Live Blogging from the NASA Advisory Council Meeting

NASA Advisory Council Meeting

Editor's note: I will be live blogging from the NASA Advisory Council Meeting in Washington, DC today. The meeting started at 8:00 am EST. After lunch, it resumed at 1:20 pm and ended at 2:40 pm EST. Comments follow below:

Sen. Schmitt: There will be three NAC meetings this year. Most likely location for next meeting is NASA KSC.

Byron Tappley, Univ. Texas joined NAC since last meeting. Professor of Aerospace Engineering.

NAC website has been recently updated. A little more user friendly.


Start with Aeronautics Committee report. Neil Armstrong presenting. Committee received a review of national aerospace policy document.

Ray Colladay presented his comments. Spoke about progress that the Aeronautics Directorate is making in "external relations".

When a program is rebuilt from bottom up, it is not a trivial matter to rebuild relationship with stakeholders - trust that is required in a healthy partnership between NASA, academia, and industry. "Not withstanding the stealth release of the aeronautics policy [just before Christmas] when most of Washington was gone, the committee was very encouraged by the policy."

NASA said what they were going to do - and did what they said.

The policy has guidelines for that outline the role of government and industry - this is always a debate - at least it has been for NASA aeronautics. While it points out a number of important aspects that NASA Aeronautics and DOD agencies, the plan also emphasizes what the committee believes what an important cornerstone is of this policy - stability - something that has been sorely lacking as the program has been bounced around for the last 10 years or more.

It is important to note the next steps. There is a bit of "wait and see" but the committee is very encouraged that this plan will provide the foundation that we have been looking for. We see effects already. The glide slope has changed in aeronautics funding. It is very minimal right now, but at least we saw in 2008 budget for the first time it has leveled off - and that is where we think it needs to go in the future.

Next topic: external relations - stakeholder outreach and collaboration. As has been reported to NAC in previous meetings, we have been concerned as a committee about some of the fractured relationships with industry and universities and other government agencies. I think it goes without saying when you change your program as significantly as the aero program has changed - and essentially rebuild from bottom up, relationships suffer. We noted last summer that we were encouraged with how NASA was working with its government partners - especially USAF and FAA in the restructured program. We found that the positive aspect is continuing. We were also critical about the relationship with industry and universities - particularly industry. We spent a lot of time yesterday with aeronautics directorate management poking at that aspect of the program.

Without the partnership and collaboration - the relationship that is essential for R&D enterprise, NASA R&D accomplishments would soon become irrelevant. The verdict is still out. This is going to take time. The trust needs to be rebuilt. With regard to industry, the value proposition of working with NASA has to change.

Schmitt asked if the paradigm that existed with NACA in the 1950's be recreated? Colladay replied that we look fondly at the past and ignore the warts. A lot of things are different. The aeronautics industry is mature. There has to be a reason why industry wants to take the time to work with NASA. We think that NASA can be a catalyst.

Lester Lyles noted that very few people know that the policy is out there - and asked who at NASA is responsible for external outreach. Colladay replied that yes, this is just a piece of paper and that it needs to get out there. Lyles said that he'd be contacting the USAF to see what they are doing with regard to promoting this policy document.

Colladay said we have eaten the seed corn and we have not replenished the R&D needed for the next generation of systems. It is NASA's responsibility to look out into the future and see what facilities will be required for the next 10 - 20 years.

Gene Covert said that there has never been an aeronautics policy in the US. Despite a number of attempts to call attention to this and remind people that the Europeans have a 20-year program with a goal to become world leaders in aeronautics technology, people have not been able to rouse the troops. This policy is important -it meets a need that has been unsatisfied for the past 25 years. The president not only signed a policy document, he also issued an executive order. A foundation has been laid.

Schmitt asked the NAC if they though the overall policy and budgets are compatible with the decadal study that came out of the NAS.

Colladay replied that there is a great amount of overlap. The aeronautics policy, NAS decadal study and survey are all stitched together with a high degree of consistency. This is not a sunset industry. Everything that is needed has not been invented. The priorities for attacking these topics should be used as a template for resource investment. Need to rebalance in-house/out-of-house research. It is currently 90% in-house, 10% out-of-house. We think that this is skewed and this needs to move in the direction with more out-of-house research sent to industry. NASA expressed their intent that this would grow to 20%. 80/20 is not where I would like to see that balance - but the direction is correct.

Colladay said that today's aeronautics budget is about half of what it was in the 1980s.

Eugene Covert - resources needed to implement this program are greater than the resources available today.

Fundamental Aeronautics - John Sullivan. Need to re-engage with various communities. Strong overlap between aeronautics and space exploration - aeronautics directorate is aligning their objectives with exploration. Example is Mars entry systems. Also pursuing collaborations with ESMD, SOMO, and SMD.


