01:27 PM

Linux Is Launchpad For Boeing's Simulations

Defense contractor turns to low-cost systems to test Delta IV rocket

When Boeing successfully launched its Delta IV rocket last month, there was more riding on the event than the $1 billion telecommunications satellite attached to its tip. Also at stake was Boeing's piece of the global launch-services market, a lucrative business opportunity that could help offset some of the company's losses in its commercial airplanes division, which has cut nearly 30,000 jobs since Sept. 11, 2001.


Linux helped keep development costs for Delta IV low.
Getting the Delta IV from the launchpad into space required years of design and computational fluid-dynamics testing to understand the impact of flight on the rocket's structure and control system. Aerodynamics engineers with Boeing's Expendable Launch Systems division in Huntington Beach, Calif., used a 96-node cluster of PCs with Advanced Micro Devices 850-MHz Athlon processors running Red Hat Linux, rather than a $500,000 supercomputer, to keep costs low in pursuit of its goal. Linux cluster-management company Linux Networx helped to develop the environment.

"The Linux route was newer and had more risks, but sometimes you have to take some risks," says Scott Ward, the Boeing Delta program's manager of aerodynamics. Ward wouldn't say how much his department paid for the AMD Linux cluster when it was implemented in 2001, but he says it will continue to pay "huge" dividends as Boeing adds nodes to increase computing power.

Boeing plans to launch as many as five Delta IV rockets next year. The next mission will deploy an Air Force Defense Satellite Communication System. Last month's launch carried a telecommunications satellite built by Alcatel Space.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Increasing IT Agility and Speed To Drive Business Growth
Learn about the steps you'll need to take to transform your IT operation and culture into an agile organization that supports business-driving initiatives.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.