Boeing Frontiers
March 2003
Volume 01, Issue 10
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Integrated Defense Systems


Boeing taps top resources to fully back Columbia investigation


Space Shuttle ColumbiaBoeing has called upon the expertise of people from around the company to assist NASA in its investigation into the Feb. 1 loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia during re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.

Immediately following the accident, Boeing senior leadership assigned Tim Copes, Integrated Defense Systems vice president, Quality and Mission Assurance, to work with NASA, United Space Alliance and Boeing Shuttle teams to ensure they had access to the full capabilities of Boeing.

"One of the first calls I made was to our aircraft accident and investigation team based in Seattle," said Copes. "An airplane accident investigator and a structures expert were immediately dispatched to Texas to offer assistance in planning the recovery and reconstruction effort. Both have significant knowledge and experience in accident-investigation procedures, debris recovery and vehicle reconstruction."

Those experts later flew to Florida to assist NASA in receiving, processing and identifying recovered debris. They examined how the parts may have broken apart, the pattern of fire damage, tears and placement of soot on the debris to help determine how the orbiter pieces fit together.

Overall, Copes estimated that Boeing has tapped about 16 different areas of expertise for their support. The company flew some of its experts to Houston, while others remained in contact with NASA through e-mail and teleconferences.

Boeing also teamed materials experts in Huntington Beach, Calif., with military aircraft materials experts in St. Louis and commercial airplane materials experts in Puget Sound to offer information and data on specific areas of interest.

The company also called upon its network of electromagnetic effects specialists to assist in evaluating potential phenomena and the likely effects on the spacecraft. Other areas of expertise included thermal analysis from Boeing Satellite Systems, photo analysis from Autometrics, and hypersonic modeling from Phantom Works.

We're here to support the people doing the real work," said Copes. "The NASA, United Space Alliance and Boeing Shuttle teams are working a tremendously complex technical problem under significant emotional and public pressures. They are doing a great job under trying circumstances, and we want to help them access all the capabilities and resources of The Boeing Company."

Ron Hinderberger, Boeing Commercial Airplanes director, Aviation Safety, said, "Anything we can do to help understand the cause of this accident will be done."

In the days following the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems President and CEO Jim Albaugh visited sites where Space Shuttle people worked, and offered his support.

Albaugh talked to technicians, engineers and support personnel who had worked closely with the STS-107 crew during mission preparation and throughout their 16 days in space.

He offered employees reassurance and admiration for their work on STS-107, and a clear message on the support they could expect to receive from the company.

"I want you to know that we will find the problem, we will fix the problem, and the resources of the entire Boeing Company are behind you," Albaugh said.

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