Defense Media Network

Newest Defense Media Network Promotion

Boeing and the International Space Station

NASA selected Boeing as prime contractor for the International Space Station on Aug. 17, 1993; the original cost-plus-award-fee contract began on Jan. 13, 1995. However, the aerospace giant’s involvement with the manned space station effort actually began in 1988, with Work Package 4 on the U.S. Space Station Freedom, which later was merged with the Russian Mir 2 program to become the ISS.

Boeing and its heritage companies – McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, and the original Boeing – all played major roles in the design, construction, and integration of all major U.S. components.

Boeing and its heritage companies – McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, and the original Boeing – all played major roles in the design, construction, and integration of all major U.S. components.

“Node 1, the main building block attaching the U.S. lab and the pressurized module, which Boeing also designed and built; the U.S. lab, the main element the trusses attach to and a longer module than the Node, outfitted for all the science on the U.S. side; the trusses, from outboard solar array to outboard solar array. I like to say we have more than a million drawings in the building of space station with Boeing or heritage company names on them,” current Boeing ISS Program Manager Mark Mulqueen noted.

“We helped in common hardware throughout ISS, which we built and helped them integrate – ducts, racks, etc. We helped the international partners and NASA verify their drawings and that post-test correlations were done correctly and were worthy of certification. Through NASA, we assisted in the successful development of their modules; those agencies and companies are very credible and know what they’re doing. Anything we could re-use from our modules we built and sent overseas to be integrated before their units went to Florida for launch.”

Mulqueen has been part of the effort since 1988 and Freedom, holding a number of ISS management jobs through the last 30 years. Prior to his current role, he was deputy program manager for the Commercial Crew Program that is building Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft to launch crews from the United States to the ISS and other low-Earth orbit (LEO) destinations. His previous positions include ISS deputy program manager; ISS Vehicle Program director; ISS Mechanical, Structural Extra-Vehicle Activity and Robotics director; Mechanical Design associate director; and ISS Power Module deputy director.

“There were schedule and technical challenges, but we overcame those to build a very robust platform that is now exceeding expectations in its 20th year on orbit,” he said. “Boeing assisted NASA in the integration of all international elements, both the interfaces, power, air, water, hatches, everything to make sure when we got to orbit everything fit up and executed as planned. We also worked with the first Russian module and mating with the U.S. first module, which was the kickoff of the station.

“Even when they were at KSC [Kennedy Space Center] together going through final assembly, the components did not meet up. We had great confidence in our digital assembly methods, which we use on commercial airplanes. I don’t think it was any riskier than trying to orient these 20,000-pound platforms into each other. We do it with our airplanes consistently and the ISS proved it works 100 percent, as we had no issues at all. We’re going to do something similar with the Gateway, with elements made to the same standards all the international partners are building to, so again we should have no issues mating all these elements in deep space.”

Prev Page 1 2 3 4 5 Next Page

By

J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...