Status Report

NASA Advisory Council Meeting Minutes 16-17 March 2000

By SpaceRef Editor
March 16, 2000
Filed under

Meeting Report

Table of Contents

Opening Remarks


Space Studies Board (SSB) Recent Reports


Remarks by the Administrator


Mars Climate Orbiter Review


Faster, Better, Cheaper Report


Shuttle Safety Upgrades


Earth Sciences Report


Shuttle Independent Assessment Team (SIAT) Report


Aero-Space Technology Enterprise


Committee Reports


Aero-Space Technology Advisory Committee (ASTAC)


Space Science Advisory Committee (SScAC)


Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications Advisory Committee (LMSAAC)


Technology and Commercialization Advisory Committee (TCAC)


Discussion of Findings and Recommendations



Appendix A Agenda

Appendix B Council Membership

Appendix C Meeting Attendees

Appendix D Recommendations

Appendix E List of Presentation Material


Meeting Report Prepared By:

Paula Burnett Frankel, Consultant

RS Information System, Inc.


NASA Headquarters, Washington DC

March 16-17, 1999


Thursday, March 16

Opening Remarks

Dr. Bradford Parkinson, Chair of the NAC, welcomed NAC members and attendees. The next meeting will be at Langley Research Center (LaRC) on June 6-7, 2000. The focus of that meeting will be space science and long-term space technology, including investment strategy. Other NAC meeting dates during 2000 are: September 12-13, 2000, at Ames Research Center (ARC); and December 7-8, 2000, at NASA Headquarters. At the last meeting, the NAC focused on the performance plan; it is now in print and will be released in a few weeks. This meeting focused on recent external reports and assessments.

Ms. Lori Garver, Executive Secretary of the NAC, highlighted some important events since the last meeting. She noted that four reports have been released this month, and the NAC will be hearing briefings on three of these at this meeting. Mr. Tom Young was the Chair of the Mars Program Independent Assessment Team and that report will be released later this month. For the first time, NASA received an increase in its budget for FY 2001. There is greatly increased budget for Shuttle upgrades as well as for investment in next generation space technology. In addition, Space Science has a new program, “Living With a Star.” Also, NASA has been allocated funds and authority for hiring additional personnel. Mr. Goldin has testified on the budget twice, and there are many supporters on both sides of the House; however, there still may be a budget crunch before approval. NASA had a good Shuttle mission last month. STS-101, another supply visit to the Space Station, will be launched next month. The Service Module is now scheduled for July 2000. The Policy and Plans Office has released an updated version of the Strategic Management Handbook.

Space Studies Board (SSB) Recent Reports

Dr. Claude Canizares discussed recent highlights of the SSB. There have been a number of recently published reports and several are in review or in press. He highlighted four of these: Institutional Arrangements for Space Station Research; Continuing Assessment of Technology Development in NASA’s Office of Space Science; Assessment of Mission Size Trade-offs for Earth and Space Science Missions; and Review of NASA’s Plans for Space Station Biotechnology Research Facilities.

The goal of the first report was to look at NASA’s strawman plan for facilitating research on ISS and provide some recommendations. The panel concluded that the concept of an Non-Government Organization (NGO) was a sound one and that NASA should go forward with it. Research would be facilitated considerably by a NGO, which would be an organization run by researchers for researchers. This NGO should concentrate on support of research, not basic operations and maintenance. In response to a question, Dr. Canizares noted that the Space Telescope Science Institute was a model, but the NGO has a number of differences and needs to be implemented in a phased approach. In response to a question from Dr. Parkinson, Dr. Canizares noted that engineering research, as well as commercial research should be included. This report did not address the potential tension between research and operations. Another element of complexity on the International Space Station (ISS) is the degree of involvement of international partners. There is a significant portion of ISS research that will be considered basic and will never be self-supporting; however, more of the commercial research could become self-supporting over time. Dr. Canizares emphasized that there is a set of complexities associated with ISS—the international aspects, the roles of NASA centers, commercial aspects, etc. The key is not to lose NASA corporate memory and expertise; NASA must still play a significant role. It is not clear to what degree this will require a brick and mortar facility. The panel considered a spectrum of alternatives, from “leave everything in NASA” to “privatize everything” and concluded that the NGO is the optimum approach.

The SSB has gotten an increasing number of requests that come from the Hill. One of them was to do a study of mission size trade-offs for Earth and Space Science missions. The question was: Is there too much of a swing toward small missions? The panel evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of missions of different sizes and recommended some general principles. The panel concluded that a mixed portfolio of mission sizes is valid across the spectrum. The Faster, Better Cheaper (FBC) approach has produced useful improvements, regardless of absolute mission size or cost. The panel observed that there have been some problems in the application of the FBC approach, although the concept is valid. The mission size should be driven by the scientific objectives. One important aspect is a vigorous technology program to enable a portfolio of missions of varying sizes. At the smaller end, there is some mismatch between the number of small missions and the availability of launchers.

The SSB was asked by the Office of Space Science (OSS) to review technology development. The main conclusion was that there had been significant progress from the earlier report in 1998. In the original report, Dr. Fink emphasized that NASA Centers should focus on core competencies and should choose them very carefully. The Task group found that there has been no great consistency in the application of core competencies and urged a Headquarters activity to focus on this issue. Dr. Mulville noted that this is an important issue and should be raised to Mr. Goldin.

The last report discussed by Dr. Canizares was the review of plans for biotechnology research on the ISS. The Panel focused on how the ISS could most effectively be used for biotechnology research (protein crystal growth and cell science). The protein crystal growth findings are the most controversial. The Panel found that the impact of microgravity crystals on the field of structural biology has been limited, but that there are some biologically important macromolecules that are very hard to crystallize on the ground and NASA should focus on these. Dr. Baldwin noted that the field is still too new to see where the impact might be. On balance, this was a useful report for the protein crystallography community. The Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA) is putting together a strategy; the key is to bring in a broader mindset than has been used to date. Dr. Canizares noted that on cell science, activities have been moving along very well.

