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NASA's Simulated Mars Mission Uses ShoreTel IP PBX for Voice Communications

ShoreTel's Voice System Exceeds Expectations with its Easy Deployment, Transparent Usability, Flexibility and Reliability
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SUNNYVALE, CA, January 26, 2004 - Voice communication is essential to any manned exploration of Mars, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has already completed a successful test involving IP telephony. A distributed IP PBX from ShoreTel, the specialist in enterprise IP voice systems, provided the infrastructure linking the Utah desert test site with NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. and NASA Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Watching the Mars rover Spirit explore the Red Planet is incredibly exciting, but a manned mission will require voice communication," said Tom van Overbeek, ShoreTel president and CEO. "While an actual manned flight is years away, today's IP voice technology gave a very good accounting of itself in the recent Mars Mobile Agents test."

The Mobile Agents project conducts field simulations of planetary exploration to develop operational concepts, software and technology that can be used for future missions, including manned trips to Mars. In the recent Mars Mobile Agents pilot, the voice system was used to call for emergency service, to provision replacements for faulty equipment, to troubleshoot problems, and for general day-to-day communications with the NASA home offices. Cell phone coverage is non-existent at the remote desert test site, so NASA needed a voice system that could use less-than-optimal data links.

"Only the ShoreTel system met all of NASA's requirements," said Scott Strochak, president and CEO of Xtelesis, the ShoreTel channel partner that worked with NASA to select and implement the voice solution. "ShoreTel exceeded expectations, and the test was a great success."

The test site was one of the desert and arctic habitat facilities maintained by the Mars Society—a private international organization dedicated to the exploration of the Red Planet—to simulate harsh conditions on such remote planetary surfaces. Any voice system used by NASA in the Mars Mobile Agents pilot faced a number of challenges, including:

  • The system had to be deployed in a very short time by a staff with no special telephony or VoIP expertise.
  • The configuration of the voice network was very unusual and highly distributed, with the server at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, the interface to the telecommunications service provider at the Ohio facility, and phone extensions at the Utah test site.
  • The IP voice traffic had to run over a satellite link and short-haul microwave connections powered by generators.
  • The voice system needed to leverage traditional handsets and interoperate with borrowed equipment.

Strochak said installing and configuring ShoreTel's software and hardware across the three locations was quite simple. The equipment deployed in the field was rugged and non-intrusive, and transparently easy to use. NASA has purchased the ShoreTel voice system and incorporated it into a transportable earth station that carries scientific instruments into the simulated planetary environments.

About ShoreTel, Inc.

ShoreTel, Inc. is the specialist in enterprise IP voice systems. Thousands of enthusiastic users worldwide are taking advantage of the company's award-winning distributed IP PBX technology, leveraging expertise and resources across multiple sites to improve customer service, increase employee productivity and lower operational costs. ShoreTel has a select group of global channel partners that provide top-notch service and support. For more information, visit http://www.shoretel.com or call 1-877-80SHORE