during Hurricanes Lili and Rita (2002 and 2005, respectively). MSFC in Huntsville took over ISS Backup Control Center operations from HSG-M in 2008.
  • HSG-Columbus (HSG-C): Small team of NASA Flight Controllers that were responsible for integrating MCC-H and Columbus Control Center (COL-CC) operations at Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, Germany. Following completion of Columbus commissioning in August 2008, this team discontinued operations.
  • HSG-ATV (HSG-A): Small team of NASA Flight Controllers responsible for integrating MCC-H and Autonomous Transfer Vehicle (ATV) operations at ATV-CC near Toulouse, France. Following completion of the ATV5 mission in February 2015, this team discontinued operations.
  • HSG-Japan (HSG-J): Small team of NASA Flight Controllers responsible for integrating MCC-H and Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) and H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) operations at the Space Station Integration and Promotions Center (SSIPC) at Tsukuba, Japan near Tokyo. This team discontinued permanent operations in October 2008, but afterwards did temporarily support the STS-127 and HTV-1 missions.

Robotics operations systems officer (ROBO)

Responsible for the operations of the Canadian Mobile Servicing System, which includes a mobile base system, station robotic arm, station robotic hand or special purpose dexterous manipulator. (Call sign: ROBO) represents a joint Canadian Space Agency-NASA team of specialists to plan and execute robotic operations.

Thermal operations and resources (THOR)

Responsible for the assembly and operation of multiple station subsystems which collect, distribute, and reject waste heat from critical equipment and payloads.

Trajectory operations officer (TOPO)

Responsible for the station trajectory. The TOPO works in partnership with Russian controllers, ADCO, and the U.S. Space Command to maintain data regarding the station's orbital position. TOPO plans all station orbital maneuvers.

Visiting vehicle officer (VVO)

A specialist position, the VVO is the guidance and navigation liaison between the ISS and "visiting vehicles" such as Progress, Soyuz or Dragon.

ISS flight control positions 2010–present

After Assembly complete in 2010, the core ISS flight control positions were realigned and the Gemini manning concept eliminated. While the other specialty positions – ADCO, BME, EVA, ISO, ISE, OPSPLAN, OSO, PLUTO, RIO, ROBO, TOPO, and VVO – remain the same, the new core positions are:

Communications RF onboard networks utilization specialist (CRONUS)

This is a combination of the previous ODIN and CATO positions. Responsibilities for this group include the control and monitoring of on-board command and data systems (i.e. computers). Video cameras, both onboard and external, are managed by CRONUS. The Caution And Warning System is also used to alert the crew and flight controllers to serious and dangerous safety situations. Communication radios, both for space-to-ground communication (S-Band and Ku-Band) and space-to-space communication (C2V2) are operated by CRONUS.

  • MPSR Position: RAPTOR

Environmental and Tthermal operating systems (ETHOS)

This consists of the ECLSS system responsibilities as well as the internal thermal control systems from THOR.

MPSR position – TREC

Station power, articulation, thermal, and analysis (SPARTAN)

This consists of the electrical power (old PHALCON) and external thermal control systems from THOR.

MPSR position – SPOC

See also

Space centers and mission control centers

Current and former NASA human space flight programs

Former NASA flight controllers


  1. ^ "HSF". spaceflight.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  2. ^ William Clancey, Maarten Sierhuis, Richard Alena, John Dowding, Jeffrey Graham, Shannon Rupert, Daniel Berrios, Kim Tyree, Robert Hirsh, W. Brent Garry, Abigail Semple, Simon Buckingham Shum, and Nigel Shadbolt (2005). "Automating CapCom Using Mobile Agents and Robotic Assistants", 1st Space Exploration Conference: Continuing the Voyage of Discovery. Space Exploration Conferences. Accessed online Nov 26, 2018: https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/6.2005-2659
  3. ^ "Apollo 13 essay – Hamish Lindsay". www.honeysucklecreek.net. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  4. ^ Navias, Rob. "Flight Control of STS-69". Johnson Space Center. Archived from the original on 18 March 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2013. Booster Systems Engineer (BOOSTER) Monitors main engine and solid rocket booster performance during ascent phase
  5. ^ "Space Shuttle Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) Sites" (PDF). National Aeronautics and Space Administration. December 2006. Retrieved 2009-07-01.


  • Liebergot, Sy (2003). Apollo EECOM : Journey of a Lifetime: Apogee Books Space Series 31. ISBN 1-896522-96-3.
  • Murray, Charles; Cox, Catherine Bly (1989). Apollo: The Race to the Moon. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-61101-1.