The SSB has a Committee on International Space Programs and has recently started to focus on the issue that is an impediment to international cooperation—recent changes in U.S. export control policies and space research. Most of the impact is the result of implementation (licensing authority was transferred from Commerce to State, which applies the regulation much more strictly). The way that satellites are treated has changed. Also, NASA procurement has issued some regulations that tighten the rules on contractors (including universities that carry out research). The shift affects all research, not only international collaborations, since the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) applies to transfer of data to foreign nationals (i.e., grad students). Dr. Parkinson agreed that this is a serious problem. Dr. Canizares noted that ITAR does have an exemption for basic research, but it only applies to data (not hardware). Maj. Gen. Jacobson stated that ITAR flies in the face of global economy. It would be helpful if NASA could start a commission of some sort to pursue this issue. Dr. Parkinson suggested that this topic be raised later in the meeting during deliberation of recommendations. Dr. Canizares noted that there are some things that NASA can do internally, and Dr. Mulville requested a list of specific things that NASA could do to help the situation. Dr. Canizares observed that a more collaborative approach between NASA and contractors/universities is needed. Also, ITAR impacts the implementation of FBC and NASA must deal with this issue. Dr. Parkinson asked Dr. Canizares to comment on this topic when Mr. Goldin was present.

Remarks by the Administrator

Mr. Goldin noted that he had five subjects from the last meeting: workforce, space transportation, long-term technology, ISS, and FBC. With respect to workforce, NASA has more people over 60 than under 30 and the aging workforce trend is getting worse, not better; currently, the average age is a little over 45. This is very serious. NASA now has the ability to hire a couple thousand people, but there are some areas of concern. On the positive side, NASA is finally breaking out of the operations mode and is getting into more cutting edge R&D; for example, Ames Research Center is doing a spectacular job. There is a lot of news about NASA (the Agency has been on prime time news for 30-40 weeks). One of the problems NASA faces is competition from the explosion of “” and high tech companies. Students are asking: Why work for aerospace? NASA can only offer post-doc salaries somewhere around $50,000 per year. However, the biggest problem is that NASA has no credibility with young people due to the recurring Congressional attacks on NASA’s budget. Projects depend upon budget stability. Mr. Goldin expressed concern about another budget trauma this year, which may result in loss of younger staff and even more difficulty in hiring young people. NASA is going to try and work with the Congress and the Administration to keep stability in the budget. Also, instead of hiring permanent, long-term civil servants, NASA is going to try to get people to come in to the Agency on a “term” basis. There is currently a mix of 75 percent permanent and 25 percent term employees. One of the questions is: Have we targeted this correctly? Is this the right balance? NASA hopes to get the people from the better schools with the higher performance on a term basis and put them on the challenging projects. Mr. Goldin invited feedback from the NAC on this subject. Dr. Parkinson observed that NASA is on the right track; however, the two issues which present difficulties for term employees are retirement portability and the “revolving door” restrictions. Mr. Goldin observed that the government may have overreacted on the revolving door problem. Unfortunately, it has propagated down to lower and lower levels. The portability of the retirement package should not be a problem with the new FERS (if the employment limit is changed from three years to two). Mr. Israel suggested something along the lines of a technical service corps—students work at NASA in return for educational grants. Dr. Squyres emphasized how young people are influenced by the fluctuations and instability in NASA. Young people should be attracted by some kind of term appointments at NASA Centers, but NASA should work with other agencies as well. Gen. Rosenberg suggested establishing a formal mentor-protégée program with college students in a work-related environment. This is paying off for industry. This approach doesn’t take a grant—it takes a commitment in NASA for a structured college internship program. It might be worthwhile to combine this with Mr. Israel’s idea. Mr. Goldin asked Gen. Rosenberg to brief his program to Ms. Vicki Novak. Gen. Jacobson noted that industry has the same problem with aging workforce. Mr. Goldin asked if it would be worthwhile to work with AIAA to put together a joint program. Mr. Goldin indicated that he would have Gen. Sam Armstrong and Ms. Novak to go over to the Pentagon to look at this issue, and get with the AIAA to try and work something together. Gen. Rosenberg suggested working with an association connected with the world of the’s, e.g., the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA), which includes the Information Technology (IT) companies.

Mr. Goldin noted that Space Transportation is an area of NAC interest. It is NASA’s number one new development priority, and NASA has laid out a plan over a six year period which has multiple levels. NASA has set near term goals (within a decade) to improve reliability of space launch vehicles and survivability by a factor of 100. The cost objective is to get $10,000 per pound to orbit down to $1000. Over the following ten years, the objective is to improve reliability by another factor of 100. NASA is not specifying technology or the approach. The Agency needs to include third as well as second generation technology; it also needs to integrate neural technology and material technology with hardware technology. Mr. Arthur Stephenson has been given the assignment to integrate a long-term and midterm vision for space transportation. With respect to a second generation launch vehicle, NASA needs to do the right things to lead to a downselect in 2005. Another lesson learned from the X programs is that NASA needs to have a clearly stated policy that there will be competition all the way through the process (NASA will run a number of competitions). Also, NASA needs to have a more vigorous interaction with industry throughout the process. The Agency has identified NASA-unique technology. The commercial industry is not exploding in this area and it appears that the government will be the major customer; therefore, the NASA-unique requirements will have to be addressed. ISS will be used as a testbed for alternate access to space—about $3-$4 million has been set aside to look at alternate ways to get cargo to the ISS. NASA is also looking at alternate access for people to Station. For examples, could a Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) be combined with a crew transportation vehicle? Could it be launched on something other than Shuttle? A decision is targeted by 2002. NASA is looking at a diversity of companies, ideas, and approaches. Many of the NAC discussions and recommendations have been factored into the plan. In response to a question, Mr. Goldin noted that the problem with human space exploration is not enough resources. We need to solve earth-bound propulsion problems first. Also, we need to solve some biological problems with respect to human space flight. The Hill has been very supportive on the advanced propulsion issue.

