Status Report

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

By SpaceRef Editor
November 3, 2009
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NASA KSC Center Director Robert Cabana Internal Memo: Seas of Change

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

SpaceRef staff editor.