The topic of today's post was inspired, like many other ideas, by Rick Robinson's blog Rocketpunk Manifesto. In this particular post of Rick's, he suggests that a plausible spacecraft of tomorrow will be staffed by a crew that functions more like the present-day Mission Control than the daring rocketeers of yesteryear's fiction. I immediately liked this idea, since the Black Desert setting has computers and AI that can perform most of the functions of modern-day astronauts faster, more accurately, and above all else cheaper (in both terms of cost and consumables) than organic spacers could.
The first thing we need to do is find out exactly what the people at Mission Control today do; what positions need to be filled? I did some digging on Ye Olde Internet and found this website, which outlines NASA's current line-up in, as they call it, The Trench. NASA's Mission Control is full of nifty acronyms, but the tasks performed by the various controllers will be for the most part as valid in the twenty-third century as they are today. I've done some fiddling with the crew positions I've already come up with for Black Desert and those used by Mission Control, and have come up with the following list of possible crew positions that an IPV or space station would have in a future where navigation, piloting and many other traditional occupations are all automated.
Let's take a look:
There are four senior flight directors at the top of the food-chain in our BD Mission Control. They are:
- Mission Commander (MCOM): This is the overall director of the entire operation, whether it's directing a combat task force or leading a convoy into the Asteroid Belt. This is the Big Boss; the equivalent of a General (Air Force Commander) or an Admiral (Task Force Commander).
- Flight Commander (Flight): This is the directer of the spacecraft itself; the one directly in charge of supervising all aspects of the ship's preparedness and it's ability to perform the mission MCOM outlines. This is the traditional Captain or, in Air Force parlance, the Group Commander (for an IPV) or, of course, a Captain of a Naval Vessel. All spacecraft have a Flight Commander. That being said, only the IPV Commander is "Flight" the Flight Commander of any subordinate spacecraft are called "Commander", "FCOM" or "Skip", depending on that organization's traditions.
- Integrated Communications Officer (INCO): This is the supervisor that is in charge of all exterior and interior communications. This person is the bridge between all of the spacecraft's different computers and personnel and the two senior commanders. In addition, this director handles the inevitable administration details and discipline among the other departments. This is the equivalent of an XO position and is occasionally referred to as such.
- Flight Engineer (Chief): This supervisor, as the title suggests, is in charge of all the engineering systems of a spacecraft. On an IPV or in a space station, there will be separate directors for the fusion reactor, maintenance, electrical, and all that jazz. On a smaller rocket, this individual will be do it all.
COMAST: This is an abbreviation of Communication and Astrogation.
- Guidance Procedures Officer (GPO): This officer monitors the navigation of the spacecraft. Basically, they constantly check the guidance control software in order to make sure its working properly and not glitched or fooled by electronic warfare. Often simply called "Guidance".
- Guidance, Navigation and Control Systems Engineer (GNC): This directer is responsible for all of the hardware involved in their title. This includes flight computers, radar, lidar and flir sensors, the spacecrafts RCS, and all of the connections between these elements. They mostly direct robots and perform spot inpections.
- Spacecraft Communications (SCOM): Still called CAPCOM in the US, this officer is the direct communicator between a spacecraft and their axillary elements. For IPVs, this means any spacecraft attached to the craft or docking/undocking.
- Propulsion Engineer (Prop): This dude's in charge of gas. On most military craft, they monitor the water tanks, electrolyzers, LOX and LH2 tanks, all the connecting hoses, the cryogenics and all that stuff. They also keep track of how much Delta-V the spacecraft has left.
- Booster Engineer (Booster): This is the officer that monitors the spacecraft's L-Drive and Plasma Sails. They also make sure that the radiators are in working order and the laser generators can provide combat power if needed.
- Fusion Reactor and Electrical Engineer (FREE): Despite the acronym, this operator is anything but. They monitor the fusion plant, the helium 3 supplies, radiation levels and all of the electrical sub-systems and lighting on the spacecraft. Again, this is a job for robots with the FREE performing spot-checks.
- Payload Officer (PLO/Payload): This is really the weapons officer, but they are called "PLO" for the same reasons the chief communicator is still "CAPCOM" long after the use of capsules. If a spacecraft is armed, this is the person who directs the weapons systems.
- Payload Deployment and Retrieval Officer (PDRS): This person actually monitors the loading and unloading of cargo. Robots do all the work. This "Cargo Master" also makes sure that the cargo is balanced so the rocket doesn't fall off it's tail.
- Maintenance, Mechanical Arms, and Crew Systems Officer (MMACS): "Max" is another holdover name; the term now denotes the officer that oversees the maintenance of all of the spacecraft's robots, robotic arms, and associated systems.
- Environmental Consumables Manager (ECM): The ECM makes sure that there is enough food, water, atmosphere and heat to keep the crew alive. Anything to do with food storage, air-srubbers, water faucets and air vents falls under their supervision.
- Closed-Ecology Life-Support Systems (CLESS): If a spacecraft or station has a closed-loop system, there will be a CLESS to oversee it. Hydroponics, algae tanks, urine recycling, and making sure all that nature does not get out of hand is their chief responsibility. A ship with a CLESS and a good officer to monitor it can feed and support it's crew for years without resupply.
- Flight Surgeon (Doc): Obviously, this is the spacecraft's medical officer. They inspect for cleanliness, diseases and radiation. In the event of injury, they are expected to deal with anything from eczema to explosive decompression.
Computers being what they are, you will only need the full crew on duty during combat or other intensive situations, so under standard conditions, we'll have only one crew member per department on duty at a time. This gives us a watch bill with six four-hour shifts. One of the command staff will be in charge of each watch, with the exception of the MCOM and their deputy. Flights one and two will get either 1st and 2nd watch, or more likely 1st and 4th, with each mission control team taking half a day. After their four hours in Mission Control, the crew will take an additional four hours doing maintenance and inspections in their areas of responsibility.
That's all I got on this topic right now, RocketFans. Comments are always welcome.