Glenn’s Telescience Support Center
Provided Around-the-Clock Operations Support for Space Experiments
on the International Space Station
NASA Glenn Research Center’s Telescience Support Center (TSC)
allows researchers on Earth to operate experiments onboard the International
Space Station (ISS) and the space shuttles. NASA’s continuing
investment in the required software, systems, and networks provides
distributed ISS ground operations that enable payload developers
and scientists to monitor and control their experiments from the
Glenn TSC. The quality of scientific and engineering data is enhanced
while the long-term operational costs of experiments are reduced
because principal investigators and engineering teams can operate
their payloads from their home institutions.
Glenn plays a major role in conducting space experiments. In 1993, the TSC began
providing ground support for experiments aboard space shuttle flights. During
2000 and 2001, the TSC went through a major renovation and expansion, more than
doubling its capacity. The TSC is now a secure, multipurpose facility designed
to provide dedicated support for simultaneous training, simulations, and real-time
operations of space experiments. The current configuration consists of the Payload
Operations Center, the Communication and Network Support Room, the TSC Operations
and Support Room, and a visitors viewing area that provides access on a noninterference
Since 2001, the TSC has provided over 26,000 hr of continuous support for diverse
microgravity research experiments onboard the ISS, 24 hr a day, 7 days a week,
while requiring less than 100 hr of crew intervention. Secure, dedicated audio,
video, and data interfaces are provided to payload teams, including a digital
stream of two channels of video from the ISS and the ability to communicate directly
with the ISS crew. Hardware and software provide the ability to send commands
to payload hardware and to receive feedback via telemetry data and video links.
Pre-mission planning and post-mission debriefing support is provided for all
payloads. The TSC staff begins planning for support of a payload upto 18 months
prior to the start of operations, depending on the complexity of the payload’s
operational requirements. Payload developers plan the operations, such as mission
timeline development, resource planning, simulations, and training from the TSC.
The TSC staff trains all the payload operations teams prior to mission operations.
Training is tailored to each payload and covers all aspects of operations.
In addition to 5000 ft2 for conducting payload operations, the TSC is also a
communications and data center. The TSC provides secure digital audio links with
the ISS Huntsville Operations Support Center. Audio systems at the TSC provide
45 separate digital channels for payload developers to communicate with the various
groups working to support ISS operations. All data, voice, and video resources
are available for each payload at its respective console workstation. Workstations
and unique audio channels are configured for each payload team according to the
team’s needs so that the team can receive specific data from their flight
hardware on orbit. The TSC provides at least two workstations for each payload
and can manage dozens of terabytes of downlinked data from payloads.
Real-time video also is networked to the TSC, allowing payload developers to
view ISS video, which displays crew members interacting with their experiments
on orbit and can include images of experiment execution. The TSC can receive
two of the four ISS video channels simultaneously, and can route video directly
to the payload developer’s console position, on the basis of the developer’s
requirements. All systems are monitored by the sustaining engineering staff daily
and by automated systems around the clock. Short- and long-term storage of scientific
and engineering data and access to a public Web site containing processed data
are also provided. Technical support can be provided to operation sites outside
Glenn when requested.
In fiscal year 2004, six ISS payload teams (SAMS, MAMS, BCAT-3, CFE, INSPACE,
and PIMS) successfully operated their experiments from the Glenn TSC. The TSC
upgraded 33 workstations to Windows XP and installed a state-of-the-art hot failover
firewall system. Also, in preparation for the launch and subsequent operations
of the Fluids and Combustion Facility (FCF) aboard the ISS, the FCF Central Data
System hardware, which provides 29.4 TB of disk storage, was integrated into
the TSC network.