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News in Nasa: Transfers and Time Off for Crews

April 15, 2010 Leave a comment

ISS023-E-022903 -- Space shuttle Discovery, Mexico, Baja California and the Gulf of California

Image above: A portion of the aft section of the docked space shuttle Discovery (STS-131), Mexico, Baja California and the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 23 crew member on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

With transfer of equipment, experiments and supplies between the two spacecraft virtually complete, Discovery and International Space Station crew members got the afternoon off Wednesday.

The morning was devoted largely to finishing the loading of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo. Only a few items await transfer to Discovery’s middeck. Some are experiments requiring refrigeration during their trip home.

Leonardo brought about six tons of material to the station and will return to Earth in Discovery’s cargo bay with about 2.5 tons from the station.

This is the final roundtrip to the station for the 21-foot-long, 15-foot-diameter Leonardo. Once back on Earth, the module will be reconfigured with increased shielding on the outside for the STS-133 mission in September when it will be left on the station as a permanent module.

STS-131 is the 33rd shuttle mission to the station.

› Read more about STS-131

› Read more about Expedition 23
› View crew timelines

NASA’s International Space Station Program Wins Collier Trophy

The International Space Station Program has won the 2009 Collier Trophy, which is considered the top award in aviation. The National Aeronautic Association bestows the award annually to recognize the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.

Smiles and Memories: A Final ‘Goodbye’ to the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment

It was a grand finale of sorts, a celebration that revisited the 78-year history of the Full-Scale Tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

The Langley Full-Scale Tunnel in Oct. 1930

Click to enlarge

The Langley Full-Scale Tunnel’s huge exterior from the Little Back River in October 1930.

 

Credit: NASA

Engineers mingled with mayors. Alumni mingled with a new generation of NASA. Recollections mingled with respect.

“Many times it is referred to as ‘the’ Langley Wind Tunnel,” said Joe Chambers, author and former tunnel branch head, who spoke to a standing room-only crowd at Langley’s Reid Conference Center. In fact, it was only one of dozens of wind tunnels at NASA Langley.

A slideshow of the tunnel’s history shown through photographs and quotes included music from the decades of the tunnel’s operation. It set the ambiance for the ceremony that marked the official “goodbye.” Demolition of the 30-by-60-foot tunnel is expected to begin early next year.

“We did 796 tests in this facility,” said Chambers.

Chambers explained that the vision for a tunnel that would be 60 feet (18.3 m) across, 30 feet (9.1 m) high and with capabilities of speed surpassing 100 miles per hour (161 kph) started as a model in 1929. That model was under construction by 1930 and dedicated in 1931. It was built for $980,000.

As ideas arose, the tunnel evolved. In 1939, wooden blades replaced the original metal ones. “Those blades are the same blades that are in the tunnel today,” Chambers said. Applause erupted.

Clyde McLemore (R) offered his experiences as Dan Murri (L) guided guests

Click to enlarge

After a celebratory reception, some of the employees and alumni who worked in the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel gathered in front of the Reid Conference Center.

 

Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

During the years of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the tunnel attracted pioneers and luminaries like Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Glenn Curtiss and Howard Hughes.

“When NASA was formed, the facility changed and began to develop space ideas,” Chambers said. Modern times called for modern upgrades. Chambers noted the addition of a flight control computer.

And according to Chambers, the wind tunnel was producing more than just critical test results for improved flight — it produced four NASA Center Directors. “There is no other wind tunnel or organization that provided four center directors to the agency,” he said.

It also produced memories.

Gorden Helsel, mayor of Poquoson, Va., stared forward at the slideshow. “It’s a landmark to this area,” he said. “To a lot of folks out here, it’s like losing an old friend.”

He glanced over at the F-22 model. “I flew in one of those,” Helsel said. “I spent 45 minutes in the air and was glad to get back on the ground.” It was an experience made possible through testing at the full-scale tunnel.

Long Yip worked in the tunnel from 1977 to 1990. “I remember opening a textbook on aeronautics and the first thing I saw was the Full Scale Tunnel. I never imagined I would work there,” he said.

