NASA Space Launch System

NASA is developing the most advanced man-rated rocket and spacecraft to enable human exploration farther into space than we have ever traveled before

The Space Launch System (SLS) is the American heavy lift launch vehicle and is part of NASA‘s deep space exploration plans.  The SLS rocket will carry astronauts and cargo aboard NASA’s spacecraft to the Moon and to other intermediary locations in space, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to other planetary and interplanetary destinations, including Mars, and deeper into space.

Boeing Aerospace manages the prime contract for the design of the SLS Core Stage (CS), the Enhanced Upper Stage (EUS), and integration of the overall vehicle.  Geocent has supported Boeing/NASA since the beginning of this program and has been rated as a Gold or Silver supplier every quarter/year and has twice received Boeing’s Supplier Advocacy Award.

The Challenge

The challenge of deep space exploration is unlike any challenge in human history.  Not only must the systems carry humans and equipment beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), something not accomplished since the Apollo missions, they must support lunar decent and ascent, potential permanent lunar habitation, a deep-space gateway, a radiation-shielded vehicle to carry humans on the long journey to and from Mars, and both decent and ascent from the Martian surface.   No such scientific and engineering operation has ever been undertaken in human history. Additionally, challenges to the physical and mental health of the astronauts will be of paramount concern for long duration space flight.

The Solution

Geocent placed highly skilled professionals and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) throughout Boeing Huntsville and the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) to support Boeing in the design, analysis, manufacture, testing and certification of the SLS Core Stage (CS) and Enhanced Upper Stage (EUS). Specific areas of expertise are listed below.

Tooling Engineering

Geocent was instrumental in successfully completing design, analysis, and documentation of assembly tools and weld fixtures for SLS cryogenic tanks. Geocent’s reverse engineering of existing facilities and development of factory 3D models led to optimized production flow and early identification of potential equipment interferences.  Geocent Engineers are ensuring that the MAF manufacturing areas are ready for production.

Systems Engineering

Geocent is performing systems engineering life cycle processes to ensure successful integration of SLS hardware design. Geocent has been instrumental in providing cost effective solutions through risk and opportunity management, effective definition of requirements and interfaces, and providing horizontal integration across the SLS Core Stage Integrated Product teams.

 

Thermal Protection System (TPS) Engineering

Geocent Engineers generated requirements for spray on and pour application of TPS, including surface preparation, cleaning, and priming. Geocent played a key role in the qualification of new TPS formulation and processes.  When needed, Geocent performed Root Cause/Corrective Action analyses for failure of TPS materials and processes and provided recommendations for emerging technologies for application enhancements.

Project Management

Geocent performs SLS Core Stage planning, budget, contract, and supplier/systems/program management functions required to procure and produce hardware and components in compliance with program schedules and render them operational.  Geocent also provides life cycle support to the SLS Core Stage major flight structures, sub-components, assembly fixtures, friction weld towers, and production support equipment. Geocent Production Area Managers coordinate with Engineering Disciplines to resolve production issues, implement schedule modifications, perform corrective action analysis and trending, and drive production efficiency and safety.

Propulsion Engineering

Geocent continues to support SLS CS propulsion system design, analyses and testing skills to deliver products in areas such as components, subsystems, and systems for liquid (cryogenic, storable, monopropellant, bipropellant, and dual mode), gas, solid, and advanced propulsion systems. In addition, Geocent has developed Acceptance Test Procedures (ATPs) for the SLS cryogenic propulsion systems, pneumatic systems and hydraulic systems. Geocent supports thrust vector control design, integration, manufacturing and test requirements, data, functions, interfaces and other options. Propulsion Engineering includes providing leadership and management of Tiger Teams to assess and mitigate structural concerns of heritage Shuttle hardware for use on SLS. Another key function is to document, present and receive NASA SLS Program Manager’s Deviation Approval Requests (DARs) for Core Auxiliary Power Unit (CAPU) hardware.

Design Engineering

Geocent continues to lead the development, design and maintenance of mechanical/structural engineering product data and 3D models for the SLS Program.  Geocent Engineers oversee, coordinate and integrate product definition data, requirements and parameters with other disciplines and external business partners to provide a functional end product. Geocent has been instrumental in performing risk analysis and process flow simulations utilizing mathematical and process modeling. Geocent provides definition and modification of existing designs, address and resolve risks and issues to the master production schedule, and develops and analyzes rocket propulsion design, integration and test requirements/data.

