A Systems Engineering Approach to Staff Scheduling Problems, as Applied to Flight Controller Scheduling at NASA’S Mission Control Center



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The flight controllers of NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate (FOD) have become experts at human spaceflight operations over the past six decades. Despite this expertise, flight controllers and their managers are still struggling with the challenges of building effective console schedules in a 24/7 operations environment. By studying the lessons learned from the operational research field, NASA FOD can improve their staff scheduling practices, which have been largely home-grown. Likewise, the field of staff scheduling research itself suffers from an insular focus on finding more and more optimal mathematical techniques for solving schedules, ignoring important factors such as operator preferences and the health effectives of shift work. By adopting a systems engineering framework, these optimized solutions can become even more useful. These concepts are developed and then applied in a case study of the Attitude Determination and Control Officer (ADCO) flight controller group within FOD, demonstrating the effectiveness of systems engineering thinking when applied to new fields. As a result, the ADCO flight controller group has adopted the new framework into their standard scheduling practices, which has improved measured outcomes.



scheduling, optimization, operations, systems engineering