Bob Huston began working at the tunnel in 1958. He recalled a time when one of his tests was interrupted by testing for Neil Armstrong and the lunar lander. “The test I was working on was delayed for six months,” he said. In hindsight, Huston didn’t mind so much.

A group of employees who worked in the Full-Scale Tunnel

Click to enlarge

Clyde McLemore (R) offered his personal experiences as Dan Murri (L) guided guest throughout different areas of the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel. “If I get anything wrong, you all can let me know,” Murri respectfully said to the alumni that were present on the tour.

 

Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Following the reception, many guests chose to revisit the tunnel located on the Langley Air Force Base side of NASA Langley. When attending alumni spoke up during a tour, the crowd circled and listened.

Clyde McLemore who worked there from 1947 to 1980, described a time when workers used slide rules, calculators and computers.

“When you say ‘computers’ — you are talking about a person?” asked Dan Murri as he led guests throughout the tunnel.

“Yes, it was a girl we called a computer,” McLemore responded with a smile.

The group continued on through the curvy turbulence vanes and across a walkway. It was the same walkway that Cameron Diaz walked on for a scene in the movie, “The Box,” which is set to be released nationwide on Nov. 6.

At the next halt, McLemore looked up at a wooden propeller that stood about three stories tall. “The nose cone and tail cone were mine,” he said.

“You designed those?” Murri asked.

“Yes,” McLemore responded.

For many on the tour, the tunnel was being seen through the eyes of the alumni. And for the alumni, the tunnel was being seen through their younger selves.

//

Alumni and guests tour the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel.

Huston smiled at the tunnel’s interior. He pointed to specific areas and recalled a funny story or a test that took place there. “Even when we worked extra hours during the war, it didn’t matter much. It was still a fun place to work,” he said.

The facility survived nearly eight decades. Its memory and history will survive much longer and so will its results. Tests conducted there include all of the World War II aircrafts, the P-51 aircraft, the Mercury entry capsule, submarines and NASCAR vehicles, to name a few.

The Langley Full-Scale Tunnel is being preserved virtually at:

http://gis.larc.nasa.gov/documents/643/historic/WebApp.html

Frost-Covered Phoenix Lander Seen in Winter Images

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Phoenix in winter

As the sun began to reappear on the horizon following the deepest, darkest days of north polar winter on Mars, the HiRISE camera imaged the Phoenix landing site on July 30, 2009, (left image) and in Aug. 22, 2009 (right). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
› Full image and caption

PASADENA, Calif. — Winter images of NASA’s Phoenix Lander showing the lander shrouded in dry-ice frost on Mars have been captured with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera, aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The HiRISE camera team at the University of Arizona, Tucson, captured one image of the Phoenix lander on July 30, 2009, and the other on Aug. 22, 2009. That’s when the sun began peeking over the horizon of the northern polar plains during winter, the imaging team said. The first day of spring in the northern hemisphere began Oct. 26.

The images are available at http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/ESP_014393_2485.

“We decided to try imaging the site despite the low light levels,” said HiRISE team member Ingrid Spitale of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

“The power of the HiRISE camera helped us see it even under these poor light conditions,” added HiRISE team member Michael Mellon of the University of Colorado in Boulder, who was also on the Phoenix Mars Lander science team.

The HiRISE team targeted their camera at the known location of the lander to get the new images and compared them to a HiRISE image of the frost-free lander taken in June 2008. That enabled them to identify the hardware disguised by frost, despite the fact that their views were hindered by poor lighting and by atmospheric haze, which often obscures the surface at this location and season.

Carbon dioxide frost completely blankets the surface in both images. The amount of carbon dioxide frost builds as late winter transitions to early spring, so the layer of frost is thicker in the Aug. 22 image.

HiRISE scientists noted that brightness doesn’t necessarily indicate the amount of frost seen in the images because of the way the images are processed to produce optimal contrast. Even the darker areas in the frost-covered images are still brighter than typical soil that surrounds the lander in frost-free images taken during the lander’s prime mission in 2008.

