David L. Carter1 1. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 453, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA 20771
The NASA SLR network consists of eight stations. NASA built five trailer-based Mobile Laser Ranging Stations (MOBLAS) and two highly compact Transportable Laser Ranging Systems (TLRS). The University of Hawaii and the University of Texas have operated two high performing Observatory SLR systems at their respective Universities. The University of Texas system has Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) capability. NASA also has partnerships with foreign Government agencies and Universities for the operations and maintenance of MOBLAS systems. Under these partnerships, NASA continues to provide the SLR system, training, engineering support, and spare parts to maintain operations. The host country provides the site, local infrastructure, and the operating crew.
In February 2004, a forty percent decrease in the NASA SLR budget caused major reductions to the NASA SLR Network. The reductions included reduced network infrastructure, operational coverage at the stations, sustaining engineering staff, and data operational support. The MOBLAS-7 (Greenbelt, Maryland), McDonald Laser Ranging System (MLRS) (Fort Davis, Texas), and HOLLAS (Maui, Hawaii) stations were reduced to one shift operations. The NASA operator was removed from MOBLAS-8 site in Tahiti. In addition, the TLRS-3 site in Arequipa, Peru closed in February 2004, and the HOLLAS site in Maui, Hawaii closed in June 2004.
In October 2004, the NASA SLR program experienced a resurgence of energy. Additional funding was provided by NASA Headquarters to re-open the TLRS-3 system in Arequipa, Peru. The TLRS-4 system, which was in caretaker status at Goddard Space Flight Center, was returned to operational status and shipped to Maui to replace the HOLLAS station. Another operational shift was added to the MLRS in Fort Davis, Texas. Additional highlights occurred throughout the NASA SLR network which are listed below.