Space Communications:

Performance of NASA's White Sands Ground Terminal

IMTEC-90-56: Published: May 29, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about the performance and reliability of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) White Sands ground terminal, the main ground component of the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

GAO found that: (1) NASA assessed the White Sands terminal's performance in terms of how the terminal met user data transmission needs; (2) since NASA began TDRSS operations in 1983, it has provided service to various spacecraft; (3) NASA sponsored a 5-year terminal enhancement project, costing about $34 million, to solve system design, tracking, operations, and testing problems; (4) since 1986, NASA has exceeded its goal of 95 percent user support proficiency, and on average, has delivered telecommunication services to users about 99 percent of the time; (5) TDRSS users were generally satisfied with the services they received from NASA; (6) the NASA user support proficiency measure did not address the terminal's reliability or availability; (7) NASA expects terminal use to increase significantly over the next several years; (8) in June 1989, demand for high-data-rate telecommunications services was about 13 percent of available TDRSS capacity, and NASA expected it to increase to about 42 percent in 1993; (9) since NASA did not have available and reliable data, it could not assess the terminal's performance or reliability; and (10) NASA plans to replace the White Sands terminal in 1993 and upgrade the old terminal, at an estimated cost of $427 million.

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