Mission Control Application Design and Development

Spaceflight

Enterprise Application Design and Development

Background

Spaceflight is a premier launch services and mission management provider, offering routine, cost-effective access to space.

With the growing industry of smallsats, the demand for routine, cost-effective access to space has increased exponentially. Demand, coupled with the growing number of launch vehicle providers, created an opportunity for Spaceflight to assist in identifying, booking, and managing rideshare launches.

With a suite of products and services including satellite infrastructure, rideshare launch offerings, payload integration, and global communications networks, Spaceflight enables organizations to get launched, achieving their mission goals – on time and on budget.

Valence has worked with Spaceflight since 2020 when we built Book My Launch and the first iteration of Mission Control, which is a task management and ticketing system that allows Spaceflight Mission Managers to manage the tasks such as testing, documentation, and communication.  Mission Control also provides a Resource Center, giving customers access to reference documents, templates, and information about their Spaceflight team.

Spaceflight smallsat

Challenge

Prior to Mission Control, Mission Managers had to patch together ad hoc management solutions, leaning heavily on decentralized documents, emails, texts, and endless phone calls.

Spaceflight needed a system to link the self-service model of Book My Launch to the backend systems used by Mission Managers. The company also needed to enable Mission Managers to support more customers as the business scaled and to provide customers with a single source to view all their mission information.

Spaceflight’s team had a strong vision for the end product and its business impact but had not previously worked on a software development effort of this nature. Spaceflight needed a partner that could guide them through the process.

Spaceflight continued its engagement with Valence, building upon the knowledge and relationships built during the Book My Launch project.

“We could tell that Valence was excited about this project and was really engaged,” says Kristen Smithson, Spaceflight vice president of business operations, “When the whole team came to the office and gave a presentation, they spoke to all our needs, and we were impressed. Valence was able to speak to the backend setup as well as how we would design it. The end-to-end capability made a difference.”

Solution

Mission Control was developed in a phased approach, with Phase 1 relying on out-of-the-box software for task management and Phase 2 relying on custom-built software for Spaceflight’s unique workflows. The phased approach enabled faster process improvement and provided user feedback that contributed to a more successful software solution in Phase 2.  

“Our primary objective was to simplify the user experience to support the adoption of the tools,” said Alice Watkins, Valence Technical Project Manager, “In addition to adding features to make the system easier to use, we were ruthlessly focused on streamlining the experience. We improved the ease-of-use, the booking process, and functionality for Mission Control.”

Because Mission Control’s intent is to digitize and streamline processes, understanding those processes was critical to success.  As is the case with many fast-moving and young companies, processes had been defined at a high level but had not yet been documented at the level of granularity needed to design and develop the right software solution and user experience.

Valence conducted dozens of research sessions, bringing designers and engineers together with Spaceflight users to explore processes and user needs. Q & A sessions were insightful and benefited from Valence participants with strong user experience practices with deep engineering skills. Part of Valence’s role was to capture ideas that were still forming among the Spaceflight teams and to advise Spacflight about how to use those ideas to create a better solution. These working sessions revealed the “hidden steps” in Spaceflight’s processes, which are critical to achieving adoption by Mission Managers.

Valence also conducted user experience research and provided UX design, interface design, software engineering, testing, and QA to Spaceflight. In addition to features that allow Mission Managers to manage customers, create tasks, and easily see what the customer can see, Valence also built filtering functionality so Mission Managers can easily manage their work and assignments.

In Phase 2, Valence restructured tasks and workflows, created task management systems, built a notification system that triggers emails when a customer submits a task, improved the user database, and implemented multifactor authentication via text messages to increase security.

Following the release of Phase 2, Valence collected user feedback for future enhancements and conducted internal training and client onboarding.

“I appreciate that Valence was good at guiding us through the technical aspects of the project while also always treating us as equals. We felt like engaged and respected partners,” said Tony Frego, vice president of mission management, “Valence also got to know our business at a detailed level, which is not easy. It’s cool that Valence can talk about orbits with us now.”

Spaceflight Mission Control

Results

With Book My Launch and Mission Control, Spaceflight is transforming its business and the aerospace commercial space flight industry.