Gerald Kulcinski presenting. Met with NASA on a variety of topics - education and other topics. Spent a lot of time preparing for the outreach committee for Lunar Science Workshop. Committee continues to look at potential organizational changes for NASA external relations.

Kulcinski emphasized that comments are observations, not formal recommendations. There needs to be one message from NASA, not 11 for the purpose for outreach and public relations - comments made by Eric Sterner. Committee commended Sterner for his initial efforts to reorganize NASA infrastructure.

NASA needs to try to make NASA website more user friendly, accessible, and searchable. A lot of work to be done yet - but they are moving in the right direction.

AA for communications planning has put together a commendable strategic planning communications framework designed to present a clearer image of NASA - "NASA explores new worlds to improve our own".

A list that emerged from workshop on strategic communications as to what is working and not working - it is interesting. Kulcinski was surprised that youth market was not being reached. He was also a little dismissive of the statement that NASA "is stuck in the Apollo era".

Market research analysis - looked at 50 previous studies. 45-64 age group has highest support for NASA - this support drops off on either side of that group. This is an area we have to do some more work on.

Came up with 4 groups - science, economics, security, and leadership. Trying to develop "elevator speeches" for each of these areas. They are in process of coming out with a final report is due in the first week in April.

We were very impressed with the work that is being done.

NASA's Office of Education will focus efforts on the best and brightest students - the upper 5% of achievers. [editor's note - I guess this means that NASA is going to ignore - or give less emphasis by comparison to - the remaining 95% of the student population - i.e. the population often in most need of contact and encouragement. Seems a little skewed to me]

ASAP (Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel) expressed concerns about future human capital management planning.

NAC Member Comment: NASA has an emphasis about bringing NASA content into teacher preparation. This has the greatest chance to hook kids. A program like this is something that should be encouraged. Yet this program by NASA is focused only around the Washington, DC geographic area to the point that it is almost useless. This needs to be enlarged.

Editor's note: Several NASA charts were shown to illustrate progress being made by NASA's Office of Communications Planning. These two presentations were the source of these selected charts - and provide an overview of current Strategic Communications thinking at NASA.

Strategic Communications Workshop Summary Report, 11-13 October 200

Strategic Communications Framework, 24 January 2007

Other topics

Schmitt raised issue of reliability of ISS components, failure modes, maintenance, and how lessons learned from ISS experience can be translated into how things are done on a lunar base. Schmitt mentioned placement of strain gauges on ISS structures - and how that will provide useful info on large structures in actual use in space.

Armstrong showed some charts, which contained maps that illustrated the growth of air traffic over the course of a day - and then spoke about growth in that traffic and the air traffic control systems that will be needed in the future to manage ever-growing air traffic.

Armstrong said that from his recollections, the most productive aeronautical researchers did their best work on their own - it was their ideas that they pursued. He said that the committee wondered if that kind of individual would be welcomed under the new policy. Armstrong cited several passages from the report - to support this concern. "Bright, imaginative people need an environment that is conducive to creativity". For that reason, the committee has been focusing on the facilities that would be needed for this. Schmitt agreed that this was important and said that NASA needs to be encouraging the development and support of this sort of research environment.



Ed David presenting. Spoke about FY 2008 budget request yesterday. Talked about Lunar workshop in Tempe. See this as an important activity. Mark Robinson will talk next.

Mark Robinson: We were pleased to see that NASA is taking our recommendations seriously. Looking to get information and minimize technology so as to see if missions to moons of outer planets should be New Horizons class missions or Flagship missions.

Pleased to see ESMD and SMD cooperating on lunar exploration.

Presentation given to science committee by Colleen Hartman. CR impact makes it difficult to predict what will happen next year in terms of budget.

Presentation on the first Earth Science Decadal Study.

Earth Science: GRACE mission - maps ice mass loss over time. SeaWiFS determined global inverse relationship between sea surface temperature and productivity.

Heliophysics: STEREO - became operational 23 Jan.

Planetary: Cassini reveals new rings, outer e-ring structure created by Enceladus, Mars rovers continue into 3rd year of operations.

Astrophysics: Nobel prize for COBE big bang findings. HST makes first 3D map of dark matter in the universe.

Issues/concerns (per Hartman)

- resolution of FY 2007 CR
- instrument and mission cost growth
- additional funding for slip in HST SM-4
- Juno scheduled slip request - extra costs
- Mission launch profile dips in 2010 and 2012 - work force continuity concerns (instrument engineers, mission ops, science ops) [biggest concern for SMD]
- removal of NPOESS sensors

NAC member asked if there was a relationship between the dip in science missions and shuttle retirement - SMD AA Mary Cleave said that the only relationship had to do with the adjustments of budget to fly STS to the end of its lifetime and finishing the ISS. This will result in a reduction in science missions.

