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The International Space Station (ISS) creates a permanent orbiting science institute in space, capable of conducting long-term experiments in materials and life sciences. Work on the station is currently in the pre-assembly stage, and the vital electronic power systems are in development at Boeing North American's operation in Canoga Park, CA. It is in this facility that storage management plays a vital role. The record management advisor on the ISS project, Ashok Kohli, has set an ambitious goal. Says Kohli: "The goal of our data storage implementation is to retrieve any program data at a moment's notice."

The ISS electrical system design has generated a staggering diversity in the data to be stored and retrieved. Text documents, drawings, photographs, audio-visuals, 3D models and computer records are all used in the design process, and all of this data must be fully indexed. Since the station is a permanent installation, one of the crucial storage applications is to track the hundreds of vendors and thousands of parts and sub-assemblies. It is necessary, in case of component failure, to rapidly deploy extensively indexed information to handle failure situations.

If any data storage is mission critical, it is the storage revolving around a permanent space habitat. Astronauts and ground support, during a mission, must be able to find and load the history of a problem component or assembly without delay. More than mission critical, it is life critical: Americans have not forgotten the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger or the near-miss of Apollo 13.

There were better than eight million records to store and manage. Already, over two million pages have been scanned, indexed and stored. Well over five million records are in backlog. This represents roughly 200 GBs for electrical system design alone. Says Kohli: "Right now, we have about 100 boxes from suppliers, with 5000 documents per box."

Kohli's records management team is scanning text, graphics and accomplishing the vital indexing. The images are stored on recordable compact disk in an NT environment. CD-R technology was used for specific reasons. Kohli notes: "First, the technology is transportable. Secondly, the data can, practically speaking, be accessed even when the overall system is down. Finally, costs had to be considered." CD-R also contributed to computing independence, since data for this project is managed by a dedicated data management team, not the IT operation.

On the hardware side, Kohli selected two NSM series CD\DVD libraries and a CD Tower from Meridian Data (Scotts Valley, CA). The libraries provided accurate disc mastering while supporting multi-user read access.

The Boeing team is moving data from warehouses, tapes, hard disk and microfilm all onto CD/DVD technology. In this effort, the team acts independently of MIS; Boeing's Kohli points out that IT's role is decreasing in storage. By focusing the data management efforts into a workgroup, and by content-based data handling, the Boeing operation experienced significant cost and time-savings. The team additionally meets the ISS program objective for fast access to all data. This approach to storage management reinforces the fact that issues of mass storage are certainly as important as any other computing effort, and in some cases can be life-critical.

Other aerospace and aviation facilities include: Lockheed Martin and Jet Propulsion Laboratories.


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