The Mission Control tool is scalable, flexible, trackable, and provides better records, impressively advancing Spaceflight from its previous ad hoc systems. Further, the onboarding of new Mission Managers is more consistent, and Mission Managers can save time and effort compared to previous processes.

And because Mission Managers can better manage customers, customers are expected to have a better experience with Spaceflight and demonstrate higher satisfaction – ultimately leading to future bookings and a stronger business.

Augmented Reality Application

United Launch Alliance

Augmented Reality Application

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is an American spacecraft launch service provider that manufactures and operates rocket vehicles that are capable of launching spacecraft into orbits around Earth and to other bodies in the Solar System.

Challenge

With a new rocket in development, United Launch Alliance needed to engage its target audience at the largest and most influential event in the space industry. This event is sponsored by large, innovative, and competitive brands, so it was imperative to differentiate from the competition with an experience within the event.

Solution

The physical size of a rocket prevents it from being transported and shared for marketing and sales opportunities, but much like a car, there’s a certain impressiveness to a rocket’s physicality.

Valence conceptualized, designed, and built a fun and immersive end-to-end experience. The solution included a mobile augmented reality application called ULA Anywhere that created life-sized rockets in virtual showrooms, social media photo sharing, and a mission-based game employing light simulation-based physics to demonstrate the complex rocket trajectories and satellite orbits.

By using augmented reality on mobile devices, Valence could help ULA engage a diverse audience for sales opportunities and to increase brand awareness and affinity.

Technologies used included augmented reality, iOS application development, and Android application development.

Results

The ULA Anywhere experience differentiated ULA from its competitors, expanded the brand’s reach beyond the event’s walls, and created IP that could be repurposed for future events, increasing total ROI.

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Book My Flight Web Application

Spaceflight

Book My Flight Web Application

Spaceflight is a premier launch services and mission management provider, offering routine, cost-effective access to space, helping customers to explore beyond our planet.

Traditionally, access to space has been limited to government entities due to cost. Sending satellites into orbit once required purchasing an entire rocket; however, with the growing industry of smallsats, the demand for routine, cost-effective access to space has increased exponentially. Demand, coupled with the growing number of launch vehicle providers, created an opportunity for Spaceflight to assist in identifying, booking, and managing rideshare launches.

With a straightforward and cost-effective suite of products and services including state-of-the-art satellite infrastructure, rideshare launch offerings, payload integration and global communications networks, Spaceflight enables commercial, non-profit organizations and government entities to get launched, achieving their mission goals – on time and on budget.

Challenge

Spaceflight’s services are delivered by using a network of launch providers, each with distinct booking and management processes. To be an industry leader, Spaceflight needed its customers to be able to reserve and manage satellite launches from its website. Spaceflight also needed to provide the industry with an aggregated launch schedule for all possible launches.

In addition to the website needing new functionality, the visual design of the website was not competitive and needed to be refreshed.

Further, Spaceflight was challenged by inefficiencies in its internal operations, and complicated customer communications.

Solution

Valence was engaged to design and develop a web application to address the booking process for Spaceflight customers. The solution allows users to make a payment, reserve their launch, and to manage all steps of the launch process through an integrated portal.

The process started with UX exercises to plot the ideal user experience and typical user requirements when incorporating this functionality into the existing site. Applying the UX and UI principles designated by Valence’s design team, the engineering team build the web application, which enables customers to specify launch and satellite criteria, which is matched with an optimal reservation using a cloud-based serverless architecture and a React framework. Valence used a complex launch capacity matching algorithm, coupled with multiple existing systems to speed time-to-market.

The design team re-skinned the website to deliver a cohesive and competitive visual identity along with the enhanced functionality.

Technologies used include Amazon Web Services GovCloud Services, DynamoDB, API Gateway, S3, SES, Cognito, Lamda serverless-based architecture, CloudWatch, and Secrets Manager. Third-party connected services include Smartsheet, Box, Jira, and Strip.

Results

The client experienced the brand-elevation that comes from a beautiful customer-centric web application, with a simple, easy-to-use experience. The web application was well-received upon introduction at a major industry conference, demonstrating how space launch services can be simplified. The effort advanced Spaceflight’s mission to offer best-in-class launch provider services.

React Framework

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