Construction Set to Begin on Primary IT&C Facility in McMurdo

IT&C Primary Operations Facility to be Built by Leidos Subsidiary Antarctic Support Contract (ASC)

The National Science Foundation has authorized Reston, Va.- based Leidos Corp., its prime Antarctic contractor, to begin construction on a new facility that will house upgraded and centralized network operations and telecommunications at McMurdo Station, the nation’s flagship research complex on the southernmost continent.

Artists rendering of new ITC facility building in McMurdo
Ferraro Choi

The Information Technology and Communications (IT&C) Primary Operations facility will be built by Leidos’ Colorado-based subsidiary Antarctic Support Contract (ASC).

The project is an initial step toward a planned overall rebuilding of McMurdo Station.

When completed, the new IT&C facility will not only benefit Antarctic research carried out by the NSF-managed United States Antarctic Program (USAP), but by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which also support Antarctic science.

“This is an important step in modernizing McMurdo Station, and I am excited to see it moving forward,” said Stephanie Short, who heads the Antarctic Infrastructure & Logistics section in NSF’s Office of Polar Programs.

In accordance with a presidential mandate dating to the 1980s, NSF is responsible for operating and maintaining McMurdo and the nation’s two other year-round Antarctic research stations; numerous seasonal field camps; and two research vessels. Through the USAP, NSF also coordinates and supports all U.S. Antarctic research, including projects supported by other federal agencies.

The two-story, 11,000-square-foot addition to the McMurdo’s existing Science Support Center will house the network-operations and data centers for the station, consisting of data servers, communication electronics, and other associated equipment. The construction, which will begin in February of 2019, will span two Southern Hemisphere, or “austral” summers, and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

The IT&C construction marks the beginning of a sustained USAP recapitalization program.

It will also pave the way for the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science (AIMS) project, which will ensure that McMurdo remains a viable platform for supporting world-class Antarctic science in the coming decades. AIMS will replace obsolescent buildings, some of which date the late 1950’s, and consolidate most station operations—from warehousing to dormitories and research-support and scientific laboratories--into an energy efficient, centralized facility, with a much smaller physical footprint.

The building that currently that houses McMurdo’s data centers is located within the footprint of a planned new core operations building that will be designed and constructed as part of AIMS.

McMurdo, the Antarctic Program’s logistics hub and a primary gateway to the continent for researchers, is the largest research facility on the southernmost continent. But since it was established more than sixty years ago, it has grown organically with little overarching planning and many of the structures still in use today on the sprawling campus are well beyond their design life.

In 2011, an independent, external review of the Antarctic Program determined that McMurdo requires sweeping upgrades to achieve more cost- and energy efficient and logistically streamlined operations. The review panel’s findings were published in the report More and Better Science in Antarctica through Increased Logistical Effectiveness. The new IT&C Primary Operations Facility was designed in response to these findings.