External links

Apollo 13 (film)

Apollo 13 is a 1995 American space docudrama film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris. The screenplay by William Broyles Jr., and Al Reinert dramatizes the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission and is an adaptation of the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. The film depicts astronauts Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise aboard Apollo 13 for America's third Moon landing mission. En route, an on-board explosion deprives their spacecraft of most of its oxygen supply and electric power, forcing NASA's flight controllers to abort the Moon landing, and turning the mission into a struggle to get the three men home safely.

Howard went to great lengths to create a technically accurate movie, employing NASA's technical assistance in astronaut and flight controller training for his cast, and obtaining permission to film scenes aboard a reduced gravity aircraft for realistic depiction of the "weightlessness" experienced by the astronauts in space.

Released to cinemas in the United States on June 30, 1995, Apollo 13 was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture (winning for Best Film Editing and Best Sound). In total, the film grossed over $355 million worldwide during its theatrical releases. The film was very positively received by critics.


Bales may refer to a person:

Alison Bales (b. 1985), American basketball player

Barry Bales (b. 1969), American musician

Billy Bales (b. 1929), former British motorcycle speedway racer

Burt Bales (1917–1989), American jazz pianist

Christopher Bales (c. 1564–1590), English Catholic priest and martyr

Dalton Bales (1920–1979), Canadian politician and lawyer

Gerald Bales (1919–2002), Canadian organist and composer

James D. Bales (1915–1995), American bible professor

Kevin Bales, American author and slavery expert

Lee Bales (b. 1944), former American basketball player

Mike Bales (b. 1971), former Canadian ice hockey player

Peter Bales (1547-c. 1610), English calligraphist

Robert Bales (b. 1973), American soldier who murdered 16 Afghan civilians

Robert F. Bales (1916-2004), American social psychologist

Steve Bales, NASA engineer and flight controller

Thomas Bales, drummer for country rock band Flynnville Train

Colin Tapley

Colin Tapley (7 May 1907 – 1 December 1995) was a New Zealand actor in both American and British films. Born in New Zealand, he served in the Royal Air Force and an expedition to Antarctica before winning a Paramount Pictures talent contest and moving to Hollywood. He acted in a number of films before moving to Britain during the Second World War as a flight controller with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

He returned briefly to New Zealand before returning once again to Britain to renew his acting career. His most famous role is as William Glanville in The Dam Busters (1955), but he spent much of his later career typecast as a police inspector, a role he played in several films and TV series before retiring to Gloucestershire.

DJI (company)

SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. (doing business as DJI) is a Chinese technology company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong with manufacturing facilities throughout the world. It is known as a manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, for aerial photography and videography. DJI also design and manufacture camera gimbals, flight platforms, cameras, propulsion systems, camera stabilizers, and flight control systems.

DJI is the world's leader in commercial and civilian drone industry, accounting for over 70% of the drone market. Its drone technology has been used globally for the music, television and film industries, including K-pop music videos and the sets of Emmy Award-nominated television productions such as The Amazing Race, American Ninja Warrior, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, and many more.In 2017, DJI won a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for its camera drone technology, which was recognized for excellence in engineering creativity, providing directors and cinematographers an affordable and accessible platform to create low-altitude aerial images, opening up creative possibilities and facilitating the distinct looks of some TV shows.

David Lloyd (riflemaker and sportsman)

David Llewellyn Lloyd (1910-1996) was an English pilot, deer-stalker, ballistician and sporting rifle maker, of Northamptonshire, England and Glencassley Estate in Sutherland, Scotland.

Although already an experienced pilot he was considered too old at 29, to be called up for service during the Battle of Britain in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War, instead he became the senior flight controller based at Tangmere, Sussex during the Battle of Britain.

Extensive deer stalking, and frequent rifle shooting visits to Bisley ranges, Lloyd established the David Lloyd & Co. riflemakers company (registered company 05202134) at Pipewell Hall in 1936, and in the early 1950s developed the .244 H&H Magnum rifle cartridge, later adopted by Holland & Holland of London.

Although David had no formal training as a Riflemaker, he employed a team of top quality craftsmen from the London & provincial trade to build the rifles in the workshops at Pipewell Hall.

Lloyd developed the distinctive Lloyd rifle concept, and from the 1960s to the mid-1990s he built high-quality, magazine-fed sporting rifles based on commercial Mauser 98 & Sako actions with distinctively integral scope sights, capable of dependably high accuracy at long ranges, and of handling modern high-intensity, flat shooting cartridges such as the .244 H&H, the .264 Winchester Magnum and the .25-06 Remington.David would often say that he attached a rifle to a scope, rather than the more normal saying of attaching a scope to a rifle.

