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OPP 10-001 December 2009

Construction Highlights, 2009-2010

  1. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  NSF will spend about $18.5 million in ARRA funds for infrastructure improvements to save energy and create jobs, as well as for major transportation and safety initiatives.  About $7.5 million, will purchase new equipment for the South Pole traverse, an overland tractor train that transports fuel and supplies on a snow-compacted route between the McMurdo and South Pole stations — a distance of about 1,000 miles.  The traverse, accomplished by a 10-person team, uses Case and Caterpillar tractors to pull specially designed sleds loaded with fuel, along with other cargo and a sleeping/cooking module.  This method saves fuel and the associated carbon footprint over using ski-equipped C-130 airplanes flown by the New York Air National Guard. One roundtrip swing by the South Pole Traverse saves about 32 LC-130 flights.

    Three million dollars will be used to purchase equipment somewhat similar to the South Pole traverse, but with the intent of supporting a major scientific campaign in the coming years, with modules for labs, ice-core drilling, and other scientific equipment.

    Another $3 million will pay for a new McMurdo Station heat-trace system, an electrical system that carries heat along the length of a plumbing system to keep the water from freezing in the pipes — an obvious concern in Antarctica.  In the current system, there is no way to regulate the temperature, so it remains on all the time. The new system will be thermostatically controlled along six miles of pipeline.

    Finally, $5 million will be invested in new airfield vehicles ($3.3 million) for transporting cargo and people, and emergency vehicles and fire suppression equipment ($1.7 million), including two ambulances.

  2. McMurdo Power and Water Plant Upgrade. The current McMurdo Power Plant was completed and brought on line in 1982 with equipment that was specified in the 1970’s design of the new facility.  The facility is presently the only centralized power generation plant for McMurdo Station with emergency power provided by distributed units.  The distributed units are not capable of providing power to all facilities. Therefore, any significant failure in the present power plant could require shutting down a portion of the station. 

    The plant upgrades will add redundancy to the power and the water systems by placing both power generation and water production in each of the water and the power plants, eliminating the single point of failure scenario for both systems without increasing the footprint on the station.  The use of more efficient engines and the addition of heat recovery from both the engine jacket and exhaust gases will decrease the fuel required to operate the station.

    Phase II of Power Plant construction began in the austral summer of FY08 with final acceptance scheduled for January 2010.

  3. McMurdo Fuel Storage Upgrade. This project, which will provide $5.0 million to complete the construction of two two-million gallon fuel tanks, is part of the effort to double the fuel storage capacity at McMurdo Station to mitigate against a failed ship-borne resupply. This funding will complete the line piping and upgrades required to connect existing tanks and to bring the infrastructure into compliance with the USAP Spill Control and Countermeasures Plan. Because of recent and planned energy and fuel conservation initiatives, an assessment will be done to determine how many additional tanks will be required to support the strategic resupply initiative. It may be possible to reduce the number of tanks from the five that were initially thought to be needed.

  4. U.S.-New Zealand Wind Power Project.  USAP and Antarctic New Zealand are collaborating on the construction of Antarctica’s first wind farm with three 330-kilowatt wind turbines on Crater Hill, which overlooks New Zealand’s Scott Base. The project, started in November 2008, will cut fuel consumption by about 463,000 liters per year (an 11% savings).  Electricity from the turbines will feed into the McMurdo distribution system.  To meet part of the combined McMurdo-Scott Base, annual 1.7-megawatt demand for electricity, the electricity will be distributed to Scott Base and then to McMurdo.  The wind-generated electricity will meet 15% of McMurdo’s annual demand and about 87% of the smaller Scott Base demand.  The wind farm is expected to be operational in February 2010.  Antarctica New Zealand, the lead for the $10-million (New Zealand dollars) project, will cover the largest part of the costs as an enhanced contribution to the shared logistics pool with USAP, which transport most of the fuel, people, and materials for the two programs.

  5. South Pole Station Modernization Project.  Major construction and renovation have replaced the 30-year-old South Pole Station’s central facilities, which exceeded their design life and could not meet projected science demands. Construction of the Logistics Facility was completed and the facility will be occupied in FY09.  The new station was formally dedicated in January 2008. 

