Information Technology and Communications Services
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Information Technology and Communications
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US Antarctic Program communications personnel check the equipment that provides the Lake Bonney field camp with internet and phone service communications.

Participant Guidance (FAQs)

Find answers regarding information security training, device screenings, software and hardware requirements, and other information about using technology at the United States Antarctic stations.

IT&C Divisions

Learn about the different divisions that build and maintain the USAP Information Technology and Communications infrastructure.

USAP Mailing Lists

Several list servers are used for disseminating USAP information or providing a forum for list member postings. Find mailing lists and subscription information here.

Station Satellite Schedules

McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the USAP Vessels have limited 24-hour access to satellite communications. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station makes use of a series of satellites to provide a limited daily window of connectivity. learn about the satellites and find schedules for satellite connections here.
Participant Guidance (FAQs)

Click each topic to view additional information.

  • What training is required to connect my computer (laptop or desktop) to the USAP network?

    All participants who need to utilize a computer or device on the USAP network are required to take the USAP Security Awareness Training. You can complete this training at the USAP Online learning Center.

    If you are a new participant, click "Sign Up" on the right side of the screen and follow the instructions to create a new account. The required access code can be found in your deployment packet. If you are unable to locate the access code or are a returning participant and don't recall your username and password, contact the USAP Help Desk at helpdesk@usap.gov.

    If USAP participants are unable to take the online training, they must contact the Denver Help Desk (helpdesk@usap.gov).

  • Does my computer/device need to be screened prior to connecting?

    Yes. The screening process will require technicians to access your computer.   Here are the device screening processes for the various USAP locations:

    McMurdo, South Pole Station, and Christchurch
    Devices should be screened in Christchurch during your deployment. Christchurch USAP staff will provide instructions on where to drop off your computer and when.

    Palmer Station
    Devices will be screened by station IT&C staff once you arrive at Palmer station.

    Vessels (RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer or ARSV Lawrence M. Gould)
    Devices will be screened by vessel IT&C staff either in Punta Arenas or on-board the vessel once you arrive.

  • What does my computer (laptop or desktop) require in order to connect to the USAP network?

    Operating System and Software Patches
    Devices running an operating system (OS) must be running a version supported by the vendor within the last six months of deploying to a USAP site. The OS must include the latest security patches available. Applications running on the system must also be patched when patches are released by the software vendor.

    Anti-Virus
    All computers (desktop, laptop, tablet that are capable) must have antivirus software running at the current version and be configured for auto-updates. Computers must be virus free prior to connecting to the USAP network and maintain the current DAT version as updates are available.  Once connected, the user is expected to maintain their ant-virus software with current data files and to run periodic scans at least weekly.

    Connectivity
    Participants must provide all the equipment necessary to connect the computer system to the USAP network, including the Network Interface Card (NIC), external dongles or attachments used by the NIC, device drivers, etc. All equipment must be in working order.

    Current Requirements for Common Operating Systems:

    **current as of 28 June, 2016

    Microsoft Windows Computers
    Operating System Windows 7, 8 or 10
    Anti-Virus Installed and current within the last week
    Apple Computers
    Operating System Mac OS X 10.10.3
    Anti-Virus Installed and current within the last week
    Linux Computers
    Operating System All variants allowed provided they are currently supported by the vendor and are able to receive timely security patches
    Anti-Virus Installed and current within the last week
    disclaimer NOTE
    At the time of your computer screening, if you determine your OS has recently (within 6 months) gone out of USAP compliance, you may request a 6-month grace period for having an Operating System that meets the above requirements. This grace period is meant to allow for computers to be packed well in advance of deployment and for you to continue using an Operating System on-ice that may have just gone “out of compliance”. Once on ice, your opportunities to download/update your Operating System may be limited or not available. It is recommended you update your Operating System to the latest version possible just prior to deployment if you are concerned.
  • Will my computer fail the screening if I can’t meet the Operating System and Anti-virus requirements?

    Yes.

  • What happens if my computer fails the screening?

    Screening your computer before you leave to the ice is highly recommended. If your computer fails screening while still outside of Antarctica, you can remediate the computer from any internet connection and ask that it be re-screened. If you are already in Antarctica, you may/may not be able to remediate the computer.  If you are on station (or vessel) and your computer has failed, contact your local Help Desk or IT&C staff. They may or may not be able to assist. (Update before you leave to make sure you can connect!!)

    If your computer is unable to be remediated, you will not pass the screening and will not be allowed to connect to the USAP network.

  • Are there any applications that I have on my computer which could cause me to fail a screening?

    Yes. Refer to your Security Awareness Training and the Enterprise Rules of Behavior to learn specifically what is not allowed to be on your computer. Here is a list of some of the more common applications we find that will cause your computer to fail: Active Peer-to-peer (P2P) software, Email server software, Web server software, Network Management servers (DNS, SNMP), Network port scanners or Penetration tools.