The UK shooting sports weekly Shooting Times voted the Lloyd rifle number 8 in its list of the top 12 Rifles of All Time (the Kalashnikov AK-47 was number 7), and Country Life magazine described Lloyd himself as “a National Living Treasure”. Lloyd rifles are admired, owned and used by eminent international small-arms experts, including riflemakers Bill Ruger and Roy Weatherby, and by several owners of Scottish deer forests.

In an active deer-stalking career extending to well over 60 years, David Lloyd accounted for more than 5,000 Scottish highland red deer stags, the vast majority of them with rifles built by his company.

Lloyd's wife Evadne (“Bobby” - the longest-serving governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company in its history) keenly supported him in his business, and helped him to source fine walnut blanks for his rifle stocks from various European sources. On Lloyd's death in 1996 she took on the business, which by then was doing little trade, and ran it until her own death in 2003, when the company was sold to John Shirley, formerly Technical Manager with James Purdey and Sons of London. He subsequently offered the business name, goodwill and records of the David Lloyd company for sale at auction in London in December 2006.

Failure Is Not an Option

Failure is Not an Option is a phrase associated with Gene Kranz and the Apollo 13 Moon landing mission. Although Kranz is often attributed with having spoken those words during the mission, he did not. The origin of the phrase is from the preparation for the 1995 film Apollo 13 according to FDO Flight Controller Jerry Bostick:

"In preparation for the movie, the script writers, Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, came down to Clear Lake to interview me on "What are the people in Mission Control really like?" One of their questions was "Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?" My answer was "No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them." ... I immediately sensed that Bill Broyles wanted to leave and assumed that he was bored with the interview. Only months later did I learn that when they got in their car to leave, he started screaming, "That's it! That's the tag line for the whole movie, Failure is not an option."

Flight director

Flight director may refer to:

Flight controller, a person who aids in the operations of a space flight

Flight director (aviation), a navigational aid that is overlaid on the attitude indicator that shows the pilot of an aircraft the attitude required to follow a certain trajectory

Gerald D. Griffin

Gerald D. "Gerry" Griffin (born December 25, 1934 in Athens, Texas) is an American aeronautical engineer and former NASA official, who served as flight director during Apollo program and director of Johnson Space Center, succeeding Chris Kraft in 1982. When Gerry was nine years old his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Upon graduation from Texas A&M he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force. He served four years on active duty, first in flight training, then flying as a weapon systems officer in jet fighter-interceptors. In 1960 Gerry left active duty and began his space career as a systems engineer/flight controller at the USAF Satellite Test Center in Sunnyvale, California.

In 1964 Gerry joined NASA in Houston as a flight controller in Mission Control, specializing in guidance, navigation and control systems during Project Gemini. In 1968 he was named a Mission Control flight director and served in that role for all of the Apollo Program manned missions, including all nine manned missions out to the Moon, six of which included lunar landings. Gerry's "Gold" team conducted half of the lunar landings made during Apollo: Apollo's 14, 16, and 17. His team was scheduled to conduct the landing of Apollo 13, but when the landing was canceled as a result of the oxygen tank explosion, his team played a key role in the safe return of the astronauts. After the Apollo Program was completed Gerry served in other roles at NASA, first in multiple positions at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., then as the deputy director of the Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center in California, then as deputy director of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In 1982 he returned to Houston as director of the Johnson Space Center.

After taking early retirement from NASA in 1986 Gerry became a senior executive with several non-space, as well as space-related, companies and organizations in the private sector. Today Gerry remains active in several businesses at the senior level. He also is a technical and management consultant for a broad range of clients.

Because of his real life role as a flight director during the troubled flight of Apollo 13 Gerry was a technical advisor for the film Apollo 13. Later he was a technical advisor for and an actor in the movies Contact and Deep Impact . Most recently Gerry was the technical advisor for the movie Apollo 18. Gerry is a member of the Screen Actors Guild. In the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, he was played by actor David Clyde Carr.

Gerry is an active general aviation pilot and aircraft owner, and holds a commercial license with an instrument rating for single engine aircraft, multi-engine aircraft and helicopters.

