5 October 2001: Shuttle Commercialization All Hands at JSC

Editor's note: Word has it that Ron Dittemore, Space Shuttle Program Manager at JSC, will be holding an all-hands meeting today to discuss "shuttle commercialization". According to NASA sources, Dittemore will be discussing an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) concept that has been developed that would operate the Space Shuttle program. This concept has been under development for the last 9 months. Dittemore will reportedly pitch this concept as being seamless as far as civil servants are concerned with equivalent benefits, significant sign-up bonuses, and guaranteed job security. Dittemore has reportedly expressed personal interest in heading this new organization.

Behind the scenes there is little interest among Dittemore's crowd in actually saving the government money. Rather, this is simply seen as a way to lower the number of federal employees involved in America's civil space program.

Update: Note from someone@jsc.nasa.gov:

"Mr. Dittemore spoke about a "concept" where a private company would run
the Space Shuttle Program. It was not commercialization, but
"privatization". It has nothing to do with saving money. It will probably
cost the government more money. He said it was in the interest of safety.
Since NASA cannot hire new people and grow them to be managers/engineers, there is no one to run the program safely in the future. That is true since most of the shuttle program folks came from MOD which is mostly all contractors now. This "concept" will work only if all the right people with the right job skills needed to run the program safely, accept the offer to
move over. Highly unlikely. We are talking about mission operations, flight
design, flight directors, astronauts, program/project managers, ground
operations, aircraft operations, launch operations, etc. Only the civil
servants in the Engineering Directorates appear to be spared from this
excercise in futility. He said it would happen in 2 years. That's
unbelievable, the way the government works!"

4 October 2001: Space Shuttle Processing Status 4 Oct 2001, NASA KSC

Editor's note: two missions have had their launch dates pushed back by three weeks in order to gain more processing time to prepare these orbiters for their missions. Other missions in 2002 are also likely to have their launch dates pushed back. STS-108 is still scheduled for a 29 Nov 2001 launch date.

  • STS-109 - was: 17 Jan 2002 - now: 14 Feb 2002
  • STS-110 - was: 28 Feb 2002 - now: 21 Mar 2002

28 September 2001: Concept of Privatization of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA JSC (Full report - Adobe Acrobat)

28 September 2001: Concept of Privatization of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA JSC (Executive Summary)

"It is the intent of Space Shuttle privatization to expand the business base of the private
company responsible for Space Shuttle operations to more than just Space Shuttle
operations. It is envisioned that the private company will be a strong competitor for
privatized ISS operations. Additionally, because the private company will have a strong
resident core competency in human space flight operations, it is envisioned that the private
company will be a strong competitor for future space operations contracts (next generation
reusable launch vehicles, and Moon, Mars, or other exploration), both human space flight
and nonhuman ventures."

"The envisioned privatization of the Space Shuttle is a merger of Government and contractor
capabilities. The private company will have a new leadership team, a strengthened skill and
experience base, and an associated new culture. Business arrangements and operations
management terms and conditions must be in concert with a long-term commitment for privatization to
create workforce stability; allow development, maintenance, and retention of critical skills; incentivize
CS to transition to the private company; and eliminate the short-term limited investment mentality
associated with today's contracting methods. The primary objective of the private company will be the
safe, efficient, long-term utilization of the Space Shuttle."

28 September 2001: Deformed Holes Found On Shuttle, AP, Yahoo

"NASA discovered misshapen holes in the two orbital-engine compartments intended for space shuttle Columbia, which is being readied for a flight to the Hubble Space Telescope early next year."

28 September 2001: NASA Modifies Lockheed Martin Space Operations Contract , NASA JSC

"NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston has negotiated a contract modification with Lockheed Martin Space Operations Co. that includes the acquisition of operational software for approximately $60.3 million."

27 September 2001: Consolidated Space Operations Contract: Evaluating and Reporting Cost Savings, NASA Office of Inspector General (has link to full report)

"The NASA Office of Inspector General audit of CSOC cost savings found that NASA cannot substantiate the $62 million of cost savings reported to Congress for the first 2 years of the CSOC. As a result, Congress and NASA cannot evaluate current cost savings for the CSOC and cannot determine whether the contract will achieve the anticipated $1.4 billion cost savings through fiscal year 2008. Because NASA has reduced future operating budgets in anticipation of projected CSOC savings, it is imperative that the Agency determine whether current and anticipated cost savings are being achieved under the CSOC."