Other factors that affect the relative brightness include the size of the individual grains of carbon dioxide ice, the amount of dust mixed with the ice, the amount of sunlight hitting the surface and different lighting angles and slopes, Spitale and Mellon said.

Studying these changes will help us understand the nature of the seasonal frost and winter weather patterns in this area of Mars.

Scientists predicted that the ice layer would reach maximum thickness in September 2009, but don’t have images to confirm that because HiRISE camera operations were suspended when Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter entered an extended safe mode on Aug. 26.

The Phoenix Mars Lander ceased communications last November, after successfully completing its mission and returning unprecedented primary science phase and returning science data to Earth. During the first quarter of 2010, teams at JPL will listen to see if Phoenix is still able to communicate with Earth. Communication is not expected and is considered highly unlikely following the extended period of frost on the lander.

HiRISE is run from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s HiRISE Operations Center, on the University of Arizona campus. Planetary Sciences Professor Alfred McEwen is HiRISE principal investigator. Planetary Sciences Professor Peter Smith is principal investigator for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, for NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, based in Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft. Ball Aerospace Technologies Corp., of Boulder, Colo., built the HiRISE camera.

For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mro.

NASA Blog: Constellation: Managers reevaluating Ares I-Y flight test

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

ares

Constellation program managers agreed to reevaluate the proposed Ares I-Y flight test during an Oct. 30 Control Board and plan to take the decision up the ladder to management at NASA Headquarters soon. The decision could result in the removal of the Ares I-Y flight from the manifest in order to better align test flights with evolving program objectives.

As part of the program’s ongoing review of its ground and flight test strategy, managers evaluated the flight test plan and decided that the Ares I-Y flight fell too late in the vehicle development phase to provide useful information and lacks key elements to make it a true validation of the flight vehicle’s systems.

Originally, the I-Y test was defined as an incremental “placeholder” and planned for 2012. It was to be a suborbital flight to test a five-segment booster, a flight production upper stage — without a J-2X engine — a functional command module and launch abort system and a simulated encapsulated service module.

By fall 2008, program managers were already looking at changing direction for the Ares I-Y test to improve the overall program’s chances of flying a full test vehicle by 2014. Now, with the Constellation Program nearing its preliminary design review and with maturing vehicles and systems, managers agree the I-Y test objectives can be achieved through other tests already in the manifest.

For example, the ascent abort test for Orion’s Launch Abort System can be incorporated into abort tests planned at White Sands Missile Range in 2012 and 2013 and on the first Orion flight in 2014. The ascent test will document the performance of the LAS in the event control of the launch vehicle is lost after first stage separation.

Removing the Ares I-Y flight test eliminates a unique vehicle configuration that must be designed and managed separately from the objective designs of Ares and Orion. It allows the team to focus on achieving a first launch of a thoroughly verified system and represents a tightening of the program as a function of its maturation that will ultimately save money needed for other tests.

“It simply does not fit where we are headed,” said Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program manager and chairman of the Control Board. “The test vehicle was intended to meet evolving needs but the current configuration is too different from what the program requires to certify the Ares/Orion vehicle systems.”

The current Constellation manifest shows the Ares I-Y flight test scheduled in March 2014, just a year out from the proposed first crewed flight Orion 2, planned in 2015.

Managers are also considering other options including a flight test that would fly in 2012 or 2013 that would have revised flight test objectives to better support vehicle development.

Source : spaceref.com

Beyond Augustine II

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Context and Background

LANDERBERTH-A

In August of this year I wrote a missive concerning what happens after the Augustine report is released. Well, now that has happened, so what is next? The overall impression is that they did a good job technically in coming up with options and laying out the rational for the options. The concern is not there, the question is does this report provide to the president and NASA a viable path forward? In a curious move, the commission took a big risk and basically rejected one of the central directives from the White House (3d in the Scope and Objectives) which was:

Fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

Basically the Augustine Commission has thrown down the gauntlet in challenging the Obama administration and congress to put up $3 billion dollars in “real purchasing power” (which according to their graph is considerably more than a simple $3 billion increase) or without this you can basically forget exploration. While this conclusion may be debatable, it is commendable in its boldness. Will this strategy work? With a president and congress preoccupied with much larger and more contentious debates, no one knows. The president has indicated strong support technology in general and reasonable support for NASA in particular. In his instructions to Charles Bolden, the new administrator to “give us a space program to make the nation proud”, there may be the support from the Whitehouse for such an increase. Even if they get that, will the options presented by the Augustine commission lead to such a program?