Guido (disambiguation)

Guido is a male given name. It may also refer to:

Guido may also refer to:

Guido (slang), slang term for Italian-American

Guido (surname)

Guido (jazz band), a Japanese band

GUIDO music notation, a computer music notation format

Guido Island, Wilhelm Archipelago, Antarctica

120361 Guido, an asteroid

GUIDO, a Guidance Officer or flight controller in Apollo space missions

Jay Greene

Jay Henry Greene (May 17, 1942 – October 8, 2017) was a NASA engineer. Between 2000 and 2004, he served as Chief Engineer at Johnson Space Center, where his role consisted primarily of advising the Center Director. He worked as a FIDO flight controller during the Apollo Program and a flight director from 1982 to 1986, and as ascent flight director during the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Greene worked for four years as a manager on the International Space Station project and received several awards for his work including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. After his retirement in 2004 he served as a part-time consultant on the Exploration Systems Architecture Study. NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden described him as "a famous technical curmudgeon in the Agency."

John Aaron

John W. Aaron (born 1943) is a former NASA engineer and was a flight controller during the Apollo program. He is widely credited with saving the Apollo 12 mission when it was struck by lightning soon after launch, and also played an important role during the Apollo 13 crisis.


REFSMMAT is a term used by guidance, navigation, and control system flight controllers during the Apollo program, which carried over into the Space Shuttle program. REFSMMAT stands for "Reference to Stable Member Matrix". It is a numerical definition of a fixed orientation in space and is usually (but not always) defined with respect to the stars. It was used by the Apollo Primary Guidance, Navigation and Control System (PGNCS) as a reference to which the gimbal-mounted platform at its core should be oriented. Every operation within the spacecraft that required knowledge of direction was carried out with respect to the orientation of the guidance platform, itself aligned according to a particular REFSMMAT.

During an Apollo flight, the REFSMMAT being used, and therefore the orientation of the guidance platform, would change as operational needs required it, but never during a guidance process—that is, one REFSMMAT might be in use from launch through Trans-Lunar Injection, another from TLI to Midpoint, but would not change during the middle of a burn or set of maneuvers.For example, it was considered good practice to have the spacecraft displays show some meaningful attitude value that would be easy to monitor during an important engine burn. Flight controllers at mission control in Houston would calculate what attitude the spacecraft had to be at for that burn and would devise a REFSMMAT that matched it in some way. Then, when it came time for the burn, if the spacecraft was in its correct attitude, the crew would see their 8-ball display a simple attitude that would be easy to interpret, allowing errors to be easily tracked and corrected.In the hallowed halls of mission control, Captain Refsmmat was a Kilroy-type character, conceived as a joke spoken to a 'Flight Dynamics Branch' rookie by Flight Controller RETRO John Llewellyn, and first drawn by flight controller FIDO Ed Pavelka as the "ideal mission controller". 'Capt. Refsmmat' served during the Apollo and Skylab years as an aid to the esprit de corps within the mission control team.

Rex J. Walheim

Rex Joseph Walheim (born October 10, 1962) is a retired United States Air Force officer, engineer and NASA astronaut. He flew three space shuttle missions, STS-110, STS-122, and STS-135. Walheim logged over 566 hours in space, including 36 hours and 23 minutes of spacewalk (EVA) time. He was assigned as mission specialist and flight engineer on STS-135, the final space shuttle mission.

Satan's Hollow

Satan's Hollow is a fixed shooter released in arcades by Bally Midway in 1982 and subsequently ported to the Commodore 64. The arcade game uses the same flight-controller style joystick with built-in trigger as Midway's Tron, released the same year.

Seymour Liebergot

Seymour "Sy" Abraham Liebergot (born February 15, 1936 in Camden, New Jersey) is a retired NASA flight controller, serving during the Apollo program. Liebergot was an EECOM controller and was responsible for the electrical and environmental systems on board the Command Module. In 1970, he was part of the team that guided Apollo 13 back to Earth following the explosion which crippled the spacecraft.

He began his career in 1963 with North American Aviation after graduating from California State University, Los Angeles. In 1964, he came to NASA. Liebergot was a Deputy Flight Director on Apollo 4, then an EECOM flight controller on Apollo 8–15. On Apollo 17, he served as CSSB SPAN (SPacecraft ANalysis room) Support. He continued as a controller in the Skylab and ASTP missions.

Shannon Walker

Shannon Walker (born 4 June 1965 in Houston, Texas) is an American scientist and a NASA astronaut, whose first space mission was Expedition 24 on the International Space Station with take-off on 15 June 2010. She is married to a fellow NASA astronaut, the Australian-born Andy Thomas. She is a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots.

Steve Bales

Steve Bales (born October 7, 1942) is a former NASA engineer and flight controller. He is best known for his role during the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

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