Logistics Engineering

Geocent Logistics Engineers/Analysts perform analyses necessary to ensure that SLS hardware and associated support and production equipment are maintained and adequately provisioned throughout their lifecycles to ensure hardware and equipment availability. Geocent has defined the inputs and for the Logistics Support Analysis Record (LSAR) database fields required to create outputs including: Maintenance Task Analysis (MTA); Level of Repair Analysis (LORA); Test and Support Equipment Analysis; Provisioning Analysis; Recommended Spare Parts List; and Packaging, Handling, Storage, & Transportation requirements (PHS&T). Developing and conducting operational training required for technicians and support employees at the MAF production facility was also performed by Geocent.

Structural/Stress Engineering

Geocent develops, integrates, and documents structural requirements to establish the system design and analysis environment.  Geocent Engineers conduct structural analyses including stress, fatigue and fracture to validate the integrity, characteristics and performance of SLS flight hardware and tooling.

Manufacturing Engineering

Geocent conducts analyses and develops decision tools to promote and implement changes in manufacturing, engineering and service operations. Key Geocent contributions include producing specifications and other documents to manage the deployment of materials, parts and processes; ensuring compliance with contractual and regulatory obligations while promoting standardization across manufacturing and engineering activities; evaluating emerging technologies for potential application to manufacturing processes; developing and qualifying new materials, parts and processes to meet SLS requirements; and conducting analyses to determine reasons for failures of materials, parts or processes and implementing corrective and preventive actions

Industrial Engineering

Geocent performs services required to conduct analyses and develop decision tools, models, data bases and spreadsheets to analyze data (e.g., statistics, operations research, engineering economics), and provided summary analysis and metrics, including review and inputs to MAITS, VSM and CoF Requirements updates. Geocent is charged to identify risks and opportunities for PRR through mathematical and process modeling and simulations, what-if scenario assessments, work flow analysis, and other analytical methods to optimize the quantities, requirements, and utilization of facilities, tooling, equipment, materials, and personnel. In addition, Geocent has been asked to develop effective and efficient planning documents used to guide and clarify processes used to compile manufacturing floor procedures; analyze production workflow to provide for enhanced and more efficient workflows, and address and resolve risks and issues to the Production Readiness schedule. In summary, Geocent is responsible to provide Industrial Engineering management/leadership and Cost Account Management (CAM) / Earned Value Management (EVM) Tracking for Production Readiness operations.

Materials and Processes (M&P) Engineering

Geocent provides Technical Leadership support to Boeing Material and Process (M&P) Engineering on all aspects of material selection, process qualification, and property testing.  Geocent SMEs incorporate M&P specifications and processes into work instructions, provide laboratory and production support, address non-conformances, and lead root cause analysis.  Geocent SMEs review and approve all vendor metallurgical processes and qualification testing data. Geocent SMEs serve as members of Material Control Board providing technical expertise related to non-conformances, deviations, and waivers. Geocent co-chairs the Boeing Additive Manufacturing Implementation Board responsible for evaluating component design, materials selection, and specification development for all SLS additive manufactured parts.

Avionics Engineering

Geocent provides support to evaluate Avionics design deliverables and other data submittals from suppliers for avionics products including umbilical and cryogenic electrical connectors. Additionally, Geocent provides guidance and direction for multidisciplinary, multi-program or multi-system development, certification and support of umbilical and cryogenic connectors; identifies and resolves issues associated with the development and implementation of the umbilical and cryogenic connectors; and provides extensive knowledge and experience with integrated schematics, avionics functional decomposition to physical design and integration.

Training

Geocent partnered with the Boeing Learning Training and Development Focal to develop learning solutions supporting SLS CS production and Green Run testing.  The Geocent Trainers research, design, develop, evaluate and deliver SLS program training curriculum and program specific course material using the Boeing Instructional Systems Design model.  The Training Team schedules classes, manage training and certification records, setup training facilities, as well as generate reports and metrics for organizational records/documentation to meet reporting and compliance requirements. Additionally, Geocent serves as the site lead for development and delivery of training programs associated with spacecraft electrical, assembly, test, and checkout at Stennis Space Center (SSC), analyzes current course work available and identify gaps required for Green Run activities, including pre-Green Run installation, Green Run testing and post Green Run breakdown, develops unique training packages that are required at the SSC including ensuring employees meet unique SSC test complex safety training requirements, develops processes for identifying training content and evaluating training effectiveness, reviews engineering drawings to determine technical training and certification needs, and designs, develops and delivers classroom, structured on-the-job, and practical TPS training programs from fundamentals of spray on and pour type polyurethane foams to ablative mixing, molding, and troweling, and many other such hands-on training needs

