NASA's mission control gets updated workstations

NASA's mission control gets updated workstations

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

APRIL 23—The mission control room at NASA's Johnson Space Center is getting 475 new workstations for operating the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

The new Compaq XP900 and XP1000 workstations replace aging Digital Equipment Corp. systems, some of which date back to 1993.

'These DEC Alphas were so old they weren't maintainable anymore,' said Jack Knight, chief of the space center's Advanced Operations and Development Division.

The $4.7 million buy includes 635 Compaq P1210 color monitors. Knight said some workstations will be equipped with multiple monitors.

In the center's flight control room'familiar to anyone who has seen films of past space missions'each controller sits in front of a console with two workstations and two to four monitors, Knight said.

Today's flight controllers use much more graphically rich applications than their Apollo-era counterparts, who had a mainframe that did the calculations and a separate computer that converted the results to primitive monochrome graphics, Knight said.

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s space operations division in Houston is upgrading the workstations under its NASA-wide Consolidated Space Operations Contract, Knight said. The Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA contract covers desktop PCs used in administrative tasks.

The center expects to finish replacing the workstations by September, Knight said.

The units installed so far have demonstrated a 'very, very noticeable improvement' over their predecessors, due to eight years' worth of development in processor speed, memory, bus, instruction set and compiler technology, Knight said.

'The flight controllers are really looking forward to this,' Knight said of the upgrade.

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