NEWSBRIEFS APL's largest research spacecraft readied for November launch The largest spacecraft ever built at the Applied Physics Laboratory was transported to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center June 22 for testing and launch preparation. The Midcourse Space Experiment will be launched and operated by the APL for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. An observatory-class spacecraft, MSX will perform research on space-based tracking of ballistic missiles as well as research involving global change, astronomy and space debris. The spacecraft is expected to undergo three months of testing at Goddard and is scheduled for a November lift-off aboard a Delta II booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Computer communications system lets scientists share medical data A new computer communications system is helping Hopkins scientists rapidly collect medical images from other institutions to build a data base of normal and abnormal growth in children's skulls. The technology, called an Asynchronous Transfer Mode switch, eventually will enable prediction of the long-term outcome of surgery performed to reconstruct abnormal skulls. The technology is now carrying computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging data from the University of Maryland's medical school to a computer data base at Hopkins. The ability of ATM to transfer large amounts of voice, image and other data virtually simultaneously among many computers in different institutions will be used eventually to speed research in many areas, said Carey Kriz, co-director of the Center for Information-enhanced Medicine. The center was recently established as a cooperative venture with the Institute of Systems Sciences of the National University of Singapore. The data base is being compiled by Hopkins researcher Joan T. Richtsmeier, associate producer of cell biology, anatomy and plastic surgery. Dr. Richtsmeier is studying how specific landmarks on children's skulls change position during growth. "The immediate benefit of ATM is that physicians in different institutions will be able to study the same radiological images simultaneously during a consultation," Dr. Richtsmeier said. "Over the long term, the technology will enable us to accumulate a data base of images very rapidly and store them for easy access for research on normal and abnormal skull growth." The ATM system was developed by the Massachusetts-based Lightstream Corp., which donated the equipment to Hopkins.
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