NASA upgrades deep space network support

The National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA) is implementing new software to manage the maintenance and logistic support for its Canberra-based Deep Space Network (DSN) operation.

DSN is the world's largest and most sensitive telecommunications system and consists of three DSN complexes positioned 120 degrees apart across the globe to ensure uninterrupted transmissions between spacecraft and mission directors.

NASA is implementing MRO Software's Maximo at its three global sites in Canberra, the US and Spain to manage all plant and equipment.

At the Canberra facility the software will manage maintenance support for six antennas, the biggest of which is 70 metres wide and has a replacement cost of more than $US100 million.

Established in 1958, DSN is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe.

It also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions and spans the world to keep in constant touch with spacecraft. Maximo implementation task manager from BAE Systems, John Weenink, who is based in Canberra, said the software was selected for implementation flexibility, database replication and Windows interface.

"We've been running [Maximo] for about 15 to 18 months - and we are continuing to expand and implement new parts, which we will continue to do for quite some time," he said.

Weenink said it is difficult to implement a system when its usage is continuous with staff working around the clock constantly using the antennas to communicate with spacecraft.

The first stage of the project was job scheduling; the next phase focused on the integration of purchasing and management of stores items of which there are some 200,000. Other functions to be integrated include time recording and costing.

At present, the Canberra, Spain and California sites are linked operationally, and DSN is working on linking Maximo usage across all three locations.

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