NASA launches handhelds for space station

NASA has sent two handheld computers to the International Space Station for its crew to use as supplements to their notebook computers.

The handheld computers arrived late last month on the Soyuz 8 spacecraft that carried the Expedition 9 crew to the space station, NASA said. The HP iPaq h5550 models from Hewlett-Packard Co. run the Microsoft Windows Pocket PC 2003 Premium Edition operating system on a 400-MHz Intel XScale processor.

NASA is developing handheld software for the astronauts and cosmonauts to take bar-coded equipment inventories, spokesman James Hartsfield said. They already have a handheld bar-code scanner that links to their notebooks.

'They can call up procedures and data and follow checklists,' Hartsfield said.

The space station crew will also use the bundled productivity software including pocket versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel. Although the crew is not yet using Bluetooth wireless connectivity, it is integrated in the handhelds along with biometric fingerprint readers and music, photo and electronic-book functions.

NASA plans to send two more handhelds on the next resupply flight. The space agency bought off-the-shelf versions of the HP iPaq H5550, which is the manufacturer's highest-end handheld, priced around $600.

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