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August 16, 2000

James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
281/483-5111

Release: J00-48

New Mission Control Room Portends Increasing Pace of Human Space Flight; Rapid Space Station Expansion

Media invited to film mission simulation from 12:30-3 p.m. today

In the next 18 months, the International Space Station will grow to be the largest spacecraft ever built, but before it is assembled in space, the station will be put together dozens of times over in a new Mission Control training room opened in Houston this week.

The new training Flight Control Room, a replica of control rooms used to operate the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, has begun training teams to oversee upcoming station missions. The new room is located in the Mission Control Center building, adjacent to the most famous of all control rooms -- the Apollo Flight Control Room from which controllers monitored the manned lunar landings.

"Opening this room is a milestone -- it prepares us for the start of a new era in Mission Control beginning in just a few months. It will be an era where 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year, teams in Houston will be working with astronauts in space," said NASA Flight Director Kelly Beck. "When a crew begins living aboard the International Space Station this fall, this new room will become our primary training ground."

About two years ago, a study of future mission training indicated another facility would be needed to train flight control teams when the Space Station Flight Control Room and the Space Shuttle Flight Control Room were occupied with flight activities. With the launch of the first resident International Space Station crew this fall, the time when all rooms will be continuously occupied is drawing near.

The actual construction and outfitting of the room was completed in only a few months.

"We had to take a storage area, projection room and project office located behind the historic Apollo control room and transform that space into a new training Mission Control in just six months," said Doug Tighe, vice president and program manager of Lockheed Martin Space Operations' Consolidated Space Operations Contract. "That's really operating at warp speed." Construction work in the new room was performed by BRSP, Inc., a task that involved designing and remodeling in a manner that ensured the changes did not interfere with the permanent preservation of the neighboring historic Apollo room.

In 1994, an entire new version of Mission Control was ushered in that replaced the antiquated, custom mainframe computer system with a new system of commercially available workstations. The new system increased the capabilities of the control center and reduced operating costs.

"Ten years ago, we could have never developed a new room so quickly," said Lynn Vernon, project manager for the control center's development. "The architecture we have now allows us to build and operate this training room without interrupting ongoing control of Space Shuttle flights or the station in other rooms."

The new room includes 17 consoles and large front projection screens, identical to those in the main room or Mission Control. Like the rooms used for flight operations, the training flight control room can be linked to astronaut training facilities around the Johnson Space Center and other spaceflight control centers around the world. The flight controllers that will use it helped lead the effort to develop the new room.

"We want to train the way we fly and fly the way we trained, so we needed a training room that was almost identical to the rooms we use during a flight," explained Rick Gavin, who headed the Operations Cadre, a group that represents flight controllers and control room developers, during much of the room's development. "The hard part was to determine where it would go and how we could put it together by the time it was needed."

NOTE: Media interested in filming the new training room in Mission Control can do so during a simulation that will be taking place from 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16. Personnel involved in the development of the new facility also will be available for interviews.

 

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