Mr. Goldin stated that NASA will abide by the ITAR; however, this is an issue that needs a national debate. Dr. Canizares discussed the findings of the SSB with respect to unintended consequences on universities participating in the NASA research program, both in international and non-international programs. The issue was spotlighted with the legislative changes about a year ago and the transfer of licensing authority from Commerce to State. In principle, an export license is needed for every foreign national that can come into contact with technical data. There is an exemption of technical data in the public domain. The Academy is going to try to convene a workshop on this issue. The SSB hopes that NASA will take a role in trying to address the issue at the national level. Currently, there is a sense that NASA has shifted the burden to universities and made it their problem. It would be helpful if NASA could provide clarification on some of the exemptions and work with the universities on the problem. Dr. Parkinson added that NASA should try to encourage the Administration to set up a Presidential or Congressional Commission on this issue. Dr. Squyres noted that effective communications throughout the entire project structure is important; when ITAR starts to inhibit that process, FBC management of projects becomes more difficult. Maj. Gen. Jacobson asserted that the ITAR’s purpose has not been effective. In an attempt to make sensitive items secure, we have included a lot of things that shouldn’t be restricted, given the global economy. The issue is getting to be large enough for a Commission to sort it out, and industry would support this. Dr. Canizares noted that there are some things that NASA can do in the short term, e.g., adopting a cooperative attitude with academia and industry, interpreting the exemptions, providing class approvals, assisting universities in applying for licenses, etc. Also, NASA could take a role in encouraging a Commission. Mr. Goldin noted that this is a very difficult environment. On the one hand, there are these research concerns; on the other hand, there are real dangers. The question is how to balance it. Mr. Goldin accepted the responsibility for coming down rather hard on this to keep the Space Program from the notoriety that has occurred with some private companies. Mr. Golden stated that he is committed that NASA will take a lead role (initially with the universities) on the issues related to National Security Directive 189. He asked Gen. Armstrong (Mr. Goldin’s senior advisor on NASA/university relationships) to get with Dr. Canizares and other members of the community and propose a plan to the NAC at the next meeting. Within the rules of the nation, NASA will work with the Administration and Congress to have an open environment at universities. There is a lot of misinformation floating around. NASA is committed to protecting the valuable knowledge of the country and would like to use the NAC as a sounding board for concepts. Mr. Goldin asked Dr. Parkinson to form a subgroup to work with Gen. Armstrong on this topic. [Dr. Brackey and Mr. Israel volunteered to be on the subgroup.] NASA will not try to change legislation; within the existing law, NASA will work with the Administration and Congress to represent the universities and to interpret what exists. There is a lot of misinformation floating around. In response to a comment from Dr. Brackey regarding industry, Mr. Goldin indicated that the charter of the group will state that what NASA does with the universities will be compatible with where the industry is going.

Mr. Goldin noted that the transformation of NASA cannot occur without a more aggressive relationship with universities. Gen. Armstrong will lead this initiative and will be interacting with the NAC. As the budget ramps up, there is opportunity for the budget to universities to go up. There will be a readjustment on how NASA spends its money.

Mars Climate Orbiter Review

Mr. Stephenson discussed the findings of the Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO) Mishap Investigation Board. Board members were from across the agency, with consultants from industry and academia. The Board was established by Dr. Ed Weiler on October 15, 1998, after loss of the MCO. The first report, released on November 10, 1999, addressed the mishap root cause, contributing causes, and observations. In January 2000, the Board charter was broadened to look at other successes and failures and provide recommendations on project management. Mr. Stephenson first discussed the mishap. The navigators initially came from Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) where there was a symmetrical spacecraft. Unfortunately, they were not informed on the design of the MCO spacecraft, which was asymmetrical. The root cause was failure to use metric units in the coding of ground software “small forces” used in trajectory modeling. If the ground software had been checked out, this error would have been caught; however, this part of the ground software was not considered flight critical software and did not go through a software validation and verification (V&V) program. The navigator at JPL noticed some irregularities, and started using an informal communication systems (emails) to the spacecraft control people at Lockheed. The problem was never really closed. In addition, the request to do Trajectory Control Maneuver (TCM5) was denied. The lessons-learned were passed on the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) project.

There were a number of contributing failures. In systems engineering, the Board felt that top-level architectural system trades needed to be done. The development-to-operations transition did not work well. No fault tree analysis was developed in advance. There was a lack of overarching understanding of spacecraft design and navigation. The TCM5 wasn’t ready when needed. There was no end-to-end systems V&V on ground software. In project management, the nav team was asked to do navigational work on three spacecraft instead of one, and the team needed additional staffing which was not provided. There was inadequate training. There was a high focus on cost and schedule and not enough attention was given on mission risk. There were high-level objections in the project that were not responded to. The institutional management (JPL) was not really engaged in the program. Some of the most capable people at JPL were not brought into the reviews, and the senior navigators at JPL were not brought in to review the process. The issues in communications included use of informal systems (email) and lack of a focus on resolving concerns. Also, there was no mission assurance manager during the development process.

Mr. Stephenson discussed the content of the final report. In addition to an introduction and the MCO observations and lessons learned, it included a new vision for NASA programs and projects, recommendations and metrics, and a “mission success first” checklist. Risk must be the fourth dimension in project management; as much time should be spent on it as is spent on reviewing cost, schedule, and scope of the program. There were four common themes from the failure investigations and studies: inadequate reviews; inadequately addressing risk management; inadequate testing, simulation, and V&V; and communications. In response to a question, Mr. Stephenson noted that more attention needs to be put on people—skills, training, etc. The Board made recommendations in four categories: people, process, execution, and technology. NASA tends to focus on process. People includes picking the right people (including the right leader), teamwork, communication, and adequate staffing and oversight. In the process area, the mission success criteria needs to be very clearly defined up front. Out of this derives the top level system requirements, etc. Other important aspects of the process are: systems engineering, verification and validation, risk assessment (e.g., fault tree analyses and probability risk assessment), the responsibility of the line organization, science involvement, operations (on the program from the start), and transitions (from development to operations). In response to a question, Mr. Stephenson indicated that the Board did not specifically address the process at the program level. He indicated that Mr. Spear’s report on FBC covered this more thoroughly. There needs to be a technology pipeline and an integrated synthesis environment. Mr. Stephenson showed a sample of the mission success first checklist. The report, among the other reports, will be used to decide whether to change guidelines in the Agency and how projects are run. Dr. Parkinson observed that in many cases, the findings were things that we already knew, and somehow we lost the key. Mr. Stephenson added that in many cases, FBC was perceived as not having to use sound engineering or management principles.