20 September 2001: NASA, USA sign $62 million space flight operations contract modification

"NASA and the United Space Alliance have signed a $62 million modification to the Space Flight Operations Contract to provide refurbishment of hydraulic actuators on
the space shuttle fleet during the next five years."

19 September 2001: Lockheed Martin's Consolidated Space Operations Contract Completes New Customer Support Room for NASA

19 September 2001: NASA continues Lockheed Martin Engineering Contract, NASA

"NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston will exercise a $68 million level-of-effort option to continue its Science, Engineering, Analysis, and Test contract with Lockheed
Martin Space Operations Co. of Houston. The option period begins Oct. 1, 2001. Provisions include additional work through the end of 2003."

18 September 2001: Boeing to Lay Off As Many As 30,000, AP, Yahoo

"Boeing Co. is planning to lay off 20 percent to 30 percent of its commercial airline work force -- as many as 30,000 people -- as a result of last week's terrorist attacks, Alan Mulally, president and chief executive of the
company's commercial airplanes division said Tuesday"

10 September 2001: Shuttle Safety Concerns Aired Before Congress, SpaceRef

"At a time when NASA's Space Station cost overruns continue to grow, and the agency's attempts to develop the next generation of launch vehicles flounder, the Space Shuttle program is hitting its stride. Originally designed decades ago to fly a large number of missions in a short period of time, the Space Shuttle now finds itself more needed than ever - long after many thought it would (or should) be in a museum."

"One of the keys to making the Shuttle perform for an extended service life is to increase its reliability and enhance its siamese twin, safety. Yet just as the Shuttle fleet is being redefined for an extended lifetime, the very thing it is being kept around to service, the Iinternational Space Station, seeks to drain the financial resources required for its own survival. It is against this backdrop that hearings on Space Shuttle safety upgrades were held on Capitol Hill last week."

6 September 2001: NASA Plans to Scale Back Upgrades, AP, Yahoo

6 September 2001: Budget cuts threaten shuttle safety, UPI

"I fear that if we don't provide the space shuttle program with the
resources it needs for safety upgrades, our country will pay a price we
can't bear," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "The proposed budget abandons
some of the most critical safety upgrades for our aging fleet."

6 September 2001: Senate Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee Hearing on Space Shuttle Safety

Witness Testimony

  • William Readdy, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Space Flight, NASA Headquarters

  • Michael J. McCulley, Chief Operating Officer, United Space Alliance

  • Richard D. Blomberg, Chair, Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, President, Dunlop & Associates, Inc.

  • Allen Li, Director, Acquisition & Sourcing Management Team, Government Accounting Office

  • Bryan O'Connor, Futron Group

9 August 2001: NASA on Mission to Planet Pop, New Scientist

"Space expert James Oberg told a newspaper: "When governments try to harness popular culture, they just embarrass themselves."

9 August 2001: Rocket men turn to pop, The Times (London)

"NASA is updating its rather fusty image - and, to shift it into a new orbit, the space agency has commissioned Down to Earth, a pop song about how small the Earth looks from the Moon. The song is performed by Natural, America's hot new teen band. "NASA is hip and getting hipper," said Lou Pearlman, Naturals manager, who knows hip when he sees it. Mr Pearlman also launched 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys."

24 April 2001: Space Media, Music Promoter Provide Entertainment at Shuttle Launch Briefing, Spacehab

"Space Media is launching its 2001-2002 STARS Academy space education program later this year
and is in discussions with Mr. Pearlman's Trans Continental Records in Orlando, Florida, to have Natural contribute a music element to the STARS Academy program. Mr. Pearlman is widely known for
discovering and developing the popular groups *N SYNC, Backstreet Boys and O-Town. "

10 July 2001: Threat Closes Shuttle Emergency Strip in Morocco, Reuters, Yahoo

"A security threat has closed an emergency landing strip in Morocco available to the U.S. space shuttle program, possibly endangering this week's launch, NASA said on Tuesday."

10 July 2001: Aviation Week & Space Technology Reports: Security Breach Forces
Tighter Space Shuttle Protection
, Business Wire, Yahoo

"A Jamaican, working under the cover of darkness, managed to land a sizable boat carrying 15 Chinese on the Atlantic shore near the launch pads. The concern is that the boat operations and aliens in the brush went undetected for hours in what is supposed to be a highly secure area."

18 June 2001: Rep. Nethercutt Offers Amendment to Preserve Funding for Dedicated Shuttle Science Mission, SpaceRef

Rep. Nethercutt's amendment seeks to fence off $15 M in space station research accounts out of the $40 M that Congress originally provided in FY00 for a life and microgravity research shuttle flight. This flight has been strongly supported by Congress as a way to keep scientific research in space underway during an otherwise "dry spell" wherein little or no science is being done while NASA focuses on the construction of the ISS.

