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TechnoTourist’s Engineering Expeditions

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NASA is Getting Lean (Part 2)

Posted June 09, 2010 6:00 AM by julie

This panorama shows the inside of Goddard's High Bay Clean Room, as seen from the observation deck. Photo Credit

The second and final stop on our tour was the High Bay Clean Room located in the Goddard Space Flight Center. This Class 10,000 cleanroom is where all the modules carrying supplies and parts for the International Space Station (ISS) are assembled.

-->A module being readied for transport to the ISS

One of the continuous improvement projects that has been implemented by Boeing contractors working with NASA technicians is an RFID tool box. The environment at the Space Station is so sensitive that if any foreign objects make it there - even something as small as a paperclip - it could mean life or death for an astronaut who inhales it.

The problem that was solved with the RFID toolbox was that of missing tools. If any tool was missing from a toolbox at the end of the shift, everything shut down until that tool was found. The module could not go up in space if there was potential for a foreign object. The RFID toolbox requires technicians to swipe their badges for access and log the tool they take and where exactly they plan on using it. In this way, every tool is accounted for and tracked. There is also less downtime due to hunting for missing tools.

RFID toolboxes co-developed by NASA and Snapon

The Future of NASA

President Obama recently announced the winding down of the United States Space Shuttle Program. Currently, there are only two more missions scheduled (one mission is scheduled for this fall on Endeavour, and there is a potential mission next year on Atlantis) to take supplies up to the International Space Station on US shuttles.

Once NASA decommissions its shuttles, the United States will send supplies to the Space Station on Russian rockets that do not have the payload capacity of US space shuttles. The large modules that are now assembled in the High Bay Clean Room will no longer be utilized. Smaller modules that are packed inside the large modules will be shipped individually, and these will still be assembled in the High Bay Clean Room. The advances gained by using lean tools and techniques can be carried forward in the packing of these smaller modules and future endeavors that NASA takes as its role changes.

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 1 of this series.

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#1

Re: NASA is Getting Lean (Part 2)

06/09/2010 10:01 AM

For additional NASA images from Julie and terrapin's trip, click here to view the complete album on CR4_News, CR4's Facebook page. You do not need be a member of Facebook to view these images.

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#2

Re: NASA is Getting Lean (Part 2)

06/09/2010 5:27 PM

Missing tools can indeed be a serious problem for aircraft/spacecraft.

I remember hearing an eyewitness story about a Grumman F14 Tomcat taking off from an aircraft carrier once. One of the ailerons got stuck and the fighter started to roll uncontrollably. The pilot ejected, but into the ocean and was killed instantly. After dredging up the jet and tearing it apart they found a wrench had lodged itself into the hydraulic actuator controlling the aileron.

From then on every tool had a serial number and unless every tool that went into the assembly/maintenance area also came out, nobody went home. RFID makes this a lot easier, as long as everything has an RFID.

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#3
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Re: NASA is Getting Lean (Part 2)

06/10/2010 10:50 AM

I work in an engineering lab miles from military aircraft maintenance facilities, but we have to follow the same oppressive tool control and FOD procedures that the blue-collar types do. One is tempted to bring one's own screwdrivers to work, but that's definitely against the rules.

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#4

Re: NASA is Getting Lean (Part 2)

06/11/2010 3:52 PM

Great article Julie! From my experience, Snap-on tool quality is very good: we used their tools over at Benet Laboratories for "extreme" mechanical testing. Also, NASA - partnering with engineering schools including RPI and RIT - is actively seeking projects to support private companies across the U.S. in need of well-trained and experienced engineers. A NASA-consortium group (separate from "NASA Tech-Briefs") had a booth at the Javits Center in NYC this week, promoting this new consulting service. Saw them while in training at ATXEast this week. Brought a hard-copy brochure of NASA's new service back to Troy with me. - Larry

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