Dr. Mulville introduced Brian Keegan, the new NASA Chief Engineer and Orlando Figaroa, the new Chief Systems Engineer.

Faster, Better, Cheaper Report

Mr. Tony Spear was tasked to look at FBC, develop rules of engagement, comment on successes, and provide recommendations. He formed a Team with one representatives from every NASA Center, with support from about 20 people at JPL. The Team visited all ten Centers and asked people about FBC. In addition, the Team interviewed people at NASA Headquarters. Three Workshops were held last fall: one that was NASA-only to look at the rules of engagement, obstacles, and the future of FBC; and one that was industry- and academia-only with the same questions/topics. Everyone said the technology is extremely important and that the technology plan was weak and needed to be fixed. The third Workshop focused on technology. FBC is essentially about trying to improve performance—to be more efficient and innovative. However, it is a balance; try new things, but remember lessons-learned history. The peer review process is the most important check and balance there is. The peer reviews are important meetings with experts inside and outside—every major decision is peer reviewed.

The Team found that NASA was in a major transition as a result of FBC. Mr. Goldin wanted to charge Project Managers to step up to do powerful missions that are rather risky. In response to a question about what he would consider an “honorable failure,” Mr. Spear cited the tether demonstration mission as an example. Unfortunately, the public does not tolerate failure. We haven’t communicated the safety issue very well. At project start, Pathfinder had a credible plan and adequate reserves (28 percent); also, it had the flexibility to set the scope of the project. The air bags for Pathfinder were a new concept. Conceptual tests of airbags were done in the pre-project phase. Experts were brought in and made a part of the Team. Very good support was provided by LaRC and ARC. Every subsystem manager was empowered to be in charge of cost, schedule, and technical. SAIC was brought in to double-check everything that was done. Reserves were available to cover high risk items, e.g., the air bags. Following through on the details was extremely important. Mr. Spear showed the risk signature for Mars Pathfinder and noted that NASA should have a risk signature for every mission. Dr. Squyres observed that when one goes to a mission mix where all of the missions are FBC, there must be some mechanism in place to feed technologies forward. There has been a major shift from research to focused technology; there needs to be a better balance. Some of the “seed corn” must be saved for advanced development.

Mr. Spear stated that FBC is here to stay and the concept applies to everything, although it is much easier to do FBC on a small or less complex mission. There should be a pre-project phase where the mission cost is determined; if there is a fixed cap from the beginning, the project must have flexibility on scope. Every project must have reserves. The first generation of FBC missions had scope that fit within the caps; the second generation (e.g., MCO and MPL) didn’t—too much was cut away. Mars ‘98 tried to do two for the price of one. There was excessive fixation on cost and schedule. With NASA Headquarters oversight decreasing, the Centers were still learning the program management process. Almost overnight, JPL went from few to many missions. Many project managers and experienced reviewers were needed. This caught the institution off guard and there were many inexperienced project teams. The two important aspects of FBC are the methodology and the team. All projects should have a project performance checklist metric, which should be used throughout the duration of the project.

Mr. Spear showed some of the characteristics of missions in different categories: trailblazer robotic missions; classic robotic; and human or multi-billions. Each has a different mission success rate. Dr. Squyres noted that Mars gets special public scrutiny and this must be factored into the determination of what is acceptable risk. Mr. Spear noted that the number one challenge for FBC is that the failure rate is too high; it can be reduced by more careful planning, slowing the rate of the mission, mentoring and training young teams. As noted earlier by Mr. Goldin, there is a drain of young talent. Also, there is a long festering problem associated with Center teaming; Centers compete with each other for scarce resources. NASA has to face what each Center does—core competency. Each Center should have its set of specialties and other Centers need to respect those competencies. There must be a better arrangement among the Centers as to who does what. Centers then need to team together to work projects. Centers in the self-management mode cannot solve the core competency problem. There have to be leaders at Headquarters working the problem with the Centers. In addition, there has to be a better partnership with industry and academia.

Mr. Spear reviewed the FBC Team recommendations:

  1. Place a high priority on people acquisition, motivation, and training.

  2. Assign responsibility to the NASA Chief Engineer for consolidating the findings of this report with other investigative reports.

  3. Assign responsibility to NASA Academy of Program and Project Leadership to generate training material for FBC Workshops and conduct training workshops.

  4. Take aggressive steps to effect better teaming among NASA Centers, industry, and academia.

  5. Place a higher priority on Advanced Technology Development—assign a Headquarters technology champion.

  6. Move out more aggressively on IT development (the most important NASA Headquarters and Center to Center teaming arrangement)—assign a HQ information champion.

  7. Strike a better balance between FBC challenge and risk.

  8. Strike a better balance between empowerment and check/balances; bring in industry, academia, and outside consultants to review NASA approaches.


