Hughes completes key test of EOSDIS

Hughes Information Technology Systems last month successfully demonstrated for the first time the functions of a massive NASA database and archival system that ranks as the largest civilian information system ever built.

The test of NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) which NASA tapped Hughes in 1992 to build under a $685 million contract marks a significant milestone in the development of the system according to a NASA official. The system is scheduled to become operational in June 1998.

John Dalton NASA's deputy project manager of EOSDIS said the demonstration marked the first time EOSDIS designers and engineers tested all the key functions of the system which is composed of more than 70 commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. Suppliers include Sybase Inc. IBM Corp. and its Tivoli Systems subsidiary Digital Equipment Corp. Hewlett-Packard Co. and Silicon Graphics Inc.

"It's in the early integration stage but we did demonstrate that functionally the system worked end to end " Dalton said. "The demonstration was extremely successful. We've got an awful lot of work to do between now and June but it gave us great confidence that the system design is right."Hughes officials declined to comment for this story.

NASA officials tested several critical data processing archiving and distribution requirements using simulated data provided by several program teams. The system successfully performed 42 critical functions as part of the test.

EOSDIS will process more than 1 terabyte or one trillion bytes of information per day when it becomes operational to support the space agency's Mission to Planet Earth an international research effort to study the environment to protect it from harmful human influences such as damage to the ozone layer and global warming.

The system will process and archive raw scientific data collected via satellites and translate it into practical information about the Earth. Information such as maps of sea surface temperatures snow cover and vegetation will be available through subscription to scientists all over the world.

The system will provide access to scientists from several federal agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the Energy Department the Interior Department the Defense Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The system will include a World Wide Web-based user interface featuring the latest application of Java to allow users to automatically search for browse and order data from eight distributed NASA archive centers located throughout the world.

Dalton said the system does not include any custom hardware or software other than some software "glue" to bind the various COTS products. While the extensive use of COTS products has allowed the team to contain the costs usually associated with customized hardware and software it also has created challenges for the team he said. For example engineers wanted to ensure that some COTS products were insulated from other parts of the system in case a vendor stopped producing the product leaving designers without replacement parts. Therefore the EOSDIS design includes many layers to isolate the commercial products he said.

"The system has to maintain a long-term database. It has to be able to keep up with technology " he said. "It's going to be a living evolutionary system and the requirements are going to evolve with it."

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