There is much to be commended in this risky strategy if the goal is truly worthy. An indication of this is embodied in the statement of the ultimate goal of American space exploration that is outlined in the Executive Summary first page:

The Committee concludes that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system.

Now this is something worth working toward!

It is amazing to me as a long time space advocate that for over three decades we seemed to have forgotten this, substituting in its stead vague and uninspiring goals related to science and “inspiration”. In the 1960’s and 70’s it was simply assumed that we were on a course to make this happen. Many movies and television programs of the era all had this as either as an underlying theme or as an aside even in teen love flicks. When Gerard K. O’Neil came out with his NASA study and the book “High Frontier”, it spawned a public movement for opening the space frontier for all mankind that was the seedling for today’s “New Space” movement for commercial human space exploration. The fact that this has returned as a theme in a mainstream report to the president is a good omen that should be latched upon by NASA in going forward to “make the nation proud” in the words of the president.

How to get there is of course the question.

The Augustine Report Findings

In the end, what the Augustine report boils down to in regards to future exploration architectures, is a choice between what the report calls the Ares V Lite (which in reality is the original ESAS Ares V), and the JSC proposed Shuttle Side Mount vehicle. The current “Program of Record” as it is referred to in the report is not considered a viable path forward due to the extremely high costs involved in its development phase, something that many knowledgeable people pointed out as far back as when it was originally unveiled.

As it pertains to destinations or outcomes, the choice is really between what the Augustine Report calls “Moon First” or “Flexible Path”. Mars is out of the picture due to the extreme expense of any viable Martian exploration architecture. The Moon First architecture is further subdivided into three variants. There is the lunar base, the lunar global (extended sorties to a limited number of sites), and sorties. The committee focused on the Lunar Global and Lunar Base scenarios and curiously stated that both variants would cost about the same. Which is only true if you limit the scope of activities at the base.

The Flexible Path is an interesting concept, though some wags call it “look but don’t touch”, that has multiple destinations, including free space locations such as the Earth/Sun libration points.
The committee in developing their options for the launch architecture rightly focused on lifecycle costs in differentiating between the Ares V light and the Shuttle Side Mount launcher. A very interesting and more than likely true observation made by the committee is that no matter which launch vehicle is chosen, the current NASA human spaceflight fixed cost structure will be the same. The committee found that the development costs for the Shuttle Side Mount would be less, which many of us have noted, due to the fact that the Solid Rocket Motors, External Tank, and even the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) boat tail (where the engines are mounted) would be essentially identical to the current shuttle. It would be quicker to field as well. However, they also found that the recurring costs would be higher due to the extremely high cost of the SSME. On the Ares V side, it was found that while the development costs would be higher, the overall lifecycle costs would be lower due to the lower recurring cost of the vehicle. However, there are assumptions built into these findings that could change going forward.

Launch Vehicle Lifecycle Costs Vs Architecture Life Cycle Costs, the Key to Success

With the commission zeroing in on lifecycle costs, one is driven to understand what they mean when applying that term to each architecture as well as each launch vehicle choice. It should be granted, that for some of the missions chosen, that the committee’s findings related to the lower costs of the Ares V lite vs the Shuttle Side Mount are correct. Missions to a libration point, a NEO, Lunar Orbit or Mars orbit or even Lunar Surface Sorties would all be cheaper using the Ares V as there is little that can be done to more efficiently carry out those missions. However, this does not apply to the Moon First lunar base.