Shuttle Safety Upgrades

Mr. Norman Starkey, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Operations, discussed the Shuttle safety upgrades. He noted that Mr. Tom Young has been asked to chair the Space Flight Advisory Committee and that activity should start in April. The Space Shuttle Program Goals are: fly safely, meet the manifest, improve mission supportability, and improve the system. Upgrades are needed to enhance safety, support the ISS, improve reliability and maintainability, improve the process, help meet the HEDS exploration strategic goals, and protect the investment in orbiter mission life. With the upgrades program, there is a major reduction in ascent catastrophic risk, significant reduction in orbital and entry system catastrophic failure risk, and improved cockpit situational awareness for managing critical operational situations. The upgrades need to be implemented by the end of 2005 (at that time, a decision will be made on next generation launch vehicle). There can be no impact to on-going operations. In addition, the costs must be controlled to the estimates provided in the President’s proposed budget. In response to a question from Dr. Parkinson regarding prioritizing funding, Mr. Starkey noted that there are a couple of options post-2005. If there is no “next generation” shuttle replacement, the upgrades will provide improved safety, reliability, supportability, and ops costs. The upgrade strategy is to upgrade the program to keep the Shuttle flying safety and efficiently until the next generation vehicle in order to meet agency commitments and goals for human access to space. Mr. Starkey explained the selection criteria process for candidate upgrades. There is a NASA-industry team that has an integrated approach to produce STS upgrades. The criteria are: safety/reliability, ops improvements, and supportability/obsolescence. The proposed upgrades have been run through the process and the outcome is an upgrades plan. The number one upgrade is the electric auxiliary power unit (APU). The advanced health monitoring system for the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) is number two. Funding for these two upgrades have been approved. Electric APUs will replace the hydrazine powered turbines to drive orbiter hydraulic pumps and will eliminate hydrazine leakage/fire hazards, turbine overspeed hazards, and reduces toxic materials processing hazards. Dr. Parkinson asked for some way to summarize what the process is and how the decisions are made (e.g., take one example through the process). Mr. Starkey noted that the supportability side of the upgrades is about $100 million per year. For safety upgrades, $156 million has been requested for FY 01; for the next five years, $1.2 billion has been requested. In the past, budget had not been set aside for specific funding of Shuttle upgrades. Gen. Rosenberg noted that with respect to reliability improvements, one of the issues the NAC has had is which ones are buying substantial reliability improvements and stopping the marching armies. Mr. Starkey noted that the Quality and Reliability Assessment System (QRAS) is a tool to help management to decide where to go for safety and reliability improvement. The SSME and the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are major contributors to the ascent risk. Mr. Starkey noted the preliminary estimates for some of the upgrades: Orbiter avionics/cockpit–$380 million; landing gear–$70 million; SSME Advanced Health Management (phase 1)–$54.5 million, and SSME Block III–$400 million. Maintainability has about $200,000 this year for studies. Dr. Parkinson noted that the chart showing the process helped to clarify some of the NAC concerns, but the presentation did not address all of the NAC issues.

Earth Sciences Report

Dr. Raphael Bras, Chair of the Earth System Sciences and Applications Advisory Committee (ESSAAC) discussed the Earth Science implementation plan and examples of recent mission results. The Earth science community is excited about the promises in the Earth Sciences Enterprise. Under ESSAAC and OMB pressure, the Enterprise presented an Earth Science Enterprise Implementation Plan. Over the last few months, the subcommittee of ESSAAC, along with the NASA staff, has done a major rewrite of the Plan. The overarching science question is: How is the Earth changing and what are the consequences to life on Earth? The research themes correspond to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. All of the science questions cut across the research themes. The ESSAAC insisted on a set of criteria for science priority. Dr. Bras showed an example of the mapping of the missions by year in each of the research areas and noted the Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) missions that are currently flying or soon to be launched. There are important missions that will involve significant international collaborations. Dr. Parkinson expressed some concern about the debris problem at end of missions.

Dr. Bras briefly described some of the most recent missions—the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission; Terra (the first Earth Observing System platform); the Quick Scatterometer (QuickSCAT); and Landsat-7. The Tropical Rain Measurement Mission (TRMM), launched in 1997, has been very successful, and the data is now being used in combination with QuickSCAT data for global energy and water cycle observation.


Friday, March 17

Shuttle Independent Assessment Team (SIAT) Report

Dr. Henry McDonald provided an overview on the Shuttle Independent Assessment Report that was completed the end of January. The Office of Space Flight was concerned about potential issues related to processing and aging of systems and chartered a SIAT to assess the current state relative to best practices in the Department of Defense (DOD), industry, and NASA. The SIAT found that the Shuttle is safe, but could be made safer. The assessment indicated some erosion of flight-safety critical processes and defenses against maintenance errors; however, a lot of this was due to changeover to the Space Flight Operations Contract (SFOC) and downsizing in NASA.. Over the last few years, the number of in-flight anomalies have decreased significantly. In response to a question, Dr. McDonald agreed that it would be wise for NASA to have the next generation vehicle in the pipeline now. Membership on the Team included individuals from DOD as well as NASA.

The Team followed four incidents in detail and a lot of the observations were based on this approach. A Shuttle mission creates a high maintenance vehicle and the maintenance itself poses a hazard to safety and mission assurance, e.g., collateral damage to wiring. The workforce is excellent, but on the job training is required, with infrequent repetitions and cyclically high work load. Workforce turmoil has been caused by perceived uncertainty and layoffs. A major factor contributing to the erosion of the well-defended system has been the reduction in resources. Staffing is one deep in 15 critical areas and technician “pools” have been used to improve staff utilization; in the view of the Team, this increases risk. In addition, there was reduction in Quality Assurance staff (at Marshall Space Flight Center by 50 percent) and a movement to self inspection. The Team was also concerned about compromised redundancy and conflicting goals (safety and cost) on the SFOC. In response to a question, Dr. McDonald noted that the number of in-flight anomalies could be a useful safety metric for the contract. In response to another question, Dr. McDonald indicated that the Team criticized the Problem Reporting and Corrective Action data base. It is inadequate for the problem reporting scheme. The experience of the inspection teams becomes very important. Maj. Gen. Jacobson noted that in the rocket investigation last summer, that Team also noted that there had been a shift to self-inspection, which had left some holes in the safety net. Dr. McDonald noted that about 30 percent of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) workforce is eligible for retirement. All of the people interviewed expressed concern about the lack of young people coming into the program, and some of the people on the program have deferred retirement because of their concern for safety. The sheer number of waivers create pattern recognition problems. Another problem is insufficient information exchange. There was a lot going on both outside and inside NASA that wasn’t being utilized.

