Johnson Space Center, Houston
NASA Revives Original Mission Control for Growing Space Station
International Space Station flight controllers have a new home with increased technical capabilities, more workspace and a long, distinguished history.
As NASA embarks on a series of space flights as complex as any in history to complete assembly of the station, station operations facilities needed an upgrade. The previous station control room, designated the Blue Flight Control Room, had been in operation since the first station component was launched in 1998. The newly remodeled facility is just down the hall at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. Known as Flight Control Room 1, it was first used to control a space flight 38 years ago today, the mission of Apollo 7 launched Oct. 11, 1968. It was one of two original control rooms for NASA's manned missions.
Among historic flights the room controlled during its previous use were missions to America's first space station, Skylab, in the 1970s, and the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, in April 1981. Fittingly, the last full flight controlled from the room was the first time a shuttle visited a space station, the STS-71 mission to the Russian Mir station in June 1995. Following that, shuttle flight control transitioned to a new room, and the last service in FCR-1 was control of the ascent to orbit only of space shuttle mission STS-76 in March 1996. Since then, the room has been a science center.
After nine months of remodeling, including changes to existing hardware to minimize expenses, the station team moved in on Oct. 6. They now staff the room around the clock and will continue to do so throughout the life of the station. The relocation was coordinated by Lead Station Flight Director John McCullough. A team of employees from across Johnson completed the renovations and systems testing on a tight schedule with no interruption of critical station operations. Today, that team gathered in FCR-1 for a ribbon cutting to commemorate the project's completion.
At the ceremony, the team was joined by Johnson Director Mike Coats, Mission Operations Director Allen Flynt and Mission Operations Deputy Director Milt Heflin. Former Johnson Director and Project Mercury Flight Director Christopher Kraft, who is credited with developing NASA's original concepts of human space flight control, was a special guest.
The old room had about 16 consoles for flight control disciplines, such as space station electrical and environmental systems. Several disciplines had to share consoles depending on station activities under way.
"When we were doing complex operations, such as spacewalks, launches or rendezvous and dockings, we had to relocate to the larger shuttle flight control room or use back rooms," said McCullough. "In that configuration the team didn't have the best possible situational awareness of what was going on."
The new room has 20 consoles and more space for safety and comfort. Its existing consoles and individual monitors were updated. Where the old room had only two front screens, the new facility has three large front screens to display information for the entire team and mounted high definition television cameras.
To ensure a smooth transition, the station team has had temporary quarters in the Shuttle Flight Control Room since the last shuttle mission was completed in September. The temporary quarters allowed equipment to be moved and full check out of the new facility without interference to ongoing station expeditions.
The walls of the new room reflect its long history, with 61 mission plaques displayed from flights supported there. New plaques will be added now for each mission the station team supports as the room again makes history.
"I like to hearken back to the Apollo operations and think that the ghosts from that time are still in the room," said Chief Flight Director Phil Engelauf of the new station flight control room. "The symbolism is not lost on the new generation of flight controllers working there."
The first new plaque to be added will be for shuttle mission STS-116, targeted to launch in December. Video of the remodeling work, the operational room and ribbon cutting ceremony will air as a NASA TV Video File beginning tomorrow. Video of the room in operation also is available as part of NASA TV's daily station coverage. For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and digital downlink information visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/home
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