26 October 2000: Shuttle Main Engine Test Investigation Points to Fuel Cell System Contamination, NASA

"A detailed review of a Space Shuttle Main Engine test mishap, June 16, at NASA's Stennis Space Center, MS, has revealed that special tape was left behind inside the engine during processing, contaminating the system."

26 October 2000: SSME 0523 TEST 902-772
Failure Investigation Final Report
(10MB Adobe Acrobat)

"In accordance with NPG8621.1H, enclosed is the final report of the Board of
Investigation for the subject mishap that occurred on June 16, 2000 at Stennis Space
The report consists of four volumes: (1) the report, (2) appendices, (3) proposed
corrective action implementation plan, and (4) a lessons-learned summary. The principal
findings of the Board, along with recommended actions, were submitted to the SSME
Project Manager on August 10, 2000. These findings and the SSME Project Offices
response to them are provided in Volume I, Section 13, and in Volume III, respectively,
of this report.

Robert L. Sackheim, MSFC, Assistant Director for Space Propulsion"

11 October 2000: NASA Investigation Team Reports on Shuttle Engine Damage During June 2000 Test, SpaceRef

On 16 June 2000, testing of a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) with a high-pressure fuel turbopump configuration at NASA Stennis Space Center had to be cut short. Higher than expected test temperatures caused the SSME to shut itself down 5 seconds into a planned 200-second test.

In an internal NASA report dated 10 October 2000, the investigation team reports on the damage to the engine.

Editor's note: this story has links to the briefing charts (complete with photos and diagrams) that document the team's findings and recommendations.

8 October 2000: Windsor Locks...We Have a Problem, Hartford Courant

"Frank Guimond and John Steele had been working all that June Sunday on the problem. They'd spent much of the afternoon at Hamilton Sundstrand waiting for a special hex-wrench to be custom-made in Massachusetts and rushed down to Windsor Locks. Now, at about 7 in the evening, Father's Day, they finally began to disassemble the heart of the backup oxygen system of the space suit."

18 September 2000:
Spacelift Washington: Shuttle Upgrades, SLI Dominate NASA Transportation Plans, by Frank Sietzen, Jr.

With more than a half billion in NASA FY 2001 budget dollars set aside for Space Shuttle upgrades, and $290 million more for the Space Launch Initiative (SLI), maintaining the status quo and the quest for its replacement will shape the civil space agency's space transportation direction for much of the next decade. Somewhere in the immediate future the basic launch requirements for NASA-unique payloads and those with a commercial pedigree will have to be defined, if the decisions about how to allocate future resources are to be well structured and definitive.

18 September 2000: STS-106 EMUs to be Reused on STS-92

18 September 2000: XA/EVA Project Office Weekly Activity Report, NASA JSC

"EMU O2 Contamination Recovery Status - Update 9/12

The pace of refurbishment of Secondary Oxygen Packages for future flights and human thermal vacuum runs was temporarily slowed down due to GSE issues at Hamilton
Sundstrand. Compressors in two of the primary test stands were considered to be credible risks as a contamination source. These units were therefore disassembled and
refurbished. This has delayed the cleaning of the next three SOP regulators to be used with the EMUs reserved for STS-92 and EVA Test Article (ETA) chamber runs. To support
flight, plans are currently in place to de-stow the SOPs off of the STS-106 EMUs 24 hours after landing at KSC. Two of the STS-106 SOP units will be re-used for STS-92 and
processed completely at KSC. The next refurbished SOP is due to be on dock at USA by 9/18. This unit will support both ETA chamber runs needed to accept two flight EMUs
and eventually the STS-92 flight as the third SOP."

15 September 2000: Internal NASA JSC email: New Security Surrounds Astronaut Offices at JSC

"Questions have been raised about threats, but the answers have been vague (from "we have more money for security now so we're just using it" to "a couple of laptops have disappeared"). With this latest move (practically sealing 4S off from the building it was intended originally as an annex to), we are all wondering what NASA security is keeping from us."

