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Influence of Combined Whole-Body Vibration Plus G-Loading on Visual Performance  (2009)
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Recent engineering analyses of the integrated Ares-Orion stack show that vibration levels for Orion crews have the potential to be much higher than those experienced in Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle vehicles. Of particular concern to the Constellation Program (CxP) is the 12 Hz thrust oscillation (TO) that the Ares-I rocket develops during the final ~20 seconds preceding first-stage separation, at maximum G-loading.

While the structural-dynamic mitigations being considered can assure that vibration due to TO is reduced to below the CxP crew health limit, it remains to be determined how far below this limit vibration must be reduced to enable effective crew performance during launch. Moreover, this "performance" vibration limit will inform the operations concepts (and crew-system interface designs) for this critical phase of flight. While Gemini and Apollo studies provide preliminary guidance, the data supporting the historical limits were obtained using less advanced interface technologies and very different operations concepts.

In this study, supported by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) Human Research Program, we investigated display readability - a fundamental prerequisite for any interaction with electronic crew-vehicle interfaces - while observers were subjected to 12 Hz vibration superimposed on the 3.8 G loading expected for the TO period of ascent. Two age-matched groups of participants (16 general population and 13 Crew Office) performed a numerical display reading task while undergoing sustained 3.8 G loading and whole-body vibration at 0, 0.15, 0.3, 0.5, and 0.7 g in the eyeballs in/out (x-axis) direction. The time-constrained reading task used an Orion-like display with 10- and 14-pt non-proportional sans-serif fonts, and was designed to emulate the visual acquisition and processing essential for crew system monitoring.

Compared to the no-vibration baseline, we found no significant effect of vibration at 0.15 and 0.3 g on task error rates (ER) or response times (RT). Significant degradations in both ER and RT, however, were observed at 0.5 and 0.7 g for 10-pt, and at 0.7 g for 14-pt font displays. These objective performance measures were mirrored by participants' subjective ratings. Interestingly, we found that the impact of vibration on ER increased with distance from the center of the display, but only for vertical displacements. Furthermore, no significant ER or RT aftereffects were detected immediately following vibration, regardless of amplitude. Lastly, given that our reading task required no specialized spaceflight expertise, our finding that effects were not statistically distinct between our two groups is not surprising.

The results from this empirical study provide initial guidance for evaluating the display readability trade-space between text-font size and vibration amplitude. However, the outcome of this work should be considered preliminary in nature for a number of reasons:

1. The single 12 Hz x-axis vibration employed was based on earlier load-cycle models of the induced TO environment at the end of Ares-I first stage flight. Recent analyses of TO mitigation designs suggest that significant concurrent off-axis vibration may also occur.
2. The shirtsleeve environment in which we tested fails to capture the full kinematic and dynamic complexity of the physical interface between crewmember and the still-to-be- matured helmet-suit-seat designs, and the impact these will have for vibration transmission and consequent performance.
3. By examining performance in this reading and number processing task, we are only assessing readability, a first and necessary step that in itself does not directly address the performance of more sophisticated operational tasks such as vehicle-health monitoring or manual control of the vehicle.
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Combined, G-Loading, Influence, Performance, Plus, Vibration, Visual, Whole-Body
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NASA/TM 2009-215386
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Adobe PDF Icon  NASA_TM-2009-215386.pdf (Download Acrobat Reader Click to download Adobe Acrabat Reader)
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Jessica Nowinski
Last Updated: August 15, 2019