|Space and Communications|
|Brains over Brawn?
Space and Communications adapts to the new way of aerospace
BY DIANE STRATMAN
In the world of aerospace, gone is the era of the pocket protector, hardware-based contracts and asset-heavy corporations. At a company like Boeing, it's not just the tangible components our customers depend on to get the job done anymore, but also our brain power: the ability to solve problems, think innovatively and create customer solutions that define the new aerospace environment.
Forty years ago, the industry saw the birth of jet passenger travel, rockets launching satellites to orbit and eventually humankind to the moon. These are all very tangible products that focused the nation on hardware and the asset-heavy infrastructures needed to run them, and Boeing was there every step of the way. Today, however, in addition to operating in these traditional markets, Boeing Space and Communications is working in new areas that are much more information-driven than hardware-heavy.
"Just as Boeing has transformed itself into a broad-based global aerospace company less susceptible to economic downturns, so Space and Communications has had to transform itself and adapt to a changing marketplace," said Jim Albaugh, Space and Communications president and CEO. "The reality is that our future is less about bending metal and more about creating solutions."
Is that to say Boeing is getting out of asset-heavy businesses?
"No," said Albaugh. "But, we want to be less dependent on asset-heavy production programs and to move aggressively into growth markets where we can capitalize on our ability to integrate complex systems."
This transformation can be readily seen in three of Space and Communications' market areas: Missile Defense, Integrated Battlespace and Global Connectivity.
In the area of Missile Defense, Boeing is moving beyond providing single systems and products that support the United States missile defense efforts to becoming a large system integrator of missile defense technologies and systems.
Boeing is the prime contractor and system integrator for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program that involves the development, testing and potential deployment of a ground-based system to detect, track and destroy hostile intercontinental missiles in the midcourse phase of flight.
"Integration of multiple platforms is the challenge," said Jim Evatt, executive vice president and general manager of Missile Defense Systems. "No single system can meet the complex challenges of missile defense. Carrying out this multilayered approach to warfare will require a fully integrated system of systems. New technologies for the integration of land, sea and air platforms are being evaluated and developed to counter ballistic missiles in all phases of flight."
Boeing also offers an array of missile defense products that are integrated into systems that provide missile defense solutions for all phases of ballistic missile threats. These products and programs do not stand alone, but provide a strong foundation for Boeing to position itself to meet the U.S. Defense Department's plans for a global, layered missile defense system.
Beginning with theater operations, Missile Defense Systems provides the seeker for the PAC-3 missile that uses hit-to-kill technology against short- and medium-range threats. This fielded weapon system uniquely provides war fighters with terminal phase defense capability against advanced tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and hostile aircraft. Additionally, more than 1,100 Boeing-built Avengers are in the field. This turret-mounted missile system is the U.S. Army's premier line-of-sight, mobile, shoot-on-the-move system. Boeing also is leading the development of a precise, airborne, high-energy laser weapons systemAirborne Lasercapable of destroying ballistic missiles in their boost phase. Also in development is Advanced Tactical Lasera self-contained, directed energy weapon system that can be mounted on rotorcraft for area defense against land-attack cruise missiles or for naval force protection.
Gathering, processing and then transforming data into information that helps military customers make real-time decisions is the focus of the work Boeing does in Integrated Battlespace, one of Space and Communications' most significant growth markets. "It's no longer who has the highest tank, ship or plane count," stated Albaugh, "but rather who has access to the best information and the fastest decision-making loop. This is what 'connect and protect' is all about: connecting people to information and helping them use it to protect our way of life.
Nowhere is the network-centric approach more apparent than in Integrated Battlespace. About two years ago, when many defense contractors were primarily developing next-generation weapons, Boeing moved in a direction that focused on integrating systems. It transitioned from its past approach of designing stand-alone systems and hardware to creating an interoperable environment in which all the systems work as a part of an information network.
