The Mission Planning Office at NASA plans space missions
by allocating resources, assigning facility usage, and calculating
launch dates five to ten years into the future.
Because the shuttle spacecraft and
ground-based facilities are so expensive, increasing the number of shuttle launches
by just one is worth hundreds of millions of dollars,
so finding near-optimal schedules is critical.
NASA carries out “what-if” studies to determine how flight
plans must change when ground rules are changed, new facilities
are constructed, new vehicles are introduced, or when launches
must be delayed. Rapid generation of near-optimal schedules enables
NASA to perform what-if studies efficiently that analyze numerous alternate scenarios.
These complex planning tasks require significant manual effort
from experts with many years of mission planning experience.
Because of the importance, diversity, and complexity of these
scheduling studies, NASA needed a comprehensive and flexible
tool to help plan space missions significantly more quickly