Earth Science Decadal Study: Major accomplishment to bring together many diverse fields into a common voice. Organized along themes (Earth science applications, land use, weather, climate variability, human health and security, solid Earth hazards). Clear need for a focused set of long baseline measurements conducted over 30 years or more. Science goals directly serving societal needs.

Lennard Fiske - it takes decades to get some of these trends out of the data. Scales of phenomena are on the scale of decades.

Decadal Study developed 17 missions to meet science goals - NASA missions 14.5, NOAA missions 2.5 . Cost of implementation is high and will be a challenge to implement given that NASA's current budget ($500m per year more is needed.

Workshop on Science Associated with Lunar Exploration Architecture: 27 Feb - 2 Mar, Tempe AZ. Sponsored by NAC science subcommittees, ESMD, and SMD. Overarching goal: ensure that NASA's exploration strategy architecture and hardware development enable the best and appropriately integrated science activities.

Fiske noted that the additional $500/year figure was how the NAS committee sought to restore NASA Earth Science to what it was in 2000.

Lunar Science Workshop - Schmitt noted that a similar workshop was held in Falmouth, MA in 1965 - and that recommendations for hardware that emerged from that meeting were accepted by NASA. Schmitt feels that some 80% of the exploration science conducted on Apollo came as a consequence of the recommendations from that Falmouth conference. "If we can do that well, then we will have made a great contribution to the exploration program."


CFO plan spoke about

- Financial systems, analysis and oversight (Material weakness)
- Fund balances with Treasury (Material weakness)
- Property Plant and equipment (Material weakness)
- Environmental liabilities

Management change - need to know where property is located and that it can be tracked.

Financial system and analysis - problems with access control, systems software, and segregation of duties.

Letter from Ernst & Young said that property management issue is still a concern.

Also an issue with spending more money than was obligated - an Antideficiency Act violation.

NASA made significant process in correcting 2 of 5 issues.

Of all of the issues that trouble Ernst & Young and OIG is still property, plant and equipment accounting. This is a legacy problem. Over the years, with an overt focus on missions, the various centers did not pay proper attention in creating audit trails to track where all of NASA's stuff is. There is a large area will there will never be a full accounting of. Eventually these items will fall off of the edge of the Earth as time progresses. Ernst & Young did not do an audit due to outstanding issues with the way that NASA does things.

NASA is going to try and arrow this zone of audit inability in terms of property. Ernst & Young feels that audit trail needs to begin at the start of the procurement process.

NASA's CFO is running into resistance from field centers who still want to do things the way they have been doing them - Griffin wants to change this.

At the end of this year we want an audit- even if it is a qualified audit. We are going to pressure OIG and Ernst & Young to see that this happens.

NAC committee chair interested in financial and cost risk for Ares 1 and 5; Orion; COTS and ISS programs. Committee members intend to attend quarterly financial review.

Shared Service Center concept: talked about concerns for risks last time. Had a meeting yesterday with management. A promising entrepreneurial initiative underway when Griffin arrived - consolidated financial management, human resources. Procurement into a single location. Open d March 2006 at Stennis. Purpose is to relieve NASA centers of high volume transactions. Looking to save upwards of $100 million - only works if that things that are moved from centers eventually result in elimination of duplicate tasks at centers. This is an initiative with attractiveness to it and a good return on investment.

500 people by October 2008. 160 civil servants, 340 contractors (CSC).

SSC went live with some activities. 17 more functions to be implemented soon out of an eventual total of 50 tasks Concern about transferring functions to SSC at a pace that allows transferred work to be done at the SSC. Also concern that tasks only be transferred to SSC once they have been 'fixed' by ongoing IFMP revamp. Need to watch this activity as it is implemented.

Customer attitude was refreshing - they know that their customers need to be satisfied with the service that they get from the SSC. This could be a big win for NASA. The risks - as the SSC takes over functions - risk is that centers will not offload people - if that happens then you just end up adding to overall costs.

Lyles said that he was surprised that there is not already a transition plan in place for people going off of the books. this is surprising given how long the SSC has been in place.

Panel noted that Katrina caused some implementation delay.



Paul Robinson is presenting. Issues of concern: ISS utilization and science - and funding beyond 2016; Hubble servicing, COTS, ITAR, national lab designation for ISS, orbital debris.

AS country awe are on a road paved with good intentions. We want to limit arms traffic. No appears that it has developed barriers. If we do not find a way out of this it may limit our ability to get collaborative work done. Need to put ITAR at the top of the agenda.

Tom Jones. Had budget briefings at NASA HQ yesterday - 2007 budget, CR, and FY 2008 budgets.

Shuttle transition and retirement. STS retires in 2010, leaves ISS to be supported by means other than Shuttle. That recognition is a little frightening. Need to change spares philosophy to staging spares on orbit rather than bringing them up on shuttles as needed. Constellation delivery may slip beyond 2014 and that will impact this resupply process. $12 billion inventory of parts for shuttle on hand. How do you transition that over to ESMD? How do you dispose of surplus in a way that benefits the budget. Numbers came from Gerstenmeier.