A number of case studies were examined by the Team. The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Human Factors Team found that lack of task specific experience was a significant factor in error review board events. Dr. McDonald discussed the pin ejection case and the pin related error indicators. In this case, the “fly as you test, test as you fly” was violated. The Team was also concerned about the significant backlog of corrective actions. With respect to the wiring anomalies, the Team found that the wiring problems can be caught by intensive human inspection and recommended that approach. In response to a question, Dr. McDonald indicated that the Team recommended that an external review team follow up on the Team findings. With respect to connection with the Shuttle upgrades plan, Dr. McDonald noted that when the SIAT made its formal presentation to JSC, the Shuttle Upgrades Team was present. The concern over the upgrades program was the introduction of the potential risk of new technology on board. The NAC felt that the output of this study should be factored into the Shuttle Upgrades program.

Aero-Space Technology Enterprise

Mr. Sam Venneri, Associate Administrator for the Office of Aero-Space Technology (OAT), discussed the OAT/Office of Chief Technologist (OCT) merger, the budget, and three new initiatives. With the merger, the OAT is responsible for Agency-level, long-term technology investments. The recently completed technology inventory has revealed a lack of investment in the long-term. The new Office will emphasize the return to integrated, long-term, innovative Agency-level technology for aeronautics and space and will develop a sustained, long-term relationship with the university community. Dr. Parkinson noted that the NAC feels that in ten years, NASA needs to have a next generation RLV; Mr. Venneri agreed and noted that he would address this question later. Many of the core competencies in the Agency are funded out of OAT, which is responsible for defining and maintaining technology core competency at the NASA Centers to accomplish long-term technology program. OAT will work with all of the Enterprises to develop their technology roadmaps. With respect to the next generation RLV, comprehensive analytical life cycle studies will be done and investment will be made in breakthrough technologies. The new FY 01 initiatives are: the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS); the Quiet Aircraft Technology; and a Focused 2nd Generation RLV. NASA is going back to elaborate system engineering and requirements definition while maintaining competition on risk reduction. Dr. Parkinson recommended that Mr. Venneri talk with Adm. Monroe’s group, which has some strong opinions on this issue. The problem is that the lead time to do what is needed is at least ten years. Unless a second generation RLV is set as a target by that date, NASA will not get there. Dr. Parkinson noted that what Mr. Venneri presented is compatible with the NAC opinion; the issue is where the funds will go. He emphasized that there is an enormous sense of urgency on this issue. Mr. Venneri stated that he has seen the Space Transportation Subcommittee comments and they are consistent with where OAT wants to go. Dr. Parkinson observed that it appears that NASA is still heading toward an indefinite technology with an Initial Operations Capability (IOC) goal that is not defined. Funds should not get diverted to technology developments that are not consistent with the IOC goal of 2010. The baseline plan should presume NASA-unique, but be able to take advantage of commercial if it becomes feasible.

Action on Mr. Venneri: Meet with Adm. Monroe and some of his people and review in depth what OAT is doing.

Mr. Venneri discussed the other new initiatives—the SATS and Quiet Aircraft Technology. NASA is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to introduce a change state into the airport system. Mr. Venneri discussed the strategy for the Integrated Space Transportation Plan. Dr. Parkinson noted that the goals are reasonable for the 2nd Generation RLV; however, there is no need to constrain the heavy lift to the manned requirements. Mr. Venneri discussed the significant technology drivers for the 2nd generation RLV. In the near term, OAT is looking at a means of alternate access to ISS. The Space Launch initiative will invest $315 million over the next 5 years to pursue commercially provided launch alternatives for spares and other cargo and logistics to the ISS.

Committee Reports

Dr. Parkinson requested that in the future, the Committees present only those recommendations that need NAC action or that are controversial. All other recommendations can be provided via the customary Committee letter to Dr. Parkinson.

Aero-Space Technology Advisory Committee (ASTAC)

Dr. Sinnett reported that there has not been an ASTAC since the last NAC meeting. There is a Subgroup looking at SATS with the FAA and there will be a report on that activity at the next NAC meeting.

Space Science Advisory Committee (SScAC)

Dr. Squyres reported on the SScAC meeting on February 29-March 2, 2000. The three primary topics were: a report of the Planetary Protection Task Force; a report from the Technology Readiness Task Force; and a review of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and Astrobiology Program. Dr. Squyres passed one recommendation along to the NAC for consideration: A Planetary Protection Advisory Committee (PPAC) should be established by the NASA Administrator under the auspices of the NAC. The need arises from the fact that there is increasing emphasis in the coming years on the many issues associated with planetary protection. A majority of SScAC members felt that PPAC should report directly to the Associate Administrator for Space Science and should be independent of the SScAC process to maintain independence and minimize perceptions of conflict of interest. Dr. Canizares noted that the SSB has been chartered as an external planetary protection advisory group and that there are two reports that will be released shortly. Planetary protection is something that NASA should take very seriously and it should be done at the highest levels. There is a public perception issue that goes beyond the scientific and technical one.

Dr. Parkinson noted that the NAC inclination is to go in this direction, but the NAC recommended that NASA explore this issue and bring it forward at the next meeting with the pros and cons from NASA’s standpoint. In addition, the NAC requested a presentation from the SSB on its reports at the next meeting.

Dr. Squyres discussed the findings of the Technology Readiness Task Force:

  • Technology development is substantially underfunded with respect to the requirements of the Structure and Evolution of the Universe and Sun-Earth Connection themes.

  • The management structure for technology within Code S is byzantine and a lack of clear process ownership allows things to fall between the cracks.

  • The Intelligent Synthesis Environment (ISE) shows great promise and should be tied to a space science mission that needs it.

