EVA Operations Systems (EOS)

Digitizing spacewalks on ISS

Commonly known as “spacewalks,” extravehicular activities (EVA) are activities that are done by astronauts while outside of a spacecraft. EVA’s are ultra-high-stakes events and involve a tremendous amount of coordination and planning; however, as technologically sophisticated as the working environments are, the planning and execution of EVA plans are surprisingly low-tech. Currently, the procedure of an entire 6-hour EVA is created in MS Word and referred to by mission control in the form of physical paper, which has inherent inefficiencies. As a result, our team was tasked with envisioning new features in our mission planning tool, Playbook, that would bring the benefits of a digital interface to the EVA execution process.

Role: Design Lead

Contribution: Project Management, Domain/User Research, UX/UI Design, Information Architecture, Usability Testing, Systems Integration

Team/Timeframe: NASA/Current


The EVA domain is extremely complex and has many moving parts. To help us better understand the context, we meticulously studied previous EVA’s and observed live ones in real-time. We also traveled to Johnson Space Center in Houston, interviewed five senior EVA flight controllers, and observed how EVA simulations were conducted in a full-scale underwater mockup of the ISS. We also observed how junior flight controllers were trained to manage workflow during dry-run EVA simulations. From this, we generated journey maps, workflow diagrams, and affinity diagrams to help us share our findings and inform our designs.


The goal of the design is to integrate data from a variety of tools and create an interactive digital representation of an EVA plan, while also making it so that the information about the state of the plan could be easily visualized, updated, and communicated upon by other mission control personnel. The specifications for V1 of the features have been developed to meet minimum viable product requirements and will leverage existing technical infrastructure of our existing product. In this way, the design aims to improve the versatility and scalability of our core Playbook code.


Because much of the development and user teams were spread throughout the country, we had to be creative with the validation and verification of our designs. We went through an in-depth process of design iterations from low-fidelity to high-fidelity, asking for feedback and ideas from stakeholders throughout each phase using video chat and screen sharing tools. With the MVP prototype completed in CYQ3 2020, we conducted virtual wizard-of-oz usability tests with five EVA flight controllers, where we were able to successfully validate the efficacy of our designs.


The EOS project is ongoing, with an MVP with V1 specifications currently completed. In Novemeber 2020, we were able to conduct a high-fidelity test of the interface at a simulated EVA at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center. This test successfully demonstrated the proof-of-concept to mission managers of the International Space Station. In the near future, these EOS features are expected to be deployed for use by astronauts and NASA flight controllers on NEEMO 24, which is tentatively scheduled for 2021.