How do you preserve critical functions in workforce?

13 remaining shuttle mission, 1 Hubble - 2 contingency missions with shuttles filled with spares if time allows. We are very interested in the two contingency logistics misisons - important for operations and logistic of ISS.

Established a joint SOMO/ESMD Control Board to manage the transition from shuttle to post-shuttle era/exploration.

For SM-4, there will be a LON - Launch On Need - shuttle on the pad 39-B ready to go in case Hubble mission needs a rescue. If it is not needed, it will be rolled back to VAB and re-processed for an ISS mission. Budget implications for keeping that pad operational - yet undergoing modifications for Ares 1.

Dearth of medium class launchers. Beyond 2010 - cost of launchers in that class will increase. Looking into alternative launchers.

We believe that all shuttle flights are needed to fully utilize ISS. Need to make a decision about extending life of ISS in 2014 timeframe.

Human capital issues: keeping a motivated workforce in place - both to run shuttle and begin to fly Constellation.

SOMD says that workforce can ride out a 4-year gap in space access until Orion. But when you start to contemplate a slip to a 6 to 8 year gap, people will start to bail out. Mark Uhran at NASA noted "the best go first" ... overall, this was a sobering assessment fro m Bill Gerstenmeier.

Research during gap depends on COTS. If there is no successful COTS during that gap we may end up watching an ISS overhead - one that we paid for - with no U.S. utilization.

Lennard Fiske suggested that this was a rather bad plan since everything seems to depend on COTS - and that a midrange launch vehicle capability should need to be in place as a back up.

Doug Cooke/NASA - COTS is our baseline but we are looking at alternatives to that. We are looking to support ISS with CEV. We also have international partner systems helping us.

John Logsdon - clarification - small/medium launcher issue is with the ability to launch small missions - not supplies to ISS.

Fiske - someone has to solve the midrange ELV problem for science and robotics mission. I would suggest that is an independent solution to COTS. But could that solution also be a back up plan in case COTS fails? It seems to me that there are two problems that the agency faces - ISS resupply and launching in midrange class mission. Seems that they should be solved independently.

Jones said that restarting Delta assembly line might be a last resort solution.

Logsdon - way back when - when we were "leader" - we were required to be the lead in the construction and maintenance of the main elements - whether or not we were using it. No one conceived of a situation where we might not be using it.

Lyles - with ULA coming together, you would think that someone would be talking to them about having that sort of capability in place- Delta II.

In our April meeting we will look into the lunar outpost mode of operations. We will also try to identify what they might learn form other agencies in transitioning inventory.

Question: have COTS partners made any progress on the financing they need to make? Jones: this was not discussed. Logsdon - there has been some progress made. One of the contractors missed - by a little - their funding milestones.

Abrahamson - exploration committee started with the universal concern with safety, timeliness, and foundation funding for Exploration. Examples of transitions - Apollo, Titan, various aircraft, B-1 bomber - end of North American.

Committee has requested transition briefing from the two hand-off organizations.

B-1 bomber. Not only was this the phase out of a project, every aircraft that was produced was a step closer to the shutdown of that company. All employees were convinced that every bomber would work just fine. And when they left, that would be a badge of honor for them.

Schmitt - saw a similar attitude at the end of Apollo. Apollo 17 essentially had no anomalies as a result.

Shuttle phase out/hand over: Initial review conclusions: outstanding leadership creating the transition imperative, policy, schedules, management process, tools, etc.

Depth of planning - cooperative. Communication is incredible. Created effective boards, metrics for personnel management of people and flexible use of key personnel; software tools, etc.

NASA studied certain industrial examples - process was then reviewed by National Academy of Public Administration. As a result they have created a Human Spaceflight Transition Plan. Liaisons established at HQ, Center and Project manager levels. Transitional Control Board and Work Breakdown Structure in place.

We are puzzled by Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel concerns (letter). It may be the timing of some things.

We will support ITAR ad hoc activity.

Work with Operations or others on transition issue. This is so important and is underway so effectively that NASA should employ a historian or other effective management writers. a case study for American industry. Distribute to colleges, Congress, etc. One more example of NASA working on the frontier in space but also outstanding technical management.

Contractual reviews - fact finding at this meeting starting with contract summary briefings. Next: review of contracts. Attendance at key design reviews and similar NASA Management meetings. Asked for recommendations from ESMD. Ready to assign certain reviews to exploration committee members.

Doug Cooke - looking at way to continually improve procurement process, assemble industry teams, etc. We are looking to award the J2X contract at the end of March. On 23 Feb we will issue the Ares 1 upper stage RFP.


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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 8, 2007 2:41 PM.

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