Status Report

NASA’s Implementation Plan for International Space Station Continuing Flight

By SpaceRef Editor
November 6, 2003
Filed under , , ,
NASA’s Implementation Plan for International Space Station Continuing Flight

A periodically updated document
demonstrating our commitment to
application of the Columbia Accident
Investigation Board recommendations in
support of safe continuing flight of the
International Space Station

October 28, 2003

This version of the plan is online at NASA at


The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew
was devastating for the entire NASA family. For the
International Space Station (ISS) Program, finding our
way through this tragic loss begins with an unwavering
commitment to learn from this tragedy. We will reshape
the ISS Program based on those lessons, and carry out
the Administrator’s directive to continue our mission
of building, operating and performing research on
the ISS effectively and safely.

We are committed to those actions that will help
return the Shuttle to flight and, in turn, will support
our exploration and science objectives. The crew of
Columbia was dedicated to this vision of science and
exploration and devoted their lives to further it. It is our
job to continue their vision.

This document details the ISS plans for accepting
the findings, complying with the recommendations
applicable to ISS, and embracing the Columbia Accident
Investigation Board (CAIB) Report. The CAIB Report
identifies systemic issues that directly or indirectly affect
the way we plan, develop, and operate. We will address
those CAIB issues and describe how the ISS Program is
moving forward on a comprehensive set of process

This ISS Continuing Flight Implementation Plan
captures a snapshot of our review of lessons learned
from the Columbia accident and how we will work to
implement these lessons into the ISS Program. We will
periodically update this document as our review and
reassessment of procedures and processes identifies
needed changes and technical options for improvements.
Updates to this plan will reflect new understanding, increased
maturity, and decisions. We will also update this
document to include responses to the CAIB observations
and other CAIB Report Volumes as they are released.

The response summary provides an overview
of the ISS Program’s response to the initial CAIB
recommendations and to process improvement actions.
Part 1 provides a detailed discussion of activities undertaken
by NASA to implement the applicable CAIB recommendations.
Part 2 discusses additional NASA actions
taken as a result of internal reviews and working group
recommendations in addition to those made by the
CAIB and, in the next update, will contain the
Board’s observations.

The Columbia tragedy serves as strong reminder
that space flight is harshly unforgiving of engineering
deficiencies, overconfidence, system or human error,
and inaccurate risk assessments. The ISS Program’s part
in the return to flight efforts requires us to continue to
identify, understand, control, and mitigate the risk unique
to the ISS while accomplishing the mission entrusted to
us. We do so with the memories of our dear friends and
colleagues—the crew of STS-107—serving as both
an inspiration and an imperative to succeed safely.


The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB)
addressed both the direct and the contributing causes of
the Columbia accident and documented its results in the
CAIB Report, issued in August 2003. The CAIB Report
addressed issues that are critical not only for the Space
Shuttle Program, but for NASA as a whole. NASA accepts
the findings, will comply with the recommendations,
and embraces the Report. In addition, NASA is
analyzing the report for applicability to other programs
including the International Space Station (ISS) Program.

The Space Shuttle Return to Flight Planning Team is
focusing on the actions necessary to return the Shuttle
safely to flight. ISS Program personnel are participating
fully in these important initiatives, and their joint effort
is addressed in Volume 1 of NASA’s response to the
CAIB Report: NASA’s Implementation Plan for Space
Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond. In addition, NASA
is pursuing an in-depth assessment of its organization
with the objective of aggressively implementing corrective
actions. NASA chartered the ISS Continuing
Flight Team (CFT) to review the CAIB Report and
determine the areas that are applicable to the ISS Program
and ensure there are actions in place addressing
those areas. The purpose of this document—Volume 2 of
NASA’s response to the CAIB Report: NASA’s Implementation
Plan for International Space Station Continuing
Flight—is to document these findings and our
progress towards completion of necessary actions.

As with Volume 1, Volume 2 will continue to evolve
as our understanding of the activity needed to address
each issue matures. We anticipate periodically updating
Volume 2 to reflect changes to the plan and progress toward
implementing the lessons learned from the CAIB
Report as they relate to the ISS Program. Volume 2 updates
will also include responses to the observations and
any additional relevant lessons from the remaining volumes
of the CAIB Report that are scheduled for release
soon. Reaping the lessons learned from the Columbia
accident and the CAIB’s results started immediately after
the accident. While the CAIB was conducting its investigation,
the ISS Program began an intensive effort to
examine its own processes and operations under a continuous
improvement initiative. One of the objectives
was to identify the existence of any risk that has not been
reduced to the lowest level and to focus management
attention on the residual risks that cannot be eliminated.
As the CAIB released its preliminary results, the ISS
Program assessed them for applicability. Other continuous
improvement activities were derived from the
experience the ISS Program has gained from 3 years
of crewed ISS operations and 5 years of ISS system

