Agreement Could Bring NASA Backup Mission Control to Bryan

BRYAN, Texas An agreement between a Bryan-based company and NASA could bring a new mission control to Downtown Bryan.

Texas Space Technology Application & Research (TSTAR) signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA on Thursday in downtown Bryan.

The agreement gives TSTAR the green light to assess the downtown Bryan area for a place to build the new mission control. If all goes well, the mission control would serve as a backup to NASA's mission control. NASA would move operations to Downtown Bryan if a hurricane or some other type of disaster required them to leave town.

Paul Hill, Director of Mission Operations for NASA, said it won't be an easy task for TSTAR.

"For us to be able to use it, not only do they have to use our design, but we then have to finally come in and certify that it is exactly like ours," said Hill. "And at that point, they may end up wondering why they wanted to do this, because we will end up having to put them through the ringer."

Hill said TSTAR will have access to mission control experts at NASA.

"They'll be made available to these guys to give them some advice, and show them the designs, make sure they understand the designs of the network and how the software all knits together," said Hill.

TSTAR President, Matt Leonard said the new mission control would get plenty of other use as well.

"Mission control for commercial company space flights. Students come through that want to talk to the space station, that want to talk to the Space X vehicle and those sort of things. We're going to offer that as an educational opportunity," said Leonard.

Leonard said they'd also like to use the center for an emergency operations training center.

"A tsunami in Japan. You would come in and have your team simulate how they would deal with that situation. So we could put them in our control center, run that simulation, and see how that particular group deals with it," said Leonard.

Hill said changes in technology over the past few years have made something like this possible.

"You think about how far IT has come. Think about what you can do with your phone today that you couldn't of even dreamed of just five years ago," said Hill.

Hill said the first floor of the original mission control in Houston was filled with computer equipment. Today, things are a bit different.

"You could stick what you need for the computing system in the corner of a room, and put in half a dozen to a dozen tables with the right computers with the right software coming from that rack, and you would have full capability of mission control," said Hill.

The only working backup mission control NASA has right now is at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Leonard said if all goes as planned, a temporary mission control could be set up in Downtown Bryan by January of 2015. The permanent mission control should be up and running by January of 2016.


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