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Boeing Tracks Assets at Kennedy Space Center

RFID Global Solution's real-time locating system allows Boeing to track its tools as they are used on NASA spacecraft in real time, and to ensure none are left at the launch pad.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 13, 2008Boeing is using a real-time location system (RTLS) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to reduce man-hours spent inventorying tools, and ensure that none are left at the launch pad.

Much of the work performed on spacecraft and at the launch pad is conducted at night, so as not to interfere with KSC's daytime activities and limit the impact on the majority of the center's personnel. In the dark, however, tools can be difficult to locate, and that means a diligent contractor must spend as much time as necessary to locate all tools used at the site before leaving. A stray piece of equipment or tool left behind at the pad could be disastrous, since it could damage a spacecraft during takeoff. Harm to even one tile could render the vessel fatally damaged.

Phil Lintereur
Boeing takes inventory tracking very seriously. When the company began seeking a system that would safeguard against any lost tools, it also wanted a method for easily tracking many of its 70,000 assets elsewhere at multiple facilities at the Kennedy Space Center. So in 2007, when the firm was using a team of employees to track and inventory its assets on a regular basis by simply seeing them and recording them on paper, Boeing began accepting bids for an RFID-based solution.

Boeing employs RFID in other locations. Its facility in Long Beach, Calif., for instance, uses passive RFID tags to track parts for the manufacture of its C17 Globemaster III and F22 Raptors. It also utilizes passive RFID tags for Rotocraft production in Philadelphia. But in this case, the company needed active RFID tags to provide tracking in real time, says Phil Lintereur, manager of fluids, avionics and propulsions for Boeing's Checkout, Assembly & Payload Processing Services (CAPPS) operation at KSC. "It's always been a challenge to keep track of assets," Lintereur says.

There are several challenges involved in deploying an RFID system at the Kennedy Space Center, however. One is the highly metallic environment, while another entails building a system that would not interfere with RF systems already in use by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center. That required an ultra-wideband (UWB) solution with a frequency set "below the noise floor" of other NASA equipment, says Ron Rose, VP of business development at RFID Global Solutions (RFIDGS), which provided Boeing with its RFID-based RTLS system.

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