1 September 2000: NASA deems spacewalking spacesuits safe, Florida Today

"With the launch of shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station a week away, NASA officials are satisfied that the spacesuits to be used on a spacewalk during the 11-day mission are safe. "Everybody is very happy with (the suits)," NASA spokesman James Hartsfield said Thursday from Johnson Space Center in Houston, adding three of the suits have been loaded onto Atlantis."

24 August 2000: XA/EVA Project Office Weekly Activity Report, NASA JSC

"The EMU program has completed cleaning and qualifying three Secondary Oxygen Packages (SOP) for STS-106."

24 August 2000: Columbia has 3,500 defects in wiring, Florida Today

"Examinations of NASA's oldest shuttle have revealed far more wiring problems than expected, a Boeing Co. official said Friday."

4 August 2000: XA/EVA Project Office Weekly Activity Report, NASA JSC

"EMU O2 Contamination Recovery Status

Work is progressing on the cleaning and reassembly of three Secondary Oxygen Package (SOP) assemblies to support the STS-106 mission. To date, the third and final SOP
regulator required for 2A.2b is nearing completion of acceptance testing. The first two SOP regulators have been integrated into the SOP assemblies and acceptance testing is
proceeding. The first SOP assembly has completed several tests to date and is still planned for delivery to USA on 8/15 for flight processing. During the Joint EVA Working
Group held Monday, July 24, 2000, a summary of the Oxygen contamination issue and recovery status was presented to representatives from Energia and Zvevda. Gas and bottle
sampling and analytical assessments are continuing in support of root cause determination. Interim flight rationale, waivers for off-nominal flight processing, and hazard analyses
are nearing completion and will be presented at the EVA CoFR2 on August 7. "

27 July 2000: XA/EVA Project Office Weekly Activity Report, NASA JSC

"EMU O2 Contamination Recovery Status - Update

The first and second of three Secondary Oxygen Package (SOP) regulators were successfully cleaned, rebuilt, tested, and delivered one day early on 7/21 and 7/26, respectively, with the third to follow by 8/2. Cleaning and calibrating of the various ground test stands and implementation of cold trap filters to support the processing of the EMU hardware is currently the critical path and on track. Test stands for processing SOP assemblies at Hamilton Sundstrand were in operation as of 7/25 for flowing nitrogen. Oxygen test stand operation is scheduled for 7/29. Cold trap installation and tests are continuing at USA to bring two SOP stands on line to support SOP processing by early August. In summary, the EMU team remains on schedule to support launch of STS-106 on September 8."

13 July 2000: Widespread spacesuit problem found, MSNBC

"Amid the euphoria over the successful launch of the International Space Station's living quarters, space engineers are feverishly working on a new hardware problem that could delay future shuttle launches unless it's resolved. If the emergency kit had been activated during a spacewalk, the hazard could have set the spacesuit on fire."

14 July 2000: EVA Status for Flight 2A. 2b, 7/14/00, Integration/Operations, page 22, "Felicity Vol 019" ISS Integrated Program Schedule (2.2 MB Adobe Acrobat file)

"Hydrocarbon contamination has been found in primary and secondary
oxygen systems. Plan is to clean secondary system and fly
primary system "as- is." This plan will support 2A. 2b and subsequent flights."

13 July 2000: XA/EVA Project Office Weekly Activity Report 13 July 2000

"EMU O2 Contamination Recovery Status

Since hydrocarbon contamination on a Secondary Oxygen Package (SOP) regulator was first reported on 6/14/00, the EMU and JSC engineering community
have steadfastly embarked on four main branches of recovery efforts. First, a plan for disassembling, cleaning, and rebuilding all SOP systems was put into place.
This plan provides for three SOPs to support the current STS-106 launch date. Currently, Hamilton Sundstrand and Carleton Technology, the regulator vendor,
are on schedule with this effort. Second, the JSC engineering community has recommended operation of the PLSS system as is, based on WSTF testing and
analysis. In addition, samples taken from flight regulators to date suggest negligible contaminants exist in the primary system. Third, clearing use of test stands at
USA and Hamilton Sundstrand is in work. Development and testing of cold traps (filters) should be completed this week, allowing USA to begin processing
Short EMUs for the upcoming flight next week. Finally, JSC Safety is working hand-in-hand with these efforts to understand and relay the risks to other NASA
flight and ground systems.

