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Crewmembers aboard the ISS regularly perform experiment and maintenance procedures. They work off static procedure documents and use tools stored all over the space station. Currently, NASA personnel must manually track the location and status of their equipment, so tools are often misplaced or damaged, and data logs are unreliable. Working on a team with NASA we created a tool to improve astronauts' and engineers' ability to track and share tool statuses and procedure information more efficiently.


Our generative research consisted of literature review, competitive analysis, and contextual inquiry. Utilizing the data we collected we created an affinity diagram and generated insights to guide our design.
Observing biology lab technicians as part of our contextual inquiry process.
After observing many individuals working in analogous domains, we created an affinity diagram and many contextual inquiry models to help us understand the data and discover design insights.

Research Findings

Based on our research, we developed three high-level insights that guided us through the design process.
  • Ease in gathering key information for quick reference streamlines procedure execution.
  • Successful collaboration requires coordinated sharing of procedures and status information.
  • Related physical objects and information become more meaningful when they are kept together.


We brainstormed hundreds of product ideas and began to narrow our focus to a select few. We created storyboards of these to present to our client and further narrowed down the ideas. With our top ideas selected we began creating low fidelity prototypes.
After brainstorming we began narrowing down ideas for impact and feasibility.

Prototyping + User Testing

Working at NASA Ames, we started creating prototypes. We started with very low fidelity prototypes and three different ideas. We created a user test that would simulate a procedure that an astronaut in the ISS would be performing. Without direct access to astronauts, we recruited NASA personnel who worked in test facilities as their work is analogous to the ISS astronauts. We ran weekly user tests and created new prototype iterations for each week.
An early paper prototype for a wrist-mounted device.

Final Product

Our final product, HeliOS, succeeded with helping astronauts and NASA technicians find tools and execute procedures. It is a companion application to the paper procedure documents and procedure viewer software already in use. Existing procedure documents provide the step by step instructions for what should be performed. HeliOS facilities everything else. It provides a not taking area, tool tracking, tool calibration information, and the ability to share information with coworkers who many not be present.
Final designs for HeliOS. Users can see a list of the work they need to get done. On an individual job, they can see any notes they or their coworkers left and tools they need, including the status of any of the tools.
A user gets alerted when notes are added to any jobs they are working on, or when they status of any of those jobs change. They can also see any notes they have left.

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