Roger Roberts, vice president and general manager of Integrated Defense Systems, describes Boeing's vision of the future battlespacethe integrated battlespace. "Imagine," he said, "if commanders had the ability to tap into layered geospatial data through a high-bandwidth information network. They could quickly analyze target positions and movement, weather and terrain, without issuing a formal request or waiting for a time-consuming linear production cycle. Imagine that this ability is available anywherein an aircraft, a tank, or a handheld devicenot just a command post or an intelligence center. Everyone is linkedfrom decision-makers in Washington, D.C., to platoon commanders in the heat of battle. That's what we envision the future battlespace to bea flexible information network of space-, air- and earth-based platforms operating as a single, interoperable system."
The architecture behind this system is formally referred to at Boeing as Strategic Architecture. Just over a year ago, Carl O'Berry, vice president of the Strategic Architecture organization in Anaheim, Calif., was charged with integrating the best of industry's systems and programs into a single communications environment. O'Berry's team developed and opened the Boeing Integration Center at Anaheim, where potential government customers can see online demonstrations that apply Boeing's concept of the integrated battlespace. The Center features worldwide connectivity, bandwidth on demand, secure breakout rooms, a demonstration/ briefing theater, a surround-sound system and state-of-the-art multimedia capability. Expansions have been made to provide broadband connectivity among the Center and Boeing laboratories in St. Louis, Seattle and other designated government and commercial simulation centers.
Also, at the heart of the recently won Future Combat Systems program is the need for complex network design and system integration expertise. As lead system integrator for the program, Boeing will draw up plans for a system of new weapons and technologies that will turn the Army into a lighter, faster and more lethal force. Army requirements include the ability to put a combat-capable brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division in 120 hours, and five divisions on the ground within 30 days.
If there's one area where life is changing in ever-increasing and significant ways, it's the ability for people to be connected to one another. Whether speaking to family, conducting international business, enjoying satellite-delivered entertainment or simply relying on invisible networks to verify credit cards instantly, people want connections that fit their lifestyles. Boeing refers to the anytime, anywhere, any-style communications as Global Connectivity.
There is a tremendous future for companies able to weave together the elements needed to enable this kind of connectivity, and Boeing is taking a leading position in the evolving opportunity. In late 2000, Boeing acquired the space and communications business of Hughes Electronics and instantly became the world's preeminent manufacturer of commercial communications satellites. Boeing Satellite Systems, in El Segundo, Calif., builds a full line of spacecraft ranging from satellites that have been the bread and butter of space-based communications for two decades to the most powerful and capable satellite ever builtSpacewaywhich will deliver broadband connectivity across North America when it launches next year.
But, Boeing saw much more than a factory in its investment. Here was an opportunity to apply its extensive integration experience to the Global Connectivity market. "Global Connectivity is all about moving beyond stand-alone systems and creating powerful new avenues for communication that connect people, businesses and organizations," said Randy Brinkley, president, Boeing Satellite Systems.
Those avenues will enable people, resources and information to connect from any location. High-speed data, imagery and video will travel over a hybrid network that ties together satellite communications, fiber optic cables, wireless and plain old telephone service to create an invisible web of integrated space-, air- and earth-based communications systems that will radically transform the way we live and work.
"The key to achieving this connectivity and full-information superiority is development of a single architecture that is network-centric. It's about integrating expertise across multiple activities," said Brinkley, and Boeing is a world-class leader in system integration."
One compelling example of the possibilities opening up with these evolved networks happened in May when digital screenings of the newest Star Wars movie were beamed to selected theaters across the U.S. and England. Boeing Digital Cinema uses a combination of satellite and fiberoptic networks to send digital copies of first-run movies to theaters, replacing a hundred-year-old system dependent on fragile, easily damaged film and the expensive transport of bulky film canisters. Every screening of a digital film or other broadcast event is perfectwhether it's the first showing or the hundredth, without the "hairs" and scratches that moviegoers often experience with film.
"Boeing's experience with classified encryption technologies ensures secure transmissions of large data files. Part of the attraction to studios is the potential savings of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. This is part of a broader Global Connectivity effort called Boeing Digital Media, which will serve new markets wherever there's a need for the transmission of secure, complex information streams between widely separated locations," said Rick Stephens, vice president and general manager of Space and Communications Services.
Move over hardware!
Will Boeing continue to work in the traditional asset-based markets? Yes. But its real growth will come from transferring the technologies created in those markets to the new network-centric worldwhere the future of aerospace is going.
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