27 June 2000: USA Names Deputy Program Manager for Florida Operations; Safety, Quality Leadership Also Shifts to Launch Site, press release

"U.S. Navy Admiral (Ret.) William ``Bill'' Pickavance has been named to the new post, effective July 1, 2000, and will be joined by former Shuttle astronaut Andrew
Allen, who will serve as Director, Technical Operations."

23 June 2000: Problem Aborts Space Shuttle Main Engine Firing, Spaceflight Now

"A space shuttle main engine equipped with a next-generation fuel
turbopump was damaged during an aborted test firing last week, NASA
officials said Thursday."

23 June 2000: NASA Forms Team To Review Space Shuttle Main Engine Test Incident, NASA PAO

Editor's note: we have received a report that internal descriptions of the damage describe it as the worse damage seen without the engine actually coming apart. The fuel pump and preburner turbine were found in bits and pieces and the turbine blades were loose."

26 April 2000: Ever wonder how Mission Control picks the "MVP" after each Shuttle mission?

From "Hanging The Mission Plaque", NASA JSC:

"The Mission Plaque is hung in Mission Control following landing and crew egress for each Space Shuttle flight. The individual or team, having made the most significant contribution to the success of the flight is selected to hang the plaque. The following teams/people have been so honored during the Shuttle program."

26 April 2000: Ever wonder why the folks on the consoles at Mission Control talk the way they do?

From "Stone Tablets of Flight Controller Operations", NASA JSC:

"XII. Flight note and/or vocal actions should include what you want done, by when, and why. When vocalizing this the preferred order is to report what has happened followed by the action required within some time frame. For example: "


21 April 2000: How NASA tracks and fixes problems.

Editor's note: With all of the recent attention given to safety, mission failures, etc. at NASA (i.e where NASA has made mistakes), attention is rarely given to how NASA goes about doing the remainder of its intricate job on a daily basis - successfully. Countless engineering problems are identified, studied, and rectified - yet no one ever hears about this. Certainly not in the press. Having worked at NASA myself, and seen similar detailed engineering presentations on a daily basis, I felt it important to show the considerable detail people at NASA go to understand problems so as to prevent them from happening again.

This is rocket science.

20 April 2000: Rudder / Speed Brake PDU 0403 / HVM 006 Investigation, presentation to Space Shuttle Program management at NASA JSC[Power Point473K file] [HTML]

18 April 2000: STS-101 PDU Status (internal NASA email)

"The latest on the PDU problem is that it has been confirmed that hydraulic
fluid had migrated behind the stop, which caused it to get pushed out, and
would not let the power spool push it back in. This may have been caused
by damage created during initial assembly, since there is some damage in
an area of about 170 degrees of the circumference of the stop. This was
observable after disassembly and cleanup. This damage may have created
the path by which the fluid got behind the stop."

18 April 2000: SR1262: OV-104 Rudder Speedbrake PDU Investigation, PCRB presentation [HTML] [ Adobe Acrobat 384K]

Editor's note: this PCRB presentation contains 7 charts that explain the failure investigation in great detail - including how a spool within Shuttle Orbiter OV104's Speed Brake PDU (Power Drive Unit) failed.

18 April 2000: Failure probe, tight schedule only concerns for Atlantis, Spaceflight Now

"NASA says it remains optimistic space shuttle Atlantis will make its
appointed launch date next Monday despite a continuing investigation
into the failure of a hydraulics unit taken from the ship and a tight
work schedule that has no room for more problems."