The Task Force will meet once more before the next SScAC meeting to generate a set of specific recommendations. In response to a question, Dr. Mulville noted that there will be an integrated technology effort, led by OAT. Mr. Venneri has been working with Dr. Weiler on the execution plan. Dr. Parkinson suggested that the SScAC take a look at the Integrated Technology Plan and see if it will be solving any of the near term problems.

The SScAC was extremely impressed by the intellectual richness of the investigations underway within the NASA Astrobiology Institute and noted that the “virtual institute” experiment is working well so far. With respect to the possible Astrobiology Laboratory at ARC, the SScAC felt that there was not a strong astrobiology-related imperative for this facility to date. If such an imperative does emerge, SScAC recommended that selection and long-term funding be conducted competitively through an Announcement of Opportunity or NASA Research Announcement.

The SScAC was pleased with the significant increment to the Space Science budget. the new Living With a Star initiative, and the reorganization of the Science Research and Technology (SR&T) program.

Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications Advisory Committee (LMSAAC)

Dr. Kenneth Baldwin, the new Chair of the LMSAAC, reported on the meeting February 10-11, 2000. The scope of the meeting was to deal with a number of presentations, the most significant of which was the status of the NGO. This is a critical area since much of the ISS research will involve life and microgravity sciences. LMSAAC will track this item and report back to the NAC. The LMSAAC had no recommendations to bring forward to the NAC at this time. The Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA) is undergoing strategic planning activities and the Committee will be heavily involved in those. A Task Force will be formed to evaluate the end-to-end process of qualifying stand-by experiments for flight.

Technology and Commercialization Advisory Committee (TCAC)

Dr. Brackey, Chair of the TCAC, reported that his Committee had not had their normal quarterly meeting yet because of scheduling conflicts. Over the past year, the focus of the TCAC has been on the core competencies of the field Centers. There is also the issue of the future of the ASTAC and the TCAC, since they are now both in the same organization. Dr. Parkinson noted that there would be a natural tendency to combine them, but they have different functions and it is not clear that they should be combined. Mr. Green indicated that this needs to be discussed further over the next couple of months. This topic should probably be included in the future discussion of a potential new Committee on Planetary Protection. Dr. Mulville indicated that Mr. Venneri should talk to Dr. Brackey and Dr. Sinnett. Code R would benefit from both groups continuing in existence. Mr. Sinnett noted that he has a session scheduled with Mr. Venneri next week and would talk with him about this subject.

Discussion of Findings and Recommendations

Shuttle Independent Assessment Team Report – Dr. McDonald’s study should be part of the data for the Shuttle Upgrades program. If there is a critical need for follow-up, there may need to be a standing committee (there is already a NAC subgroup on safety). Planned corrective actions should be reviewed by the new Space Flight Advisory Committee. In response to a question, Dr. Parkinson noted that Mr. Young’s committee is replacing the Advisory Committee on the International Space Station (ACISS) and will be chartered to look at all of the OSF programs. Adm. Monroe’s group is primarily focused on future plans.

Planetary Protection Advisory Committee – NASA should explore the SScAC recommendation on the charter and reporting level for a Planetary Protection Advisory Committee and bring forward pros and cons from NASA’s standpoint at the next meeting. In addition, the NAC requested a presentation from the SSB on its reports on this topic.

Gen. Hoover noted that the NAC didn’t hear much about aeronautics technology. Dr. Parkinson asked Mr. Sinnett to look at the balance issue in OAT and report on that at the next meeting.

Mr. Green recapped the topics developed the previous day:

ITAR – A small NAC task force (Canizares, Brackey, Israel, and Squyres) is being formed to pursue this issue.

Integrated Space Transportation Plan – Adm. Monroe’s letter will be attached to the NAC letter. Mr. Goldin will be asked to invite Adm. Monroe and his group back in again to talk to him on this issue. The NAC strongly supports the budget level, but it must be focused on driving towards the next generation (this does not mean spending a lot of money on the first generation). [Include graph of timescale]

Aging Workforce (discussed by Goldin)—

    • Lots of applause for NASA’s authority to hire and its focus on issue

    • Mentoring

    • Education support and commitment

    • Need to solve the vesting/retirement problem

    • Revolving door legislation

Mars Reports – The NAC applauded the reports and the recommendations in general terms, and looks forward to the Young report on the Mars Program. The NAC would like to hear about the NASA response to the reports.

Shuttle Safety Upgrades – The NAC was not completely satisfied with the explanation of the process that was presented; it did not answer the issues raised by the NAC. The NAC looks forward to Tom Young’s report on the Shuttle upgrades. Dr. McDonald’s study should be part of the data input to the Upgrades program.

Earth Sciences – The NAC complemented the Task Force for its work on the Implementation Plan.

Dr. Parkinson adjourned the meeting at 11:20 a.m.

NASA Advisory Council

NASA Headquarters

Room 9H40

Washington, DC


March 16-17, 2000

March 16

8:30 Council Convenes

8:30 – 8:40 Opening Remarks Dr. Bradford Parkinson

8:40 – 8:50 NASA and Council Items Ms. Lori Garver

8:50 – 9:30 SSB Recent Reports Dr. Claude Canizares

9:30 – 10:50 Remarks by Administrator Mr. Goldin

10:50 – 11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:00 Mars Climate Orbiter Review Mr. Arthur Stephenson

12:00 – 12:45 Lunch

1:00 – 2:30 Faster, Better, Cheaper Report Mr. Tony Spear

2:30 – 3:30 Shuttle Safety Upgrades Mr. Norman Starkey

3:30 – 3:45 Earth Sciences Report Dr. Rafael Bras

3:45 Adjournment



March 17

8:30 Council Reconvenes

8:30 – 9:30 Shuttle Independent Assessment Report Dr. Henry McDonald

9:30 – 10:00 Aero-Space Enterprise Update Mr. Sam Venneri

Committee Reports

10:00 – 10:15 Aero-Space Technology Mr. Jim Sinnett

10:15 – 10:35 Space Sciences Dr. Steven Squyres

10:35 – 10:50 Minority Business Resources Mr. Jim Jones

10:50 – 11:10 Life and Microgravity Sciences Dr. Kenneth Baldwin

11:10 – 11:30 Technology and Commercialization Dr. Thomas Brackey

11:45 – 12:30 Lunch

12:35 – 2:00 Discussion of Findings and Recommendations

2:00 Adjournment


March 2000


Dr. Bradford W. Parkinson (Chair)

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Stanford University

Dr. Kenneth M. Baldwin

Department of Physiology & Biophysics

University of California, Irvine

Dr. Thomas A. Brackey

Executive Director, Technical Operations

Hughes Space and Communications Co.