The reasoning is as follows: The Shuttle Side Mount Moon First scenario in 5C has two crewed (3 Shuttle Side Mount (SSME’s) per crew) and two heavy lift cargo flights. But why dos there have to be heavy lift cargo flights? The key finding was that for the Shuttle Side Mount that SSME cost dominate the recurring costs, to wit:

With two crew and two cargo missions per year, this would require eight to ten launches of the Shuttle-derived launcher, each with three or four SSMEs or derivatives, for a total of24 to 40 of the Shuttle engines being used, with a resulting high recurring cost. (page 93 of the report)

If you can cut the number of cargo flights from heavy lift to zero and take a page from the Flexible Path’s call for a lighter lunar lander a radical shift occurs. If you had a lunar base, you could actually use a much lighter lander just to ferry crew from lunar orbit to the surface and back. If you were able to do this, the lunar mission itself could possibly be dropped to two Shuttle Side Mounts per crew and four vehicles per year. This would be further enabled by In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), which could proceed from private enterprise to enable the government to explore further and more cost effectively.

If the government chose to locate a base at a lunar pole (preferably the north to enable the maximum amount of surface exploration), and explore outward from there, caches of food, fuel, and other consumables could be staged. There are definite driving paths from the north polar region Peary Crater permanently lit zones down to Mare Frigoris, which then liberates a ground expedition to easily traverse the entire nearside Mare region. Much of the lunar farside terrain in the north is less onerous than in the south as well. Supplies could be emplaced by commercial landers who would use precision guidance to land their payloads, or the supplies could be carried overland by groups paid to do so. How much would the science value be raised and value given to the government by extending their scientific exploration potential. The government could incentivise this market in the same manner as COTS.

This is the beauty of the Moon, it is now within the possible grasp of private enterprise. Instead of launch opportunities once every two years, there is one available every two weeks. Today we have the Delta IV, Atlas V, the upcoming Falcon 9 as well as our international partners who could provide supplies, crews, and other hardware to extend the value of lunar exploration. There is even a plan to uprate the Ariane V to as much as 20 tons to trans lunar injection orbit. There are all kinds of deals that can be struck that would completely swing the cost benefit ratio to this type of architecture. This is something that the flexible path, no matter how scientifically interesting it might be, can provide. Though some of the first product from lunar oxygen production should be to enable a robust NEO mission.

As far as cargo’s go, there are not really that many cargo’s that require the full capability of any of the heavy lifters. For those that do, they could be split between EELV heavy launchers. If a heavy reliance on ISRU were implemented, the number of large Earth integrated payloads would be dramatically reduced.

Augustine and The Issue of In Situ Resources

Anyone who has read the Augustine report is struck is struck by the fact that ISRU, while mentioned, is left out of the near term technology opportunities. Some of this is due to the inertia of only choosing “proven” technologies. This is one thing that we do that is not like we did in the Apollo era, but that we can fix easily. On the earth we have thousands of years worth of experience in mining and processing minerals, making oxygen and metals from lunar rock is but an extension of this. I was very pleased at the ingenuity of the winning team from the lunar regolith challenge at Moffett field in October of this year.

The winner’s robot moved over 500 kilograms (1100 pounds) of simulated regolith in 30 minutes. On the Moon, digging regolith, moving it, processing it, storing the products are all part of what must be learned but the centennial prize actually brought several teams worth of developers into thinking about the problem who built hardware and tested it under the pressure of competition. This machine in some evolved form, will be input side of the ISRU process and even one metric ton per hour of materials processed would lead to amazing results, especially if the output included metals such as iron, aluminum, magnesium, and silicon.

The bottom line is that with very little monetary incentive from NASA in the form of the prizes, some teams have developed quite a bank of human capital and operational experience in these areas. In NASA’s technology roadmap, if ISRU is made a centerpiece of the reason for the lunar base, then it can be applied soon and possibly from private entrants. Larger prizes for larger aspects of exploration could achieve similar results. These prizes, if large enough, could be a significant economic stimulator. The prize for processing a ton of lunar regolith into usable propellant and metallic products must be high enough to encourage participants but should also be enough under the government’s cost to make it cost beneficial to the taxpayers. This could help accelerate the development of this technology to bring it to a much higher technology readiness level, faster than other methods as it widens the pool of interested parties beyond the aerospace companies that normally get larger development contracts. A billion dollars? Two billion? That would be an amazingly cheap price to pay to crash through this exploration debilitating barrier.