18 April 2000: NASA gives Atlantis green light for April 24 launch, Florida Today

"After a weekend of successful work, NASA is on track to start the countdown
Friday for shuttle Atlantis' flight next week to the International Space Station. Officials said Monday that some newly replaced parts worked fine during weekend testing. The ship is set to fly at 4:15 p.m. April 24 from Kennedy Space Center. "

17 April 2000: STS-101 PDU Problem Identified (internal NASA email with photo and 3 briefing charts)

"As of Friday evening, Moog (the hydraulic valve motor (HMV) manufacturer)
had disassembled the power drive unit (PDU) from OV104 and identified the
source of the problem as unseating of the spool stop. This was the
failure mode [first] identified by the PRT as one possible explanation of the
problem (excellent detective work on their part!). The spool stop had
move out of position by about 0.050 inches and was interfering with power
spool motion. This is shown in the photograph below where the failed
spool stop is pictured on the left and a normal spool stop is pictured on
the right."

17 April 2000: Space Shuttle Status Report, NASA KSC

"Over the weekend, Shuttle engineers completed the frequency response test that was required after the rudder/speed brake power drive unit
replacement effort. Preliminary evaluation indicates that Shuttle Atlantis' hydraulic system is operating normally and that the PDU replacement was a success. Shuttle
engineers continue to analyze the cause of the initial PDU failure to ensure that it was an isolated incident. "

13 April 2000: STS-101/OV-104 Update (2 internal NASA emails)

"As you can see, there is a lot going on at the pad but the KSC folks are
still working hard to hold the launch date."

"The OV102 PDU has been installed in OV104 and is undergoing testing. An
APU hotfire is scheduled for Sunday."

11 April 2000: Internal NASA email regarding 104 Rudder/Speedbrake PDU Replacement

"As currently planned, the changeout will have no affect on the current launch date (4/24). The noon chair made it clear that if KSC needs more time, for any reason, they are to take it."

10 April 2000:
SR1206: OV-104 Speedbrake High Secondary Pressures Observed During Frequency Response Test, Daily PRCB

[Power Point file - 1.1 MB] [HTML presentation - much smaller; lower resolution]


During STS-101 Frequency Response Test (FRT), All Four Speedbrake Secondary Delta Pressures Were Unusually High in the Positive Polarity


Anomalous Signatures Could Be Indicative of A Mechanical Obstruction in the Power Valve Resulting in Loss of Control of Speedbrake


Remove OV-104 Rudder/Speed Brake PDU and Replace with Unit Removed from OV-102."

8 April 2000: Atlantis to get replacement part from Columbia, Florida Today

6 April 2000: NASA mulls hydraulic problem on shuttle Atlantis, Spaceflight Now

7 April 2000: SB/RUD Noon Board Meeting notes (internal NASA email)

"Here is a quick summary of today's Noon Board meeting discussion of the
SB/RUD PDU issue. It was decided to proceed with removal of the OV102 PDU
as a possible replacement for the unit on OV104. This decision was made
to preserve launch opportunity options but there are still many open issue
which will be discussed before the PDU on OV104 is removed and a commit to
launch is given."

7 April 2000: STS-101 rudder/speedbrake power drive unit (PDU) problems (internal NASA email)

"The program has decided that the PDU must be removed and replaced
prior to flight. There is a sizable contingent of folks working the
removal options. The current plan is to remove the PDU at the pad and
replace it with the PDU off of OV-102 (currently at Palmdale for OMDP)."

29 March 2000: Tommy Gram #4, internal NASA email from Tommy Holloway to senior ISS staff

"A recent GAO report along with questions from Congress and several news
articles have suggested we are lowering safety standards to accommodate theRussians and implied that safety issues will prevent the planned July
launch of the Service Module (Zvezda)... In short, Russian hardware goes through the same safety process as NASA hardware. Let me deal with the noted "Russian safety" areas as follows: ...

10 March 2000: Thiokol's boosters criticized, Deseret News

"Questionable quality control in a Utah company making solid rocket fuel for the space shuttle booster rockets may have been a "major potential risk area," concludes an independent technical review ordered by NASA. But more frequent test firings, ordered recently, might be part of the solution."