10 April 2001: Letter from Ron Dittemore, Manager, Space Shuttle Program to R.D. Turner, President and CEO, United Space Alliance regarding "Privatization of Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Operations"

"I believe that we should begin a dialog between the SSP and United Space Alliance (USA) discussing the options available and merit of increased privatization of SSP operations functions. Our recent conversation concerning the option of incorporating the External Tank Project into the Space Flight Operations Contract can be used as a foundation for building a frame work to address important issues and developing a model for increased privatization."

16 March 2001: Letter from Ron Dittemore, Manager, Space Shuttle Program to OSF AA Joe Rothenberg regarding "Space Flight Operations Contract (SFOC) Phase II Consolidation and Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Operations "Privatization"

"Continued consolidation of the SFOC Phase II contracts (external tank, Space Shuttle main engine, reusable solid rocket motor) and "privatization" of SSP operations can be an achievable objective provided existing SFOC concerns are adequately addressed. These concerns include insufficient United Space Alliance (US) program/ project management experience, program viability and safety in a cost incentive/profit motivated environment, and SFOC Phase II consolidation cost impacts. These issues need to be addressed before further "privatization" of SSP operations can be safely realized."

15 March 1995: The Kraft Report On Space Shuttle Operations

"The proposed single-business management system will require a steadfast commitment from both NASA and the aerospace industry to ensure success. NASA must be willing to define clear shuttle operating requirements with limited oversight. The prime contractor must be willing to assume responsibility for safe and productive operations. This requires the assignment of competent and experienced people at all levels and the direct attention of top management. For its commitment, the contractor must be rewarded with appropriate incentive fees. The government in-turn must provide similar talent in program management and a guarantee that the contractor will not be encumbered with burdensome and unnecessary oversight."

7 June 2001: Space Shuttle Union Workers to Strike in Florida, Reuters, Yahoo

"We don't anticipate any delay in our ability to support launch milestones,'' said Kari Fluegel, spokeswoman for the United Space Alliance, the private consortium of NASA contractors hired for shuttle processing and operations. The union machinists are all USA employees."

5 June 2001: Shuttle contractor faces strike, Orlando Sentinel

"Company officials say if the walkout moves forward, it will have no effect on the shuttle's launch schedule. However, it would be the first-ever strike by workers who do hands-on processing of the shuttle fleet at Kennedy Space Center."

Editor's note: the USA strike at the Cape has been moved up 24 hours and will start at 12:01 a.m. Saturday instead of Sunday.

5 April 2001: Shuttle work to remain at Plant 42 - State representatives team up in teleconference with NASA, Antelope Valley Press

"Space shuttle work that brings millions of dollars per year into the Antelope Valley will continue to be performed at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale. That was the resounding verdict from a telephone conversation Wednesday between a top NASA official and a slew of representatives from the high desert and California to discuss rumors that maintenance and modification work on the orbiter fleet would be siphoned to Florida."

30 March 2001:

Thiokols Use of Professional and Consultant Services
Report Number IG-01-019
, NASA Office of Inspector General (Acrobat)

"NASA's controls over Thiokol's use of professional and consultant services can be improved. We found cases in which justifications for noncompetitive procurements of professional and consultant services were inadequate and untimely. Specifically, we found that Thiokol officials did not maintain
adequate support for decisions to noncompetitively award the service subcontracts and did not prepare written justifications for the noncompetitive awards prior to initiation of the work."

26 March 2001: Audit of United Space Alliance's Use of Professional & Consultant Services, NASA Office of Inspector General (contains link to full report)

"The NASA Office of Inspector General has completed an audit of United Space Alliance's (USA's) use of professional and consultant services. - Specifically, we found that USA officials did not maintain evidence on the nature and scope of the furnished services; maintain adequate support for decisions to noncompetitively award the service subcontracts; and prepare written justifications for the noncompetitive awards prior to initiation of the work."

19 January 2001: Space Shuttle Atlantis Rollback Delayed Due to Cab Crowding

Editor's note: word has it that the rollback of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, scheduled to start at 7:00 AM EST, was delayed for about 45 minutes this morning. It would seem that the crawler's driver couldn't get to his seat since the crawler's cab was apparently overcrowded with people wanting to hitch a ride. More seating was found and rollback eventually began.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 31, 2001 9:01 PM.

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