Shuttle network gets a boost

Shuttle network gets a boost

Kennedy Space Center will move from FDDI to Gigabit Ethernet backbone

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

NASA is upgrading the administrative network that serves the space shuttle program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, replacing a Fiber Distributed Data Interface ring with a Gigabit Ethernet backbone that will give 6,000 users switched Ethernet and Fast Ethernet service.






Media converters link a dozen NASA launch facilities to backbone


' Orbiter processing facility 1: Ethernet and Fast Ethernet

' Orbiter processing facility 2: Ethernet and Fast Ethernet

' Vehicle assembly building: Fast
Ethernet; Gigabit Ethernet next year

' Launch control center: Fast Ethernet

' Launch pads A and B: Ethernet;
single-mode and multimode fiber
Fast Ethernet


' Logistics warehouse: Fast Ethernet

' Modular complexes: Fast Ethernet

' Operations support building: Fast;
Ethernet; Gigabit Ethernet next year

' Process control center: Fast Ethernet

' Vehicle assembly repeater building: Ethernet and Fast Ethernet; Gigabit Ethernet next year

' Communications distribution and switching center: Fast Ethernet


The shuttle network is the first of three institutional FDDI rings being collapsed at the center, said Steven Murphy, a computer science staff engineer with the United Space Alliance consortium of Houston, which handles many of NASA's shuttle operations.

The shuttle network is getting an upgrade first because it has the highest traffic volume. 'We are seeing 200 percent growth each year,' Murphy said.

With traffic peaking at 60 percent of capacity, United Space Alliance began planning last year for the upgrade, and installation began in May. A chassis of media converters from Transition Networks Inc. of Minneapolis ties the network elements into a campus switch router from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., which will connect to the fiber backbone this month.

Bringing switched connections to each of almost 10,000 network drops will take until the summer of 2001, Murphy said.

Interest takes off

The space center's institutional networks handle administrative tasks, document exchange, e-mail and business applications. Operational networks handle command and control functions. Because the institutional networks have Internet access, traffic surges from high public interest during shuttle launches, Murphy said.

The Network Health LAN/WAN application from Concord Communications Inc. of Marlborough, Mass., monitors network performance and projects usage trends. In view of the 200 percent annual growth, the shuttle network needed fast expansion, but because of its ring configuration, United Space Alliance decided to collapse the backbone to a star-based switched configuration.

The network at Launch Complex 39 includes office and launch control facilities, as well as the vehicle assembly building and launch pads. The distances involved'two buildings are four and five miles from the launch pads'made fiber-optic cable the only practical choice. Fiber also has immunity to electromagnetic interference.

The backbone has a redundant pair of Cisco Catalyst 8540 Campus Switch Routers. The Layer 3 switches do high-speed Ethernet routing over 16 copper twisted-pair Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

Connected to the campus switch are three CoreBuilder 6000 switches, two CoreBuilder 3500 switches and four SuperStack II switches, all from 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.; and two Catalyst 5500 switches, one Catalyst 6500 switch and three 7200 routers, all from Cisco.

Transition's Conversion Center, a 16-slot chassis that can mix converter cards for twisted pair to fiber conversion, connects 12 facilities to the fiber backbone. It has a small footprint because the building housing the backbone switches also has telephone and other switching equipment, 'so real estate is at a premium,' Murphy said.

He said NASA wanted to maintain the same degree of management it had with the FDDI ring: a single management platform to show everything. 'When you go to a switched Ethernet environment, you never see everything from one point,' Murphy said.

The Conversion Center works with the Hewlett-Packard OpenView management platform under HP-UX, SunSoft Solaris and Microsoft Windows NT, as well as IBM NetView under IBM AIX and NT.

Although the network has 6,000 users, there are almost 10,000 network connections, Murphy said. Every drop has a network interface ready, which increases flexibility for adds, moves and drops.

Up to 40 percent of the desktop PC systems will get switched 10/100-Mbps connections this fall, Murphy said. The rest will share bandwidth.

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