Dr. Rafael L. Bras

Professor, Department of Civil and

Environmental Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Claude R. Canizares (Ex-Officio Member)

Director, Center for Space Research

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Edward F. Crawley

Professor and Co-Director, Systems

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Mr. Robert A. Davis

Vice President, Engineering and Technology

The Boeing Company

Gen. Charles M. Duke, Jr., USAF (Ret.)


Charlie Duke Enterprises

Ms. Susan Eisenhower


The Eisenhower Group, Inc.

Ms. Belinda Guadarrama

President and Chief Executive Officer

CG Micro Corporation

Gen. William W. Hoover, USAF (Ret.)

(Ex-Officio Member)

Chairman, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board

National Research Council

Mr. Fred Israel

c/o NASA Advisory Council

NASA Headquarters

Dr. Donald B. Jacobs

Vice President and General Manager (Ret.)

Advanced Programs, Boeing

Gen. Ralph H. Jacobson, USAF (Ret.)

President and CEO, (Ret.)

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.

Dr. Charles F. Kennel

Director and Vice Chancellor of Marine Sciences

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Mr. Duane T. McRuer

Chairman (Ret.)

Systems Technology, Inc.

Dr. Samuel Metters

President and CEO

Metters Industries, Inc.

Rev. John P. Minogue, C.M.


DePaul University


Dr. Daniel R. Mulville (Ex-Officio Member)

Associate Deputy Administrator

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Gen. Robert A. Rosenberg, USAF (Ret.)

Executive Vice President and General Manager, Washington Operations

Science Applications International Corporation

Mr. James M. Sinnett

Vice President, Technology

Head, Business Development for PhantomWorks

The Boeing Company

Dr. Steven W. Squyres

Professor of Astronomy

Cornell University

Mr. A. Thomas Young

Vice President (Ret.)

Lockheed Martin


Ms. Lori Garver (Executive Secretary)

Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Mr. Mike Green

(Staff Director, NAC)

Office of Policy and Plans

National Aeronautics and Space Administration


NASA Headquarters, Washington DC

March 16-17, 1999


Council Members:

Parkinson, Bradford W. (Chair) Stanford University

Baldwin, Kenneth M. University of California, Irvine

Brackey, Thomas A. Hughes Space and Communications Co.

Bras, Rafael L. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Canizares, Claude R. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Duke, Charles M. Charlie Duke Enterprises

Garver, Lori B. (Executive Secretary) NASA Headquarters

Green, Mike (Staff Director, NAC) NASA Headquarters

Hoover, William W. National Research Council

Israel, Fred [not affiliated]

Jacobson, Ralph H. USAF (Ret.)

Metter, Samuel Metters Industries, Inc.

Mulville, Daniel R. NASA Headquarters

Rosenberg, Robert A. Science Applications International Corp.

Sinnett, James M. The Boeing Company

Squyres, Steven W. Cornell University


NASA Attendees:

Andreassen, Nadine NASA Headquarters

Dakon, Kathy NASA Headquarters

Edgington, Stacey NASA Headquarters

Figuero, Orlando NASA Headquarters

Glass, Robert NASA/JPL

Goldin, Daniel NASA Headquarters

Hartman, Colleen NASA Headquarters

Hornstein, Rhoda NASA Headquarters

Humphrey, Randy NASA Headquarters

Jackson, Vernell NASA Headquarters

Keegan, Brian NASA Headquarters

McDonald, Henry NASA/ARC

Minor, Susan NASA Headquarters

Minute, Steve NASA Headquarters

Novak, Vicki NASA Headquarters

Roberts, Margaret NASA Headquarters

Robins, Rich NASA Headquarters

Rosendhal, Jeffrey NASA Headquarters

Roth, Axel NASA/MSFC

Rummel, John D. NASA Headquarters

Smith, Andrew NASA/MSFC

Starkey, Norman NASA Headquarters

Stephenson, Arthur NASA/MSFC

Tepper, Chris NASA Headquarters

Ulrich, Peter NASA Headquarters

Venneri, Sam NASA Headquarters


Other Attendees:

Alexander, Joseph NRC/SSB

Appleby, John JHU/APL

Barnes, Dick [consultant]

Brandt, David Lockheed Martin

Burke, April Caltech

Burnham, Mark Caltech

Burrowbridge, Don Orbital Sciences

Coats, D. OPM

David, Leonard

Divis, Derbin Aviation

Herman, Dan Breasnear LP

Jones, Raymond OPM

Ladwig, Alan

Lawler, Andrew Science

Mcgusson, Stan Space News

Mellors, Jane ESA

Monroe, R. R. ASTAC/STS

Reichhardt, Tony Nature

Silveiro, Milt DOD

Smith, Bryan [not affiliated]

Smith, Wayne [not affiliated]

Taylor, G. Jeffrey U. of Hawaii

Walker, Charles Boeing

Wertman, Doug [not affiliated]


March 16-17, 2000

Aging Workforce

The aging workforce has become a serious issue in NASA. Instead of hiring permanent, long-term civil servants, NASA is pursuing a “term” service approach to try to get people to come in to the Agency. There is currently a mix of 75 percent permanent and 25 percent term employees. NASA ho

SpaceRef staff editor.