10 March 2000: NASA Says Shuttle Cuts Have Led to Higher Risk - But Study Finds Program Is Still Safe, Knight Ridder, Washington Post

"They seem to make the same mistakes over and over again," said Bob Hotz, who was on the presidential commission that investigated the 1986 Challenger accident that claimed seven lives. "It's a generic road to failure. Finally, you're getting down to where we were with Challenger. They didn't have any quality control. There are outside pressures that cause this."

Donna Shirley, who oversaw NASA's Mars exploration program and is now assistant dean of engineering at the University of Oklahoma, said part of the problem is that private space contractors keen to cut their costs were relying on inexperienced workers with insufficient oversight."

9 March 2000: Cutbacks threaten shuttle safety, space experts tell NASA, Houston Chronicle

"The panel concluded that as NASA trimmed its shuttle costs, it lost too many experienced personnel, creating a potential morale problem as those who remain behind tried to keep up with NASA's flight expectations. "

10 March 2000: Panel: Cost-cutting endangers shuttle, Huntsville Times

"Stressed-out space shuttle workers. Too few NASA inspectors. Overly optimistic risk assessments. A contractor struggling to increase profits while maintaining safety. That potential recipe for disaster and a litany of other problems were detailed in a blistering independent review of the shuttle program released Thursday by NASA."

10 March 2000: Report: KSC workforce at dangerous level prior to troubled Columbia liftoff, Florida Today

"Safety continues to be USA's top priority, and we will continue to pursue every opportunity to improve the status quo,'' Russell D. Turner, USA's president and chief executive officer, wrote in a letter issued to employees Thursday. "

10 March 2000: Panel: Cuts Threaten Shuttle Safety, AP, Yahoo

"Joe Rothenberg, NASA's associate administrator for spaceflight, told the Houston Chronicle that steps already were under way to bolster NASA's safety
oversight by adding 800 new workers over the next two years."

9 March 2000: NASA Releases Space Shuttle Independent Assessment Team Report

"Statement of Mr. Joseph H. Rothenberg Associate Administrator for Space Flight: As the result of ascent anomalies experienced on STS-93, I asked Dr. Henry McDonald (Center Director, Ames Research Center), on September 7, 1999, to
lead an independent technical team to review the Space Shuttle systems and maintenance practices. The team, comprised of NASA, contractor, and DOD
personnel, looked at NASA practices, Space Shuttle anomalies, and civilian and military aeronautical experience. My goal for this study was to bring to Space
Shuttle maintenance and operations processes a perspective from the best practices of the external aviation community, and where applicable/appropriate, apply these practices to the Space Shuttle. "

  • Full report (Warning 8.5 MB Acrobat file)

  • Executive Summary, Space Shuttle Independent Assessment team, Report to Associate Administrator, Office of Space Flight

  • Recommendations: Space Shuttle Independent Assessment team, Report

  • to Associate Administrator, Office of Space Flight Flight

18 February 2000: Crews Names to Continue Space Station Assembly, NASA press release

Editor's note: NASA is now confirming what we've been posting on NASA Watch for a week or so.

17 February 2000: New Space Shuttle launch dates baselined and crews named.

Editor's note: These dates are the result of S042013BK: "RE-BASELINE ISS LAUNCH DATES", dispositioned at the CRG on 16 Feb 2000.

The internal working date for STS-106 (2A.2b) is 18 Aug 2000 even though other schedules still show a mid-July 2000 date. ISS planning calls for a launch of STS-106 no sooner than 35 days after a successful Service Module launch. Russia has set a 8-14 July launch window for the Service Module which would therefore lead to a STS-106 launch in mid-August.

Meanwhile, NASA JSC has generated new crew assignments for the 2A.2a and 2A.2b missions. Ed Lu has been reassigned to the STS-106 (2A.2b) mission. Scott Horowitz will now be the backup EVA crew member for STS-101 (2A.2a). Yuriy Usachev has been added to STS-101 which also includes Jim Voss and Susan Helms plus previous crew members Halsell, Horowitz, Weber, and Williams. Voss, Helms, and Usachev now comprise the Expedition 2 crew.

