The IBM ThinkPad 760ED notebook-sized computer will be flown into space forthe first time on NASA's next space shuttle mission, now scheduled for launch on September 25, 1997. This first test flight of the advanced ThinkPad 760 model is designed to evaluate the ability of the notebook computer to withstand the rigors of space flight. The ThinkPads will encounter radiation - which changes the computer's memory; launch and landing vibrations; and affects due to microgravity while in orbit.
During the first part of Atlantis' flight, the two IBM ThinkPad 760EDs will run a program which tests memory for changes throughout the notebook-sized computer's 48 megabytes of memory. The two ThinkPads will also be able to talk with each other using 1553-protocol serial communications adapters. The PC-Card based 1553 adapters will be standard on the International Space Station (ISS). Results of the memory-upset program will be stored on the ThinkPad's large 1.2 gigabyte hard disk drive.
Shortly before Atlantis leaves Mir, one of the IBM ThinkPad 760ED notebook computers will be transferred to the space station as a new Crew On-orbit Support System (COSS) computer. The COSS system allows the Mir astronaut to perform many activities, including voting in the November general elections. The new ThinkPad 760ED will replace one of the older ThinkPad 750C notebook computers which had been trapped in the depressurized Spektr module. The other 760ED computer and the 1553 PC-Cards will be returned to Earth for post-flight analysis.
The IBM ThinkPad 760ED is flying under NASA's Risk Mitigation Experiment (RME) program. RME 1332 was developed to test the computer that has been selected as the standard portable computer for the early International Space Station flights.
The two IBM ThinkPad 760EDs will join nine of the already flight-qualified IBM ThinkPad 755C computers for Atlantis' journey. The older ThinkPad is the present standard notebook computer for the space shuttle under the Payload and General Support Computer (PGSC) program. The PGSC ThinkPads are used for a wide variety of tasks including aiding in rendezvous operations, running small experiments, and displaying video images to the astronauts.
The IBM ThinkPad 760ED will be the fastest notebook computer ever used in space. The 760ED uses an Intel 133MHz Pentium processor. The ThinkPad760ED also includes a 12.1-inch active matrix color LCD, advanced video with MPEG-2 hardware decoding, a full sized keyboard with TrackPoint III pointing device, and many more features. The ThinkPad 760ED's memory can be expanded to 104 megabytes if needed.
NASA recently purchased over 550 IBM ThinkPad 760XD notebook computers to use as the new standard portable computer for the International Space Station program and as the new Space Shuttle PGSC computer. The 760XD uses a 166MHz Pentium MMX microprocessor, a 3.1 gigabyte hard disk driveand a 12.1-inch LCD which is capable of 1024x768 pixel resolution. Many of the results from the test of the ThinkPad 760ED can also be applied to the ThinkPad 760XD.
IBM ThinkPads have been part of NASA?s Space Shuttle program since December 1993 when a ThinkPad 750C was launched on the space shuttle Endeavour. An average of seven ThinkPad notebook computers are launched on every Space Shuttle mission. ThinkPads have also been launched on Russian Soyuz and Proton rockets.
The IBM ThinkPads used by NASA are standard off-the-shelf computers. Only slight modifications are performed for space flight. For the ThinkPad760ED, this work was performed by Lockheed Martin Space Mission Systemsand Services of Houston, Tx. The IBM ThinkPad computers are available from authorized IBM dealers.