NASA, PaR Systems Partner At KSC

By  //  August 9, 2013

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER TRANSITIONS

As the spaceport transitions from a historically government-only launch facility to a multi-user spaceport for both federal and commercial customers, partnerships between the space agency and  other organizations will be a key element in that effort.

As the spaceport transitions from a historically government-only launch facility to a multi-user spaceport for both federal and commercial customers, partnerships between the space agency and other organizations will be a key element in that effort.

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently established a partnership agreement with PaR Systems, Inc. of Shoreview, Minn., for operation of the Hangar N facility and its nondestructive testing (NDT) equipment.

PaR Systems development engineer Wayne Cheng, left, and operations engineer Jeff Elston operate the controller for a robotic system used in nondestructive testing. The 11-axis robotic system takes X-ray images of hardware for evaluation. (NASA.gov image)

PaR Systems development engineer Wayne Cheng, left, and operations engineer Jeff Elston operate the controller for a robotic system used in nondestructive testing. The 11-axis robotic system takes X-ray images of hardware for evaluation. (NASA.gov image)

As the spaceport transitions from a historically government-only launch facility to a multi-user spaceport for both federal and commercial customers, partnerships between the space agency and  other organizations will be a key element in that effort.

Hangar N is located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station adjacent to Kennedy. The facility’s unique inventory of nondestructive test and evaluation (NDE) equipment and the capability for current and future mission spaceflight support is a resource NASA wants to retain.

“This is a considerable asset not available anywhere else,” said Amy Houts GilfrichePartnership Development manager in NASA’s Center Planning and Development Directorate. “The partnership is about preserving our NDE capability.”

Cliff Hausmann, Technical Integration manager in NASA’s Program Control and Integration Office, noted that Hangar N was used extensively during the space shuttle era.

“It was a valuable capability over the 30-year history of the shuttle program, supporting NDE and diagnostics,” he said.

Bence Bertha, a PaR Systems development engineer, sets up a flash thermography system. The equipment uses thermal analysis to inspect hardware. (NASA.gov image)

Bence Bertha, a PaR Systems development engineer, sets up a flash thermography system. The equipment uses thermal analysis to inspect hardware. (NASA.gov image)

With the end of the shuttle flights, NASA had no immediate need for the operations taking place there. As future programs start up however, Hangar N’s capabilities likely will be required. The partnership means the facility will be retained, but as a mutually shared facility and resource.

“NASA doesn’t give up ownership,” Hausmann said. “In this case, a commercial company — PaR Systems — takes over what is now an underutilized resource to continue supporting our space industry.”

A COMMERCIAL SPACEPORT

This, explains Houts Gilfriche, is part of the transition to a commercial spaceport.

In the past, NASA primarily entered into contracts with industry to purchase products and services. Today, partnerships offer the agency additional flexibility enabling PaR Systems to keep the facility going, with NASA purchasing the services only as needed for future spaceflight projects.

“Partnerships will be an important part of our future endeavors,” she said. “Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast also had integral roles in the development of the Hangar N partnership. We will see a mix of government and commercial operations here at Kennedy.”

In the past, NASA primarily entered into contracts with industry to purchase products and services. Today, partnerships offer the agency additional flexibility enabling PaR Systems to keep the facility going, with NASA purchasing the services only as needed for future spaceflight projects.

“For contracts, we established the requirement with funding and we pay for the work,” said Tom Engler, deputy director of Center Planning and Development. “With a partnership, we can maintain capabilities we don’t want to lose.”

Initially, eight PaR Systems employees with over 200 combined years of non-destructive test engineering and inspection experience will perform the work.

“We are excited about this new long-term partnership with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the many inquiries it has already generated,” said John Pollock, vice president and general manager of PaR Systems’ Aerospace division.

PaR Systems operations engineer Lu Bell conducts a phase array ultrasonic inspection. (NASA.gov image)

PaR Systems operations engineer Lu Bell conducts a phase array ultrasonic inspection. (NASA.gov image)

According to Tony Corak, manager of NDT Services for PaR Systems, there are differences and similarities in how Hangar N operates now under a partnership compared to a NASA contract.

“While the breadth of client opportunities will be broader, in many ways it is really the same,” he said. “We are working with many of the same people here at Kennedy helping with the NDT testing of space-related applications. Our focus continues to be on the more difficult NDT opportunities which take advantage of our eight ‘level III’ engineers’ experience.”

Level III NDT engineers are certified through the American Society for Nondestructive Testing and is the highest certification attained through a combination of education and experience. The team will advise clients on the best inspection methods to use as well as how to automate those activities.

HANGER N WILL CONTINUE TO BE USED FOR INSPECTION

The Hangar N facility will continue to be used for inspection of large structures, as well as small commercial and aerospace components. The facility’s location at Cape Canaveral positions PaR Systems to be able to provide support for NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion programs, as well as commercial launch customers.

“Hangar N represents a world-class capability in both equipment and the highly-skilled people who are the key to that capability,” Engler said. “This is one of the most respected NDE centers in the industry.”

Under the recently signed 15-year lease agreement, PaR System takes over the facility at their own expense and will perform nondestructive evaluation testing and other related aerospace, marine and industrial products services.

“They are preserving talent capability while being responsible for the cost of operations and maintenance,” Houts Gilfriche said.

“We are encouraging them to go out and find additional business,” said Steve Parker, a NASA contracting officer and Center Planning and Development liaison in NASA’s Acquisition Support Office. “This could include providing testing for both launch vehicles and commercial payloads.”

The company also is looking for opportunities to expand by adding commercial customers.

“We are encouraging them to go out and find additional business,” said Steve Parker, a NASA contracting officer and Center Planning and Development liaison in NASA’s Acquisition Support Office. “This could include providing testing for both launch vehicles and commercial payloads.”

Corak noted that PaR Systems also is seeing opportunities to support the needs of customers beyond the space business.

“Now we are talking to clients in not only the space industry, but in general aviation, marine, energy and the petrochemical industries,” he said. “That is really exciting for all of us here at the hangar.”

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