The combination of automation and operator-based technologies is discussed with respect to orbital microgravity experiments in order to optimize the performance and results. A list of five design objectives is presented, and each item is examined in terms of on-orbit flight history to identify relevant examples. It is suggested that human factors be considered in hardware design and that in-flight maintenance operations be considered an integral part of a program. The operational design can produce more effective results when it is established for ‘failures’ and mission success operations. The design must also be approached in terms of both the limitations and advantages of microgravity. The overarching theme of the investigation is that the mix of automation and operator interaction should be optimized by automating routine tasks and using the operator for critical assessments.