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01-017
For Release: March 21, 2001

Barbara L. Kakiris, InDyne, Inc./Lori J. Rachul
NASA Glenn Research Center
216/433-2513/216/443-8806
barbara.l.kakiris@grc.nasa.gov/lori.j.rachul@grc.nasa.gov

Michael Brown
Ohio Board of Regents
614/752-9480
mbrown@regents.state.oh.us

Dennis Irwin/Hans Kruse
Ohio University
740/593-1566 / 740/593-4891
irwind@oak.cats.ohiou.edu/kruse@oak.cats.ohiou.edu


NASA to Share Satellite with Educational Consortium

An exciting new chapter in space communications begins with the signing of a Space Act Agreement among NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, the Ohio Board of Regents, Columbus, OH and Ohio University, Athens, OH, for the use of NASA's Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS). The agreement calls for the formation of a national educational consortium that will assume the operational management of ACTS.

"The Consortium has the impressive potential to advance education and commercial technology development across the state of Ohio and beyond," said Glenn Center Director Donald J. Campbell. "As a result, we will witness the development of a highly-skilled workforce in a relatively new field, as well as the introduction of state-of-the art products that accompany the evolution of technology."

The agreement supports Ohio's economic invigoration by providing advanced technology and facilities to help enable the communication infrastructure needed for the future. This consortium will extend the satellite's benefits to national academic and economic communities by leveraging federal, state, private and academic resources for collaborative educational and research-based activities. Extending access to ACTS will also be a catalyst for small business growth by encouraging development of Ka-band communications for commercialization.

"It is fantastic to see that one more phase of ACTS is evolving through this educational consortium, far exceeding any of the original program designers' conceptions," said Robert A. Bauer, ACTS project manager at Glenn. "Future benefits to satellite communication education and research in this country, made possible through the consortium, are extremely inspiring."

The consortium will focus on enhancing the nation's knowledge and skills of Ka-band satellite systems and operations. This will assist in the development of a future workforce prepared in advanced space communications and the creation of collaborative approaches to coordinate private and public resources for advancing information technology. Uses range from studies of satellites as Internet carriers to using space technology for distance education.

"We are pleased to join in this new agreement enabling the research and development of technologies that make broadband Internet access available to more Ohioans," said Roderick G.W. Chu, Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor. "This project is an innovative, exciting addition to the ongoing investments by the Regents in conjunction with Internet technologies research already underway at many of Ohio's outstanding universities and colleges."

The Ohio Board of Regents will facilitate the consortium's formation, whose core will consist of educational institutions, and Ohio University will lead the effort. Researchers with universities in Ohio and Texas, as well as businesses in Denver, Houston and Cleveland, have already expressed membership interest. The broadest possible participation by academia, industry and governmental agencies nationwide will be solicited.

"We are pleased and honored to be so closely associated with the continued operation of ACTS," said Dennis Irwin, chair of electrical engineering and computer sciences in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University. Irwin will serve as Director of the consortium. "Interestingly, ACTS was so far ahead of the state of the art when it was launched in 1993 that companies are still interested in using it today to develop support systems for the new generation Ka-band communication satellites expected to be launched in this decade. As far as I am aware, this is the first time a university-led consortium has assumed responsibility for such a significant national asset."

ACTS has been serving as the nation's Ka-band on-orbit test bed since its launch in 1993. Glenn managed the design, development, launch and operations of the satellite. With all NASA technical program objectives met, NASA had planned to retire the spacecraft in October 2000, but concluded that there was sufficient life and capability remaining to offer the spacecraft as an educational research tool to a university consortium. The Ohio Board of Regents responded to a national call by NASA seeking academic organizations interested in utilizing ACTS.

For more information on the ACTS Consortium, please visit:
         http://www.csm.ohiou.edu/ocact

For more information on the ACTS Experiments Program, please visit:
         http://acts.grc.nasa.gov

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