Looking Ahead

ISRU, commercial transportation, and the ease of the integration of the international partners is the game changer that makes Moon First a slam dunk win. With ISRU you very soon get the flexible path as ISRU derived propellants could be transported to the Earth/Sun L2 libration point to await the arrival of the human crews. The same thing could be done with propellants to a NEO. If this type of creative architecture were adopted, then the Shuttle Side Mount would be clearly the winner. A lower development cost today, and a restrained number of launches would limit the recurring costs. With the lower development costs, funds could be found to design a lightweight lunar lander. There have been some interesting forays into human lunar lander design that could change everything and dramatically bring down the cost of building, launching, and reusing them. If you were to reuse a human lunar lander with ISUR provided water just once, you would save over a billion dollars per year in architecture recurring costs.

Going beyond simply reusing a lander, if you were able to use an ISRU process that makes metals such as iron or aluminum (lots of aluminum near the poles as well as iron), you can build buildings, you can build the chassis of heavy equipment as well as other mobile systems, basically most of the heavy stuff that goes into a system on the Earth is eliminated. With large interior structures food can be grown, people can live and move around, and the beginnings of tourism could happen.

There are a plethora of things that can be done if ISRU become centric to your efforts and not an afterthought reserved to some magical future time. We have amazing capabilities these days in robotic systems thanks to smarter and smarter computers. Lets apply those capabilities to the Moon. In this type of architecture the things sent up from the Earth change. No longer needing to build compete systems on the ground, the emphasis becomes sending parts up and completed subsystems. This would change the entire way that payloads are handled. Something akin to the standard sea cargo container, designed around EELV class vehicles would provide an inexpensive means to multiply the effectiveness of a lunar base and our ability to explore the Moon.

Conclusions

I am utterly convinced that the above lunar base scenario or something even better is doable under the same $3 billion plus guidance that Augustine used. The ISRU development is far less difficult than those who have not deeply studied the issue know. It is not easy, but the benefits are so obvious, that to exclude it, is to castrate your exploration effort. If you keep shuttle flying in a minimum mode of twice per year till 2015 and supply sufficient funding, the Shuttle Side Mount could easily be flying by the end of the Shuttle era. This would mitigate any loss of corporate knowledge and expertise from the current shuttle workforce. This is a critical, yet underappreciated advantage that the Side Mount design has.

Keeping the station flying till 2020 will help accelerate the lunar return if the station is used as a way station for at least cargo destined for the Moon. With a lightweight lander that shuttles between lunar orbit and the base, could be built and tested far faster than the lunar lander that Altair is today. With commercial enterprise as part of the critical path, as well as bringing the critical ISRU development in, not only would the president be proud, all of us could look up in amazement at how rapidly the growth of a lunar base would lead to future exploration. The Moon is our second beachhead in the sky after ISS. The Moon is next after ISS, with a truly flexible path to Mars and beyond awaiting.

Source:spaceref.com

NASA KSC Center Director Robert Cabana Internal Memo: Seas of Change

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Source: Kennedy Space Center

image

TO: All Kennedy Space Center Civil Service and Contractor Employees
SUBJECT: Seas of Change

It seems the only thing constant in life is change, and we are certainly in the midst of it here at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Change isn’t necessarily good or bad, it just is, and we have the opportunity to make the best of it and seek ways to improve, or be left behind. I know all of us would like a definite answer to what the future holds for KSC, but no one can predict exactly what the future’s going to be. We can plan ahead, however, and be prepared for whatever the future may bring. That’s exactly what the senior staff has been doing the last few weeks.

I’m sure you all heard about the Executive Summit that the Administrator hosted in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago. For the first time that I’ve ever seen in my 24 years with NASA, Charlie Bolden invited NASA’s entire senior leadership team to Washington for a 3-day meeting. The purpose of the summit wasn’t to tell us where we’re going or how we’re going to get there, but to hear firsthand Charlie’s philosophy of command, what he expects from us, and how we can be better prepared for the future. It was about communication, core values, and what it means to be a leader. It was a very worthwhile experience for the team.

