Motorola (NYSE:MOT) today announced the upcoming launch of the last link in the communication system that assures voice and data commands are transmitted and received between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS). Mission 4A, with a five-member STS-97 crew, is scheduled to lift off in the Space Shuttle Endeavour on Nov. 30. Motorola’s S-Band telemetry and control transponders will be on board.

The Endeavour crew plans to activate the S-Band communication once it is interfaced with the Motorola assembly and contingency baseband signal processor (ACBSP) that was launched Oct. 11, 2000 on Space Shuttle Discovery.
Oron Schmidt, communications and tracking systems manager for NASA, says the Space Station will use the S-Band for low data rate communication to provide an operational data link for commands, telemetry and voice between the Mission Control Center in Houston and the ISS. High data rate capability supplied by Motorola’s advanced communication equipment will be installed on the ISS early next year. This Ku-Band communication system will eventually allow the transfer of scientific data and video from the research conducted on the ISS Laboratory module to Earthbound investigators and science experts participating in NASA’s efforts to advance the growing field of Telescience. “What hasn’t been done in space before is the transmission of High Definition TV (HDTV) images. These pictures will come directly into the High Rate Frame Multiplexer and High Rate Modem provided by Motorola and will be transmitted over Ku-Band link to Earth,” Schmidt said.

According to the Microgravity Research Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., ISS crew members will be able to observe experiments in space. That means it will not be necessary to physically return all research to Earth for analysis before running the next experiment in space.

One future area of research on ISS that will benefit from high rate advanced communication enabled by Motorola could help researchers develop new drugs. An associate director of the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering located at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Marianna Long says the technology is called structure-based drug design which involves a careful study of the protein structure of some diseases’ targets. The molecules of these proteins in a crystal form take on a high-quality, three-dimensional structure in the near-weightlessness of space that has been giving researchers a much better view of the structure of these molecules. “We have been growing high-quality crystals for the study of proteins in space since 1985 on 38 different missions. We are now developing technology that will one day enable science experts on Earth to look at these crystals as they are growing in space to increase their knowledge about the structure of the proteins which could lead to the development of new drugs,” says Dr Long. The center in Birmingham is one of NASA’s 10 Commercial Space Centers run by the Research Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Motorola’s high data rate communication equipment (Ku-Band) equipped with 12 channels for video and payload data, is to be brought up to the Space Station by the STS-102 crew (Flights 5A.1). That mission is scheduled for February of 2001. Schmidt concludes, “Within a year, NASA hopes to fly HDTV cameras on a Space Shuttle to the International Space Station and transmit real time video to Earth.”

Providing the vital communication link for U.S. space missions spanning more than 40 years, Motorola supplies space communications subsystems for near-Earth and deep space missions for government and commercial customers.
Motorola, Inc. (NYSE:MOT) is a global leader in providing integrated communications solutions and embedded electronic solutions. These include software-enhanced wireless telephone, two-way radio, messaging and satellite communications products and systems, as well as networking and Internet-access products, for consumers, network operators, and commercial, government and industrial customers. Sales in 1999 were $33.1 billion.