"Today, we have taken another significant step toward realizing a long-held
dream a fully productive, permanent international research outpost in
orbit," said Art Stephenson, director of the Marshall Center. "From this facility,
we will manage fundamental scientific research that can only be done in space
research that will lead to knowledge to benefit all humanity here on
The new 13,300 square-foot facility is housed in a section of the Huntsville
Operations Support Center, a historic two-story complex that provided engineering
support for Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle launches, as well as Hubble Space
Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory operations. The complex also houses
the Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center from which more than 25 Shuttle-based
science missions were controlled.
The Payload Operations Center will be staffed around the clock by three shifts
of between 13 to 19 flight controllers.
Throughout the life of the Space Station, the operations center will integrate
research requirements, plan its science missions and ensure that they are safely
executed. It will integrate crew and ground team training and research mission
timelines. It will manage use of Space Station payload resources, handle science
communications with the crew, and manage commanding and data transmissions to
and from the orbiting research center.
To communicate with astronauts in orbit, Payload Operations Center flight controllers
will use the call sign "Huntsville." The command center is linked with and integrates
the activities of research control centers and universities in the United States
and throughout the world.
With today's commissioning, the Payload Operation Center stands ready to support
around-the-clock science research aboard the space station, once the new Destiny
laboratory is in place and the Expedition Two crew is launched in March.
"Our team is trained and ready to go," said Jan Davis, former astronaut and
director of Marshall's Flight Projects Directorate the organization that
manages the new Space Station facility. "They bring years of experience supporting
Spacelab missions with them to the console." Now, however, they will be called
upon to routinely manage three to four times the number of experiments as were
conducted aboard Spacelab, and also will be responsible for Station-wide payload
safety, planning, execution and troubleshooting.
The opening comes just days before the Destiny lab is scheduled to be carried
to the Space Station by the Shuttle Atlantis and its five-member crew.
The launch of Atlantis is now set for Feb. 6, at 5:11 p.m. CST. Destiny,
built at Marshall by the Boeing Co., is the first laboratory to be delivered
to the orbiting platform and will mark the beginning of a space science
odyssey for NASA and its international partners.
Take a virtual tour of the science command post and
get more information on the new Payload Operations