    During the 2009-2010 austral summer, the Geodesic Dome will be deconstructed and removed from Antarctica. 

  6. National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Receptors, 60/20 Mb/s Communications.  The second field component of the NSF-NPOESS collaboration to install NPOESS satellite weather-data-receptor earth stations will begin during the 2009-2010 austral summer at McMurdo Station.  This second phase continues the upgrade of McMurdo broadband satellite communications from 10 Mb/s to 60 Mb/s outbound and 20 Mb/s inbound.  This will be accomplished by NPOESS and NSF-funded upgrades to the NSF-owned, 11-meter satellite earth station antenna located at the Black Island Telecommunications Facility (BITF).  The location of Black Island, approximately 22 miles south of McMurdo Station, allows unobstructed view to the low elevations of geosynchronous communications satellites.  The BITF supports the current operational satellite earth station (7.2-meter antenna, providing the current 10 Mb/s service on a provisional basis) and the permanent earth station (11-meter antenna, presently undergoing refurbishment).  The refurbished earth station will operate at Ku-Band identical to the current provisional service and will initiate a new shared satellite communications service obtained via a NPOESS service contract on the OPTUS D1 satellite.   This shared service will support NPOESS mission requirements, NASA requirements for its satellite tracking activity in McMurdo, and NSF.   Provisional service (NSF only) at 10 Mb/s will continue during 2010 on the 7.2-meter antenna while the 11-meter antenna is tested and certified at the higher data rates and while NPOESS tests network traffic management equipment.  A third phase during the 2010-2011 austral summer will conclude the communications upgrade by permanently shifting McMurdo communications from the 7.2-meter system to the 11-meter system and de-activating the 7.2-meter system.  The resulting final configuration will provide NSF with a dedicated 10 Mb/s outbound and 19 Mb/s inbound services, with the remainder of the bandwidth managed by NPOESS for NPOESS receptor service and NASA ground-station service.  In addition to the communications work, foundation installation for one of the two NPOESS receptors will be completed in preparation for an early-opportunity for receptor earth station installation in the 2010-2011 austral summer. 

  7. NASA McMurdo Ground Station Depot Level Maintenance Site Survey.   As part of the on-going host-tenant support for the NASA McMurdo Ground Station, NSF will host a site survey team that will inspect the current 10-meter McMurdo Ground Station antenna system (to be renamed "MG1") for detailed logistical planning in preparation for a major depot level maintenance activity scheduled by NASA for the 2010-2011 austral summer.  NASA must execute major preventative maintenance repairs of the motorized antenna tracking pedestal that will require opening the radome protecting the antenna, removing the 10-meter dish reflector, and replacing a major portion of the motorized pedestal.  Detailed site planning is required this austral summer to plan the details and validate the feasibility for radome work, antenna dish stowage while dismounted, heavy equipment (e.g., lattice boom crane) lift plans.

  8. NASA Antarctic Interactive Launch Support System (NAILS) Preventative Maintenance and Upgrade Survey.  The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center program office supporting the NOAA polar operational environmental satellites (POES) maintains a small S-Band telemetry/command system at McMurdo used for engineering support to NOAA for POE’s satellite operations.  A technical team from NASA will deploy during the 2009-2010 austral summer to perform routine preventative and corrective maintenance and will conduct a survey for requirements and feasibility to upgrade the existing system to L-Band receive to process POE’s satellite telemetry data.  NASA anticipates future support to NOAA to assist in satellite health monitoring and to facilitate rapid-response protective countermeasures to protect the U.S.'s current operational weather satellites from an ever increasing threat of damage from space debris. 

  9. Satellite Communications Engineering Assessment for South Pole Station.  In support of NSF, Spawar Systems Center Charleston and its contractor LJT & Associates will deploy an engineering team to South Pole Station during January 2010 to conduct transmission/reception tests to a potentially new satellite communications resource for South Pole Station that is marketed via Intelsat.  The Skynet-4C satellite has the potential to provide broadband communications suitable for high quality Internet service throughout the upcoming decade, with daily service duration increasing with each passing year.  An important component of the field team's work is to conduct a site survey for potential earth station locations.  Results of the survey will be used for systems engineering planning for implementing service in either the 2010-2011 or 2011-2012 season.