Following the NASA Executive Summit, the KSC senior staff held our own 3-day retreat to help us better prepare for the future, and I have been remiss in not providing some feedback to you sooner. I’m not making excuses, but we have been a little preoccupied with recent events here at the Center. I think the first questions that come to mind are, How do we respond to the options presented in the Augustine report, and How does the report affect our future at KSC? We are proactively working to answer these questions through actions assigned to senior management-led teams following our retreat. One of our primary concerns is the transition of the workforce.

Let me assure you, all the changes we’ve made in the last year and all the work we’ve accomplished are placing us in a better position to support whatever the future may bring. I can’t predict the future, but I know that we will have a robust space program, that we will explore beyond low Earth orbit, and that KSC will play a prominent role in the processing, launch, and recovery of the payloads and spacecraft that are integral to making that a reality.

Yes, change is coming, and the transition is going to be difficult, but when we get there, our future is going to be bright. Although there is a lot that needs to be more clearly defined, I think there’s a lot that we know. The Shuttle program is going to come to an end in the not too distant future. We are already transitioning to a new architecture that will enable us to once again leave our home planet. When the program does end, a significant portion of our team is going to be out of work. The International Space Station will most likely have a life beyond 2016 to probably 2020. NASA is going to support the development of commercial options to service the International Space Station; we have already been doing this through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. We are going to build a spacecraft to take humans beyond low Earth orbit; its name is Orion, and it is going to be built here at KSC. The first piece of tooling for this new vehicle has already arrived in the newly refurbished Operations and Checkout Building high bay. What this new spacecraft will launch on is still to be determined, but consideration is being given to additional Ares I test flights in support of Orion.

When we leave Earth, we are going to require a heavy-lift vehicle. Whether it’s an in-line or side-mount option, it will more than likely have solid rocket motors and liquid fueled engines, and it will be processed and launched from Launch Complex 39. This new architecture will have the ability to go wherever we want–low Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, near-Earth objects, Lagrange points, you name it. There’s also going to be a renewed emphasis on research and development. The questions are the phasing and the funding and how we’re going to make it all happen. But we’re working on it. We’re discussing all the options, and we’re making sure that we’re prepared to support whatever we’re asked to do in the normal, outstanding manner that NASA and the American public have come to expect from KSC.

The most important thing we can do to ensure we have a promising future is to continue to deliver on what we’ve said we are going to do now: to continue to safely fly the Shuttle, to complete the International Space Station, to procure expendable rockets for NASA science missions, and to meet our commitments to the Exploration Mission Directorate and Constellation Program by delivering a quality product, on time and under budget.

We are on the right track. I can’t tell you exactly what the future will be, but I’m convinced that it will be good once we get there. I can also promise you that we will be totally honest and open with you in all our communications, and when we do have more definitive information, we’ll share it. Change is difficult, but there’s no escaping it. It’s coming and we have to be prepared to make the most of the opportunities that come with it.

Thanks for all you do on a day-to-day basis to make this team so successful. You can be very proud of your accomplishments, and believe me, they’re very visible. The entire Nation saw the launch of a new rocket, not something that comes along every day. Our Nation takes great pride in every Shuttle and Launch Services Program launch and the knowledge that we are a world leader in space exploration. It wouldn’t happen without your hard work. I know you are worried about the future. Please try to remain focused on keeping us safe and successful every day, knowing your management is focused on ensuring the best possible future for all of us at KSC. And thanks again for all you do.

Keep charging,

Robert D. Cabana

NASA Academy Application Website Is Online

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

image
“Welcome to AcademyApp.com. Here students can apply to the NASA Academy at Ames, Glenn, Goddard, and Marshall with a single application. An applicant for Research Associate with the NASA Academy must:

1. have a demonstrated interest in space
2. have a previous internship or project experience
3. be a junior, senior, or first or second year graduate student in Fall 2010
4. be in high academic standing (GPA of 3.0 or greater)
5. be a US citizen (Note: The NASA Academy at Ames will also consider applicants from Canada.)”