Press Release

Frequently Asked Questions about the Y2K Rollover and NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
December 31, 1999
Filed under

Note: An HTML version of this FAQ is online at:

Frequently Asked Questions about the Y2K Rollover and NASA

Q: How will NASA be affected by the Y2K rollover?

A: Having worked on the problem for more than 3 years, NASA personnel, led by the
Agency’s Chief Information Officer, believe that the Agency is prepared for Y2K. While there
are never any guarantees with something unprecedented like Y2K, NASA remains confident
that the probability of a Y2K-related failure of NASA-controlled assets and systems is very

Q: What has been done to make sure that NASA is ready?

A: Meeting the Government-wide goals for Y2K work has required the most extensive “top
down” and “bottom up” review of the Agency1s information technology assets supporting
missions, systems, and common infrastructure and facilities undertaken to date. No
significant Agency asset has been untouched — we have tested and remediated (where
necessary) our ground control systems, flight hardware and software supporting human and
robotic programs, mission operations support systems, common infrastructure systems, and
institutional systems. The results of this extensive Agency-wide effort is evidenced by the

— Repaired, replaced or retired 158 mission-critical systems and 350 non-mission-critical
systems, representing thousands of complex hardware and software modules and
components (including ground control systems, flight hardware and software, mission
operations support, institutional systems).

— Validated over 6,000 commercial products used on the Agency1s supercomputing,
mainframe, midrange, desktop and network assets.

— Tested over 52,000 workstations and servers.

— Tested in-flight system software and hardware for NASA1s wide range of spacecraft,
satellites, instruments, and aircraft.

— Tested NASA1s unique research and development infrastructure–hundreds of simulators
including wind tunnels, testbeds, computational facilities, and propulsion and flight-test

Throughout 1999, we have been conducting mission-specific end-to-end tests to
demonstrate Y2K readiness. End-to-end tests have been conducted for the International
Space Station and for NASA1s command, tracking, telemetry, and data services supporting
all satellites and spacecraft. The Space Shuttle vehicles and supporting systems have been
tested and certified compliant. Space Shuttle Discovery, currently on mission STS-103 to
service the Hubble Space Telescope, will be landed and safed before the Y2K transition.
Major missions supporting the Space and Earth Science Enterprises also conducted end-to-
end tests throughout the summer to demonstrate Y2K readiness. We have also prepared
plans that address operating contingencies for our missions, programs, and systems to
ensure we are prepared for a Y2K-related failure of internal assets or national infrastructure.
Our plans build on existing and proven flight rules, operations, disaster recovery, and
contingency procedures.

Q. How will NASA handle the actual rollover?

A: A Y2K team, built around standing Emergency Management Teams, will monitor
operating systems at each NASA center. Each center team will report to the NASA CIO,
who will be stationed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Prior to the rollover, we will backup critical data and ensure that adequate storage exists
to save data that may not be able to be processed in the event a Y2K problem is
encountered. For the most part, missions will be put in a quiescent state, and we will
minimize data gathering or scheduled operations activities. New orbital parameters may be
uploaded just prior to the rollover to allow the mission to proceed with minimal ground
contact during the first few days or hours of 2000.

Q: How would NASA respond to a Y2K emergency that it cannot control, such as a
regional power failure?

A: Each NASA Center has developed Y2K business continuity plans for NASA operating
missions and supporting infrastructure. NASA1s critical ground systems currently include
provisions to mitigate the impact of short-term failures of the commercial power and
telecommunications infrastructure which occur during day-to-day operations. Independent
power sources such as batteries and generators exist to support continuing operations in
the event of a commercial power failure. Diverse routing of communications traffic within our
primary commercial telecommunications service provider and the capability to route data
across other commercial telecommunications service providers exists to support continuing
operations in the event of a commercial telecommunications failure. NASA plans have been
used in actual utility outage conditions, systems failures, and recoveries. We know these
plans work and believe that these contingencies will work during the Y2K rollover.

