The command and control center for scientific research
aboard the International Space Station is open for business.
The science command post linking Earth-bound researchers with
their experiments and astronauts in orbit was commissioned
today during ceremonies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
in Huntsville, AL.

The Payload Operations Center (POC) will provide the heartbeat
for space station science operations, the most ambitious
research endeavor ever undertaken in space.

“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, Marshall Space Flight 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 earth.”

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

The POC will be staffed around the clock by three shifts of 13
to 19 flight controllers.

Throughout the life of the space station, the operations
center will integrate research requirements and plan the
station’s science missions and ensure 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, POC 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 U.S. and
throughout the world.

With today’s commissioning, the POC 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 their consoles.” Now, however,
they will be called upon to routinely manage three-to-four
times the number of experiments conducted aboard Spacelab, and
also to 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 Shuttle
Atlantis and its five-member crew. The launch of Atlantis is
now set for Feb. 7, at 6:11 p.m. EST. Destiny, built at
Marshall by The Boeing Co., is the first laboratory to be
delivered to the orbiting platform, and its arrival will mark
the beginning of a space science odyssey for NASA and its
international partners.

More information on the POC is available on the Internet at: