December 2005/January 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 8 
Special Feature

Out-of-this-world engineering

Find out why Space and Intelligence Systems is one of the hottest places to be for ambitious Boeing engineers


Weather satellites that help predict hurricanes. Cutting-edge technology solutions for the intelligence community and the warfighter. Commercial and military communications satellites that beam hundreds of voice and video channels to millions of people around the world.

Those are just some of the remarkable and exciting products made by Space & Intelligence Systems, a business unit of Integrated Defense Systems.

Charles ToupsAnd that means that for engineering opportunities, there's no place quite like S&IS.

With operating locations across the United States and a product line that travels the depths of the oceans or soars through outer space, S&IS has a diverse portfolio of programs that impacts millions of people globally every day.

"People come to us to work on some of the most challenging engineering projects in the world," says Charles Toups, vice president of Engineering for S&IS. "These projects are not only enormously challenging, they are extremely important in today's unsettled world, because they give us the opportunity to make our nation and our world a safer, better place."

Engineers make up half of the S&IS population, and a look at what the business produces shows why their technical expertise is in constant demand. S&IS creates industry-leading space systems, intelligence products, and imagery and data solutions for a range of government and commercial customers. Its business consists of

  • Proprietary programs: S&IS provides highly specialized capabilities to the intelligence community.
  • Satellites: El Segundo, Calif., is home to the Satellite Development Center—a state-of-the-art Boeing Enterprise Capability Center dedicated to designing, manufacturing and testing the most capable spacecraft in the world. SDC-created satellites include the commercial satellites Spaceway F1 and F2 for DIRECTV Inc., and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites for NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as a number of military satellites.
  • S&IS Mission Systems: Provides data and imagery integration that have resulted in world leadership in this highly specialized form of intelligence gathering and information processing. Mission Systems is a prime contractor on the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Global Geospatial Intelligence contract, designed to speed up the delivery and analysis of critical, time-sensitive intelligence imagery.
  • Advanced Information Systems: Specializes in systems integration for networks, information systems, communications and maritime systems. More than half of the work performed by AIS supports classified U.S. government programs. AIS is divided into five areas of focus: advanced programs, information systems, marine systems, network systems, and tactical systems.

One of the common themes across S&IS engineering is a need for precision. "The attention to detail required in our business is just enormous," Toups says. At S&IS, with the programs mentioned above, there is no room for error. Once a satellite goes into geosynchronous orbit, there's no way to retrieve it for repairs. Developing solutions for the intelligence community must be reliable 100 percent of the time because of their impact on national security. Another thing engineers who work at S&IS have in common: They are engineers who love a challenge.

Taking Lean into space

Robert BittnerRobert Bittner is managing an innovative group producing the high-powered amplifiers for the DIRECTV satellite at the Satellite Development Center in El Segundo. These amplifiers distribute the signal back to Earth, allowing millions of television viewers to watch their favorite programs.

Bittner came up with a new method of testing the amplifiers. "By focusing on Lean design for manufacturing and test, value stream step-mapping and complete risk-management principles, we're maximizing performance and reliability, while minimizing cost and schedule," he says. "These units have previously been fully assembled and tested as individual entities on plates, then partially disassembled to facilitate proper installation on the spacecraft. Post installation performance didn't always match the prior data, but testability in this final environment was severely limited, creating undesirable risk for our customer.

"The innovation we implemented was to create a work cell capable of completing the unit build and thermal test directly on the spacecraft shelf. Various engineering disciplines from throughout the SDC came together to devise products and processes that produce this improved product at less than half the cost and time previously required."

Always restless, Bittner not only completed his undergraduate education while at Boeing, but is about to finish his MBA. "The Learning Together program is amazing," he says. "It opens so many avenues. And when you're at a place like S&IS, there's almost no end to what a person can do. It has always been a place where you can learn and grow."

A matter of life and death

While finishing college, Champlin Jones was discussing his career possibilities with the career services officer at Howard University. "With a major in chemical engineering, aerospace was not something I was really considering," Jones recalls. "The career officer set up an appointment with the university's Boeing focal, and he opened my eyes to the great things that Boeing was doing. And after a couple of summer internships working on several fascinating projects, I knew S&IS was where I belonged."

Jones is an engineer working on systems that allow aircraft and ground stations to receive, transmit, encrypt, and decrypt radio frequencies, correlate SIGnals INTelligence (SIGINT), display data over charts and imagery, and allow network users to communicate using secure satellite communications or a secure Internet protocol router network.

The test lead for Airborne Broadcast Intelligence-Combat Track II (ABI-CT II) products in the Chantilly, Va., facility, Jones is well aware of the S&IS reputation in this area. "The stakes for our customer are very high; they are literally life-and-death," he says. "It's my job to make sure that quality is the No. 1 priority in developing our product—a critical system for our country's defense."

Champlin JonesABI-CT II has been used in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom on the B-52, C-17 and C-130 aircraft, and has received significant praise from the U.S. Air Force.

Jones knows just how important the S&IS defense products are. "When the Boeing focal spoke to me, he said one thing that really hit home," says Jones. "He reminded me that Boeing products help protect me, my family, my friends, and my country. When he said it, I knew I had to be a part of this company."

A risk that paid off

With a background in telecommunications, Randy Siegel also wasn't planning on a career in aerospace.

A graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Siegel originally came to Boeing through a co-op program, a type of internship required for graduation. "Boeing offered me a job in Seal Beach, Calif., when I graduated, and the scope of projects available at S&IS led me to move out to California."

Siegel is in Systems Engineering in Anaheim, Calif. In this function, he has the opportunity to participate in entire projects, rather than being tied down to a specific area. He currently works in the AIS Network Exploitation Lab, which is designed to be a microcosm of the networking world for both voice and data communications. At the lab, Siegel finds where and how communication protocols can be broken. He also works as a network consultant for various AIS programs.

"It seems to me that my managers took a huge risk in bringing me aboard and allowing me to work on these high-level projects," Siegel says candidly. "But that's what's so great about being at S&IS. The fostering of potential is outstanding. At S&IS, so many doors are open for opportunities for anyone who wants to take advantage of them. Here, I have opportunities to work on new things all of the time. The challenges are what make this such an exciting place to work."

Take the S&IS Challenge

S&IS engineers don't all fit into the same category. However, despite differences in their educational backgrounds and professional experience, they all contribute to developing solutions that impact everyone from a family watching HDTV at home to a soldier receiving information on a distant battlefield.

"Our people take engineering right up to the very edge of what's possible," says Toups. "And we know that the people attracted to this business are the kind of people who like to do things that are enormously challenging."

Randy Siegel


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