NASA builds network mission control

NASA has made progress on an ambitious plan to overhaul its computer architecture and create a single, highly secure system, a top official said.

The space agency has built one of two mission control centers — modeled after those that remotely manage the complex machinery of space flights — to run its network, according to Paul Strassmann, NASA acting chief information officer.

The centers represent a major part of the restructuring — aimed at delivering substantial savings to the agency — that Strassman laid out after he took over as CIO last year.

"They are key to the whole network," he said.

Strassmann wants to get the second center up and running as fast as possible. Both would operate around the clock and ideally would have no more than five minutes of downtime a year. He said funding for the project is proceeding.

Strassmann recently presented his strategy to NASA's senior leaders. "My message," he said, speaking at an AFCEA International chapter luncheon March 19, is "Go network."

"That implies an architecture interoperability. . .[that] lets legacy systems stay," he explained.

One goal of the network is to speed up the process for buying services and then for determining if they work.

The retooling is part of the larger "One NASA" effort under way. The synergistic program marks a departure from a previous culture in which the agency's centers operated decentralized systems.

"Not being one NASA is just too expensive," Strassmann said. "One NASA to me means money. It means less spent on the old plan and more for [the agency's] mission: exploring space."

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