ISS Health Maintenance System (HMS): Operational and Technical Design Challenges

Constance Adams
space architect / engineering specialist


NASA-JSC's Biomedical Systems branch (EB) has been tasked with augmenting the ISS Crew Healthcare System (CHeCS) and Health Maintenance System (HMS) by developing new hardware designs to support general crew healthcare as well as demanding and sometimes time-sensitive emergency medical operations on orbit.

Our group is tasked to develop hardware for the ISS program, which includes the need to conform to Shuttle, Soyuz and Progress and, eventually, ATV and HTV platform requirements. This means that we must plan for compatibility with a number of different vehicles and facilities (including processing), and it is not possible to overstate the difficulty of retrieving, vetting and applying that much information under the current system. At the same time, debriefs with ISS crew, trainers and flight controllers make it clear that the ISS already shares several fundamental issues with previous long-duration spacecraft including Skylab and Mir. These issues, which include training, space-to-ground communications and the management of inventory, procedures and configuration, must all be rigorously addressed before any remote (e.g., beyond LEO) human exploration program can be responsibly undertaken; and the VIB may offer a platform for this work.

We will describe the challenges of this task in the context of current design engineering for hardware to support human spaceflight, general issues of commonality facing all items that are now components of ISS, and our approach integrating space architecture practices with traditional engineering to streamline the design process and to optimize the user interface. Finally, we will propose a collaborative effort that envisions using a VIB system to augment our design evaluation and training capabilities.