Concept developed in 2006 for a free-space habitation system proposed to NASA’s Constellation Program to support human and robotic lunar surface exploration. (Courtesy: John Frassanito & Associates and the Future In-Space Operations Working Group)

Future In-Space Operations (FISO): a working group and community engagement

by Harley Thronson and Dan Lester
Monday, February 11, 2013

Long-duration human capabilities beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), either in support of or as an alternative to lunar surface operations, have been assessed at least since the late 1960s. Over the next few months, we will present short histories of concepts for long-duration, free-space human habitation beyond LEO from the end of the Apollo program to the Decadal Planning Team (DPT)/NASA Exploration Team (NExT), which was active in 1999–2000 (see “Forging a vision: NASA’s Decadal Planning Team and the origins of the Vision for Space Exploration”, The Space Review, December 19, 2005). Here we summarize the brief existence of the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group in 2005–2006 and its successor, a telecon-based colloquium series, which we co-moderate.

In January 2004, President Bush announced at NASA Headquarters his “Vision for Space Exploration” (VSE), which was followed almost immediately under the direction of NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe by the development of architecture, concepts, and technology investment priorities for (primarily) human spaceflight beyond LEO. As part of this activity, a working group that we led obtained modest NASA Headquarters funding to assess how the evolving human spaceflight architecture could be used specifically for long-duration human operations in free space, both in support of a human return to the lunar surface, as well as a “stepping stone” for human missions beyond the Earth-Moon system. This formal group was dubbed the Future In-Space Operations Working Group (FISOWG). The FISOWG strategy explicitly built upon that developed years earlier under direction of Administrator Dan Goldin and the White House Office of Management and Budget by the DPT/NExT study effort.

Read more: The Space Review: Future In-Space Operations (FISO): a working group and community engagement.

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