16 February 2000: International Space Station Schedules Review, February 4, 2000, DSSICB is now online

Editor's note: This is a 1.8 Mb Adobe Acrobat file. This presentation provides a snapshot of where the ISS program is right now. Note that flight 2A.2a is listed as STS-101 with a 13 April 2000 launch date and 2A.2b is listed as STS-106 with a launch date somewhere in the middle of July 2000.

11 February 2000: Key space station launch rescheduled, MSNBC

"After a not-so-veiled threat from NASA's
administrator, the Russians have agreed to schedule the launch
of a key part of the International Space Station for mid-July, the
space agency announced Friday. However, the Itar-Tass news
agency quoted a space official as indicating that the crucial
launch could still slip into August."

11 February 2000: NASA reshuffles missions as Russia delays space station work, UPI

"UPI has learned that one Russian request in particular may outrage the
American side. After learning of the potential split of this shuttle mission
into two flights, the Russians have asked to transfer a ton of their space
supplies to the shuttle so they can use another supply ship for Mir instead
of the international project. That supply ship was largely constructed using
NASA funds."

Editor's note: word has it from Jim Oberg that "the STS-101 crew will consist of Halsell, Horowitz, Weber, Williams, Jim Voss and Helms -- Lu and the two Russians, Morukov and Malenchenko, have been pulled. STS-106's crew will be Wilcutt, Altman, Lu, Mastracchio, Burbank, Morukov, and Malenchenko. If the SM fails to dock and ICM must be launched, STS-106 will switch from 2A.2B to 2A.3, and will fly the ICM mission, with the same crew, minus the Russians.

04 February 2000: Crew assignment changes

Editor's note: NASA JSC has generated new crew assignments for the 2A.2a and 2A.2b missions. Ed Lu has been reassigned to the 2A.2b mission to fly in July 2000. Scott Horowitz will now be the backup EVA crew member for STS-101 (2A.2a).

01 February 2000: NASA hasn't launched shuttle on time since John Glenn's flight, Florida Today

"NASA has not launched a space shuttle on time since John Glenn's heralded return to orbit aboard Discovery in October 1998. "

12 January 2000: Rockwell, Boeing allegedly hid fraud against NASA, Reuters, Yahoo

"The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that the U.S. space agency was billed for millions of dollars in fraudulent costs by a company called Omniplan, hired by Rockwell to work on the programs between 1986 and 1993."

12 January 2000: Cos. Accused of Space Shuttle Fraud, AP, Yahoo

"Omniplan also included as allowable expenses the purchases of personal houses, a ski lodge, expensive jewelry and personal vacations to exotic locales
including Nepal, Singapore and Argentina, the suit said. In 1995 the owner of Omniplan, Ralph Montijo, pleaded guilty to about 180 felony fraud violations."

11 January 2000: United Space Alliance is expecting the Justice Department to file a lawsuit.

Date: January 11, 2000 Internal Letter No. RDT-100-00

To: All USA Employees

In the coming days, the Department of Justice is expected to issue public notice
of a suit being filed in federal court naming The Boeing Company, Boeing North
American, Inc., Rockwell Space Operations Company and United Space
Alliance, alleging violations of the Civil False Claims Act and breach of contract.

I feel it is important that, before this news breaks publicly, you have the relevant facts.

The allegations made in the suit arise from the illegal actions of a subcontractor
to Rockwell Space Operations Company under the Space Operations Contract
(SOC) in 1993. We believe USA is being named as a defendant as a result of
some confusion over corporate identities stemming from the novation of the SOC
to USA in 1996. USA has not been involved in any of the alleged illegal activities.

We also understand that the statute of limitations for filing on this case expires on
January 12, which may have precipitated this action at this time.

Regardless of how this action may be reported by the news media, you can be
confident that this company has not engaged in any of the illegal actions alleged
to have been committed in the complaint. Our focus, as always, will stay on the
primary business at hand - flying safely and successfully.


Russell D. Turner

President and Chief Executive Officer

"USA Talking Points", United Space Alliance has been circulating this document in advance of news breaking on the Department of Justice lawsuit.

An image of the actual letter.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 31, 2000 8:59 PM.

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