Navy links satellite data to track titanic iceberg

Navy links satellite data to track titanic iceberg

By Frank Tiboni

GCN Staff





Lt. Cmdr. Dave Byers, left, discusses the iceberg's path with National Naval Ice Center analysts Vernon Curtis and Jennifer L. Werner.

The National Naval Ice Center is using an elaborate communications system to track an iceberg the size of Rhode Island that entered shipping lanes between Antarctica and South America two weeks ago.

The center gets data daily on B-10A'an iceberg 24 miles wide and 48 miles long'from seven government and commercial satellites. It then processes the imagery received from satellite ground stations via routers, servers and workstations from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and Sun Microsystems Inc.

'We've been tracking this iceberg since an analyst here at the center picked it up on satellite imagery in 1992,' said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Byers, the center's information technology officer.

Shipping news

NATICE, a tri-agency operation of the Navy, Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, analyzes sea ice to ensure safe navigation and to support military operations, Byers said.

The Suitland, Md., center has tracked B-10A since it broke off the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica in 1986. The ice mass lay dormant in the Amundsen Sea until the summer of 1995 when it broke into two pieces: B-10A and a smaller berg that drifted west along the Antarctic ice pack and eventually became too small to warrant tracking, Byers said.

When a new NASA QuickSCAT satellite picked up B-10A two weeks ago, NATICE used the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Special Sensor Microwave Imager to confirm its location. The center then ordered a special image from Canada's Radarsat I to get a better idea of the threat the iceberg poses, Byers said.

Currently, B-10A is in the vicinity of 58 degrees 36 minutes south latitude and 57 degrees west longitude. The iceberg is drifting southeast at 7 to 9 mph.

NATICE gets its imagery from three satellite systems that operate differently but ultimately provide data to the center in a simple and common format.

All the connections eventually must go through a 4000 series Cisco router, which links to the North American Ice Link, a Sun Ultra 30 server. The 300-MHz server, which runs SunSoft Solaris 2.6 and has 192M of RAM and a 30G hard drive, stores all the images, said Ellen Haas, a civilian Navy computer scientist.

NAIL links to a 300-MHz dual-processor Sun Ultra 60 server, which runs Solaris 2.6 and has 640M of RAM and a 4G hard drive. It converts the imagery into raw data and offloads it to a 120G RAID Level 5 storage system, Haas said.

The Sun Ultra 60 processes the raw imagery data into its final form using two software packages.

One is the Naval Satellite Image Processing System 3.0, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss. The second is TeraScan 3.0 from Sea Space Corp. of San Diego.

After these systems crunch the data on the Sun Ultra 60, the new files are also stored on the RAID device, Haas said.

NATICE's 100Base-T network supports 12 Sun Ultra 1 and 2 workstations in what is called the Solarium or war room. Analysts use the 300-MHz workstations, with 256M of RAM, 4G hard drives and Solaris 2.6, to display and analyze the files, Haas said.

The center will continue to monitor
B-10A's location. Currently, NATICE has established a cautionary zone 165 miles in radius around the center of the iceberg, Byers said.

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