Continuing Flight Team Assessment
and Implementation Plan Organization

The Continuing Flight Team (CFT) assessed every
CAIB recommendation and observation for applicability
to the ISS. Some of the CAIB recommendations were
specific to Space Shuttle design or processes. Others
affect NASA safety and engineering processes as a
whole. The CAIB Report provides valuable lessons
learned applicable to the ISS Program. Part 1 of this
volume addresses the CAIB recommendations that
were found to be applicable to the ISS. Although some
of these recommendations do not specifically apply to
the ISS, their underlying intent provides valuable insights
that contribute to improving ISS processes. Part 2
of this volume addresses many of the ISS Program areas
of continuous improvement. The CAIB observations will
be addressed in Part 2 in the next revision.

Where the underlying intent of any recommendation is
addressed by another recommendation documented in
Part 1 or a continuous improvement area documented in
Part 2, the location of the text that addresses the subject
will be referenced.

Reaping the Benefits of the IMCE Assessment

The CAIB report makes several references to the ISS
Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force
that conducted an in-depth review of the ISS Program cost, schedule, technical, and management infrastructure.

This Task Force was a direct result of the President’s
fiscal year 2002 (FY2002) Budget Blueprint, which laid
groundwork for attaining cost control and regaining ISS
Program credibility needed to fulfill the ISS full potential
and international commitments. The Task Force conducted
independent assessments of the ISS Program and provided
12 recommendations to NASA in an IMCE report
released on November 1, 2001. These recommendations
provided a roadmap to improve ISS Program management
and cost controls.

In response to the IMCE findings and recommendations,
the ISS Program implemented a reliable and effective
cost-estimating and management system that provides
a structured and disciplined program to manage cost
and risks.

ISS Operations Are Ongoing

The grounding of the Space Shuttle fleet following the
loss of Columbia has had a profound effect on the ISS
Program. The loss of capabilities provided by the Space
Shuttle has resulted in a delay in the assembly of ISS and
has greatly reduced the cargo mass available for resupply
and research. The loss of down mass has impacted our
ability to return failed hardware, results of scientific
investigations, and environmental samples. In response
to these challenges, a plan to allow continued crewed
operations of the ISS was developed and agreed to by all
ISS Partners. This plan requires the Russian Progress
spacecraft be used to supply cargo and crews be rotated
with the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This plan is being
implemented with the cooperation and efforts of
all Partners.

On October 18, 2003, the Expedition 8 crew was
launched on a Russian Soyuz vehicle to the ISS. The
two-person crew, comprised of Commander Mike Foale
and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri, is scheduled to
spend 192 days on board the ISS, conducting research,
and maintaining ISS systems. The Expedition 7 crew,
Commander Yuri Malenchenko and ISS Science Officer
Edward Lu, will return to Earth on October 28, 2003,
after spending 185 days on orbit. As a taxi crew member
on the ISS crew exchange, Spanish European Space
Agency Astronaut Pedro Duque will spend 8 days on
the ISS performing a variety of experiments. The ISS
Program team remains focused on conducting its
mission while safely supporting our crew.

ISS Partnership Is Strong

The ISS International Partnership has stepped up to the
challenge of keeping the ISS crewed and operating safely
as NASA works through the activities to return the Space
Shuttle to flight. Although the grounding of the Space
Shuttle has been a challenge to ISS operations, the spirit
of partnership that has built the ISS will sustain the ISS
through this difficult period.

The integrated international nature of the ISS Program
and its operation has emphasized the need for
clear communication and coordination at all levels of the
Program structure. One of the keys to the success of the
ISS Program, due to its integrated international nature,
has been establishing and maintaining clear communications
and coordination among the International Partners
at all levels of the Program structure. As we gain experience
in operating the ISS, we realize improvements in
communication that lead to an increased efficiency. The
grounding of the Space Shuttle fleet, and the associated
constraints on up mass and down mass, has brought
further improvements in communication among the
Partner teams.

NASA will continue to work closely with its International
Partners and keep the lines of communication open
as the ISS Program implements process improvements
and enhancements as a result of lessons learned from
Columbia. These changes will be implemented within
the framework of our international agreements.


This initial ISS CFT Implementation Plan summarizes
the results of our review to date of the lessons learned
from the loss of Columbia and the ISS continuous improvement
initiative. It identifies current responsive
implementations, outlines technical and management
options under consideration to improve the ISS Program
and reduce risk, and identifies forward work where
solutions are in development.

As ISS continues to fly, the safety of the crew and the
vehicle are paramount. As we learn from the loss of
Columbia and its crew, we must remember that while
the Shuttle fleet may be grounded, we still have U.S.,
Russian, and other International Partner astronauts flying
in space. Providing a safe environment for them to conduct
research and operate the ISS is our most critical

SpaceRef staff editor.