Volume 14, Number 3, September 1998
By George Fleming
Over the last several years NSSDC has kept copies of its NSSDC-held tapes at Goddard's Tape Staging and Storage Facility (TSSF). These tapes are in addition to other tapes held off site at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. This article reports the closing of the TSSF and the disposition of NSSDC's tapes from there.
TSSF has provided storage space for tapes (and occasionally photo products) for the Goddard community since the early 1970s. Originally on site in Building 16, later facilities were just east of Goddard; then in Landover, Maryland, beginning in 1982; and lastly at Goddard Corporate Park (GCP) about a mile east of campus, starting in 1993.
With the removal of the last SpeedRacks, shelving, and pallets of boxes, an era has ended with the closing of the TSSF on September 30, 1998. No longer will TSSF services be provided by NASA-owned or NASA-dedicated facilities; the "Long Johns" used to move small, standard-sized boxes now stand empty and unused at GCP. The NSSDC near the end had 19,724 "units" (mostly 9-track and 3480 tapes) stored there. Most of these NSSDC tapes (and the tapes of other organizations) have been sent to a storage facility operated by Iron Mountain, Inc. (http://www.ironmountain.com/index.htm), while some racks have been salvaged for use by NSSDC. The arrangement of using Iron Mountain's facility will reduce TSSF costs dramatically as the cubic volume required for storage of data has been dropping monotonically for some years. Goddard will, through the use of the Tape Accounting System (TAS), keep track of approximately 100,000 units now "active"; over 2,000,000 tapes have been in TAS at one time or another.
TSSF had 30,000 square feet of space in a room with a clearance of 22 feet dedicated to storing up to 600,000 9-track and analog tapes; at one time this many tapes were, indeed, stored at TSSF.
TSSF has also had its turn in the spotlight. For instance, in 1996 TSSF was used as a backdrop for filming part of the documentary Into the Future. In 1990 the GAO investigated storage conditions at the TSSF along with those at NSSDC and other NASA facilities. TSSF was challenged to prove that its tapes were readable. Using GAO's standards on a data set selected by GAO, all tapes passed; indeed, 99.9969 per cent of all data was recovered, much from tapes many years old.
NSSDC's tapes moved to Iron Mountain will gradually be called back. They will be released as their contents are migrated to new higher density media.