NASA launching IT mission-control centers

NASA plans to create two mission-control centers to oversee computer operations.

The centers will monitor NASA computers "down to the keyboard," be able to switch their control functions immediately and operate continuously, said Paul Strassman, special assistant to the administrator for information management. Strassman, the former Defense Department systems chief who has been a special assistant at NASA since mid-July, spoke Aug. 2 at a briefing with reporters.

"NASA will be the first to pull this off," Strassman said of the twin mission-control centers. The first mission-control center is set to become operational Oct. 15 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Strassman declined to identify the location of the second center, stating only that both centers would be in secure locations.

The centers will suffer less than 20 minutes of downtime annually, he added.

Although he wouldn't specify the cost of the two centers, Strassman said the centers' combined expense would be less than what NASA now spends on such functions at other NASA locations. The agency plans to use existing NASA support contracts to build the centers.

The two centers will assist NASA in providing systems security, Strassman said, because they will be able to monitor "everything that twitches on the network."

According to agency plans, the mission-control centers will oversee a unified NASA computing environment that Strassman described as an information systems service utility, which will replace NASA's WANs and operate at 64-bit capacity.

"The network is the computer and the computers are peripherals," Strassman said of the planned NASA architecture. The new architecture will take advantage of the dropping price of optical fiber bandwidth, he added.

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