Metrology and Calibration Program’s Equipment Repurposing Efforts Save Millions
For the past three years, NASA’s Metrology and Calibration (MetCal) Program Office has been repurposing measuring and test equipment previously used to support the Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), resulting in close to $2 million in cost avoidance to date.
So far, the repurposing initiative has provided more than 400 pieces of measuring and test equipment to 12 NASA centers and component facilities. This estimated cost avoidance only includes hardware costs and does not take into account the ongoing cost savings being realized at the locations using the equipment.
"The cost savings is very conservative in that it only takes into account the equipment costs when it was procured years ago," said MetCal Program Manager Kenny Mathews. "In today's dollars, the equipment would be double, maybe triple the original cost."
Centers, Facilities and Projects Reap the Benefits of Repurposing Initiative
NASA centers, programs and projects have begun to see the benefits of the MetCal program’s efforts. Much of the equipment has been reallocated to NASA's calibration labs, which provide calibration support to the centers, programs and projects. Using the reallocated equipment, NASA's calibration labs are able to
Establish new capabilities that enable insourcing of calibrations that were previously outsourced
Add redundancy to accommodate heavy workloads and decrease turnaround times
Replace unreliable or obsolete equipment
Develop backup calibration systems for anticipated future needs
Add ancillary equipment needed to support calibration processes
"We've been able to reach out to almost all the centers with this effort," said Mathews.
The repurposing initiative at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in particular has been a major success story.
"They've helped us a lot in several areas," noted Gary Kennedy, the MSFC Metrology and Calibration technical representative. "We were able to obtain several pieces of equipment to really enhance our applications."
Prior to receiving reallocated equipment, MSFC had Radio Frequency (RF) and microwave frequency calibration capabilities that were limited to 5 gigahertz. The new equipment has expanded the center’s system capabilities to be able to test all RF and microwave parameters up to 26.5 gigahertz.
According to Kennedy, MSFC has received over $1 million of equipment.
"We've put everything we've received from them to good use," he said. "If we were to try to buy a lot of it today, [there's a] very good possibility the cost would be twice what it was several years ago."
In addition to the savings realized by the equipment reallocation, Jeff Cheatham, senior metrologist with METTS, noted that MSFC is realizing at least $300,000 in annual savings by insourcing calibrations that were previously outsourced.
The system improvements made at MSFC have benefited programs like the Space Launch System and other smaller programs and projects.
While the majority of reallocated equipment has gone to NASA’s calibration labs, NASA programs, projects and institutional functions also have benefited from the initiative. NASA's Ka-Band Objects Observation and Monitoring (KaBOOM) project, for example, benefited from the repurposing initiative by obtaining eight pieces of RF and microwave measuring equipment valued at $259,000.
"When you don't have a lot of money, you have to be clever," said Barry Geldzahler, NASA's chief scientist for space communication and navigation and principal investigator and program executive for KaBOOM, about the repurposing efforts.
Continuing the Repurposing Initiative
The repurposing initiative is ongoing, with the MetCal Program Office actively working to reallocate the remaining 150 pieces of retained equipment, valued at nearly $1 million. The repurposing effort is expected to continue as new equipment continues to be added each quarter.
While the primary focus of the repurposing initiative continues to be equipment retained from the Shuttle program, the office expanded the scope to include routine screening of N-PROP and the General Services Administration (GSA) Excess website for useable excess equipment.
How the Initiative Began
The MetCal Program Office began a resource sharing initiative in mid-2011 to update and distribute automated calibration procedures developed in the Shuttle calibration lab at KSC. When Cheatham joined the MetCal Program Office in the summer of 2011 to develop agency-level procedures, he saw an opportunity to expand the resource sharing initiative by capturing Shuttle’s excessed equipment and reallocating it across the agency.
“The equipment could better be used within the agency to help supplement everyone’s capabilities because some labs were well equipped and others weren’t,” said Cheatham. “So I just took advantage of it.”
Mathews is quick to acknowledge Cheatham’s contribution.
“Jeff deserves all of the credit for the repurposing initiative. He identified the excessed equipment and was proactive in getting the effort started,” Mathews said.
NASA’s MetCal Program Office is committed to the equipment repurposing effort as well as other initiatives that share existing NASA resources and reduce duplicated efforts within the agency.
For questions pertaining to the repurposing efforts, please contact Mathews.