  • Will I have internet access at the USAP stations?

    Internet access is limited at each USAP site. The satellite infrastructure used to provide off-continent communications in Antarctica is limited. While mission activities can be supported with prior coordination, participants should have no expectations regarding service for non-mission activities.  For example, using video chat applications such as Skype or FaceTime or social media applications such as Facebook are restricted since they can impact the bandwidth available for science and operational traffic.  Many high-bandwidth/inappropriate sites are blocked or de-prioritized to ensure mission traffic is able to move back and forth.  Below is a summary of internet access at each site.

    McMurdo Station
    McMurdo Station has 24/7 access to the internet over a very small (17Mb) link which is shared by the entire McMurdo community. Mission traffic takes priority over this link. The internet can be accessed 24/7 from McMurdo however most sites respond very slow compared to what you may be used to in the US.

    South Pole Station
    South Pole Station has very limited access to the internet during short windows of satellite time. Internet performance is very slow during satellite windows however, basic email and web-surfing is available.

    Palmer Station
    Palmer Station has 24/7 access to the internet over a very small (3Mb) link which is shared by the entire Palmer community and vessels when they are in port. Mission traffic takes priority over this link. The internet can be accessed 24/7 from Palmer however most sites will respond slow compared to what you may be used to in the US.

    Vessels
    Internet access on the Nathaniel B. Palmer and Lawrence M. Gould is provided wirelessly through the iCafe network. This connection utilizes per-user/per-day quotas which will limit the amount of data that can be passed back and forth to the internet. Additional information can be found by contacting helpdesk@usap.gov

  • Can I connect my mobile device (smartphone or tablet) to the USAP network?

    Each USAP site has a unique policy on mobile devices depending on infrastructure and available off-continent/ship bandwidth:

    McMurdo Station
    Mobile devices are not allowed to connect to the USAP network unless approved by the NSF via the ASC IT&C department. Grantees wishing to connect a mobile device must submit their request and mission justification via the SIP process. Others wishing to connect must provide a mission justification to the McMurdo Help Desk as to why their mobile device is critical and a laptop or other computer cannot fulfill this purpose. There is very limited infrastructure available to support mobile devices at McMurdo; some requests may not be approved simply due to lack of infrastructure support.  If approved, a mobile device user will be limited to no more than to two mission devices connected to the network at any given time.

    South Pole Station
    Mobile devices are not allowed to connect to the South Pole network. There is no infrastructure to support these requests.

    Palmer Station
    Mobile devices are allowed to connect to the Palmer network with proper mission justification. Grantees wishing to connect a mobile device must submit their request and mission justification via the SIP process. All others wishing to connect mobile devices should contact the Palmer IT&C staff once they arrive on site.

    Vessels
    Mobile devices are allowed to connect to the Vessel iCafe network wirelessly. There are no wireless options to connect mobile devices to the ship’s network.

  • I am a USAP Participant or Agency, and would like to bring a new technology to the ice, or request services from the Information Technology and Communications department, how do I notify you of my plans?

    Grantee
    Please include the details of your request in your SIP.

    All USAP Agencies
    Please contact the USAP Help Desk at helpdesk@usap.gov. Depending on the request, the Help Desk will either generate a work order to fulfill it, or lead you through the New Service Request process. Resource availability can limit our ability to implement requests so plan on submitting your requests by April for the following Austral summer season. This allows the USAP to ensure they budget and staff properly for any required resources.

    All Other Participants
    Please contact the USAP Help Desk at helpdesk@usap.gov.

  • What is the New Service Request process?

    Anyone requesting a new IT&C service, or a significant change/addition to an existing one, is required to utilize the USAP IT&C New Service Request process. This process helps the IT&C department ensure they have the resources required to meet your requirements, that the National Science Foundation approves of your request, and that your request meets our IT security requirements.

    To utilize this process, contact the USAP Help Desk at helpdesk@usap.gov and they will walk you through. You will be required to fill out a New Service Request form which outlines your requirements, timeline, and details of the request. USAP IT&C will review the request with you and determine if resources are available to fulfill it. Many new services require budgeted resources so please ensure you submit your request early (April 30 is the deadline for Austral summer requests). 6 months or more in advance of when you need the service is recommended. If you are unsure if you need to use this process, contact the USAP Help Desk and ask.

    Grantees may utilize their normal SIP process for these requests.

  • Where can I get assistance with other USAP IT and Communications questions?

    If you have any further questions, have another FAQ you’d like answered, or suggestions on how we may improve USAP IT&C Service, please contact the USAP Help Desk at helpdesk@usap.gov.

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Curator: Jeffrey Scharf, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Tim Howard, Division of Polar Programs