Laser Scanning, Modeling and Simulations

The Geocent Modeling and Visualization Group is currently supporting the production planning and facility preparation efforts for the SLS program at MAF. The group routinely utilizes laser scanning, laser tracker, reverse engineering, 3D modeling, and animation tools to capture facility capabilities and limitations, document spaces for renovation planning, verify the accuracy of installed tools and refurbished spaces, demonstrate production processes, identify potential issues early in the development cycle, and support process improvement.  Geocent SMEs are also integrating laser projection tools into the production process to reduce schedule and improve sensor placement accuracy. Geocent provides support for the development of facilities and tooling models and simulations to facilitate production planning and manufacturing flow and analysis. Additionally, Geocent provides laser scanning support to SLS Manufacturing, Assembly and Operations (MA&O) Integrated Product Team (IPT) and integrates production and manufacturing data and requirements into the producibility review as the designated Integrated Product Team (IPT) interface. The Models and Simulations developed are utilized in support of the creation of training and maintenance manuals, providing precision measurement tools and techniques for the inspection and validation of mechanical test and flight hardware components and to provide expert knowledge of associated validation software for comparative analysis and the application of geometric dimensioning & tolerancing. In addition, Geocent provides expert scripting of laser inspection sequences within the Spatial Analyzer software including the import of CAD models & definition of the appropriate axis system, provides support to measurement systems (e.g., photogrammetry, coordinate measuring machines, laser tracker, laser radar, laser alignment, portable measurement tools), and designs measurement systems and tools utilizing Spatial Analyzer, PRO-E, Catia, Word, Excel, Project, Access, Visio and knowledge in DELMIA software.

Geocent provided technical expertise and leadership from design to manufacturing towards the successful completion of the SLS Block-1 Critical Design Review (CDR).

This marks the first time in almost 40 years that a NASA human-rated rocket has cleared the CDR milestone.  This marks the final review to examine concepts and designs.  Geocent has led the introduction of lightweight Al alloys and Additive Manufacturing for EUS saving the program significant mass and cost. Geocent continues to support the program efforts towards the Design Certification milestone, which will occur after manufacturing, integration and testing is completed.

Key Achievements

  • Gold & Silver Supplier Award
  • Gold & Silver Boeing Performance Excellence Award
  • Boeing's Excellence in Advocacy Award
  • Small Business Subcontractor Excellence Award

The Outcome

  • Geocent supported the preparations and successful completion of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and the Critical Design Review (CDR) for the SLS, giving the vehicle’s design, production, ground support plans, and logistical arrangements their stamp of approval, which validates the detailed design and integration of the system.
  • Geocent lead the Tiger Team of structural analyst from Boeing, NASA and the Supplier developing methodology, inspection requirements, and rationale to support Deviation Approval Requests (DAR) for re-use of Shuttle heritage auxiliary power unit hardware on SLS. The resulting cost and schedule reductions will save the SLS Program multiple millions of dollars on every SLS launch.
  • Geocent contributed to the trade study for NASA’s EUS and the SLS Spacecraft/Payload Integration and Evolution (SPIE) Secondary Payload Deployment System (SPDS).  This included selection of lightweight material, mass-savings based on density and material properties, and resistance against environmental effects.  Geocent also provided critical inputs to manufacturability of parts with specific materials.  These inputs were instrumental in successfully completing the Systems Requirements Review (SRR) for EUS.
  • Geocent personnel perform all the Laser/Lidar scanning and 3D Modelling and Simulation for the SLS at MAF, which reduces the manpower required to analyze structures and manufacturing optimization by as much as 90% in certain scenarios.

Stats/Metrics

  • The DAR for re-use of Shuttle heritage auxillary power unit hardware on SLS that Geocent SMEs led will save millions of dollars on every SLS launch.
  • The Laser/Lidar scanning and 3D Modelling and Simulation developed and performed by Geocent for SLS at MAF reduced manpower requirements in certain scenarios by 90%.