Q: Will satellites on orbit be affected by Y2K?

A: No. Satellite timers do not keep track of calendar dates, so there are no date-dependent
elements provided in most satellite or spacecraft hardware. However, NASA satellites do
have many time-related functions in onboard flight software. These time related functions
are necessary for many operational activities and include ephemeris processing, processing
of stored commands, and other scheduled processes. The format of time used by flight
software is not stored or processed as a calendar date, with days or years. Instead, onboard
satellite times are kept via counters that begin to accrue time starting with a given event or
epoch and are thus unaware of calendar perturbations. As the satellite data is received at
the ground station via telemetry and processed by the ground systems, the relation between
the onboard time and the “wall-clock” time is established. NASA has assessed and tested or
validated that all flight software and hardware is Y2K compliant. As expected, no changes to
flight software or hardware have been required.

Q: What tests has NASA conducted on its ground control and tracking systems for its

A: While the testing details vary from mission to mission, testing involves setting the clock
forward and rolling through the millennium roll-over and other key Y2K dates. For those
missions to be launched in the latter part of 2000, Y2K compliance tests will be incorporated
as a natural part of routine integration and acceptance testing. For example, NASA
conducted an end-to-end test of the Space Science/Deep Space Network test. For this test,
we advanced the clocks to February 25, 2000, and tested the data flows from the Cassini
spacecraft (a mission to explore Saturn) to the Deep Space Network-Goldstone Deep
Space tracking station, through the Cassini test bed, and finally to two participating Cassini
Principal Investigators. The Principal Investigators were at remote sites in Baltimore,
Maryland, and the United Kingdom. The test accomplished all of its objectives and instilled
confidence that NASA will not experience Y2K anomalies in tracking planetary spacecraft in
the year 2000 and beyond.

Q: What rollover times is NASA tracking?

        Midnight,  Dec. 31, 1999
Location local time converted to EST
Canberra, Australia (satellite tracking) 8 a.m.
Guam (satellite tracking) 9 a.m.
Moscow, Russia (International Space Station) 4 p.m.
Madrid (satellite tracking) 6 p.m.
Greenwich Mean Time 7 p.m.
Central Standard Time 1 a.m., Jan. 1, 2000
Pacific Standard Time 3 a.m., Jan. 1, 2000

Q: How long has NASA been working on Y2K?

A: The Agency first started formulating plans to address the problem in August 1996.

Q: How much money has NASA spent on Y2K compliance?

A: From 1996, through the early part of 2000, NASA expects to spend $60 million to $70
million addressing Y2K issues.

Q: Who oversees the NASA effort?

A: Lee Holcomb, the Agency’s Chief Information Officer, oversees all NASA’s efforts.
Andrea Norris of NASA Headquarters is the Agency’s Y2K Program Manager. Each NASA
Center has a Center CIO and Center Y2K manager who are responsible for the Center’s

Q: How many people have worked on Y2K for NASA? How many people will be onsite
during the transition?

A: Literally thousands of NASA employees and contractors have been addressing Y2K
issues. During the transition NASA will have its usual complement of 24-hour staff onsite,
plus an additional 100 to 150 people onsite across the agency. Several hundred more will
be on call to address any problems.

Q: How will the rollover affect the International Space Station?

A: The spacecraft itself will not be affected by the rollover. On the ground, the ISS Mission
Control Center in Moscow will remain fully operational during the entire transition. The U.S.
Mission Control Center in Houston will remain operational during the 4 p.m. EST rollover.
After that data links between Moscow and Houston will be disabled. Voice links will remain
operational. MCC-Houston will be taken to a non-operational state shortly after DMT
rollover, provided all ISS systems remain operating nominally. The systems
will remain non-operational until CST rollover. Restoration of full control
center capability is expected after approximately two (2) hours, or at 3 a.m. EST.

Dec. 10, 1999

Prepared by PM/Brian Dunbar

Approved by AO/Lee Holcomb, AO/Andrea Norris

SpaceRef staff editor.