Shuttle News: March 2006 Archives

USA Forever?

Exploration gap could cost NASA skills, jobs, The Hill

"That gap means something very different to us. We intend to be the operator of the constellation systems, so we have to be able to negotiate and navigate that gap with our skill base and with our credentials intact," said Jeff Carr, spokesman for the Alliance."

Editor's note: You "intend" to be the operator? This sounds a little presumptuous, Jeff.

Jeff Carr replies: "Actually, it is extremely presumptuous.But we have a skilled and experienced workforce that is uniquely qualified to do that work, and we have a responsibility to them to make every effort to preserve that opportunity for them.So, as a basic premise in our planning, it is (and must be) our intention to be the operator.And we're not keeping that a secret."

Reader comment: "I can only speak from my experience at KSC, but it not only is presumptuous but also the epitome of arrogance to think that somehow USA is going to magically and overnight transform itself from a behemoth of an organization built on cronyism and "we've been doing it this way for the last 30 years why should we change now" to a sleek, cutting edge organization out in the forefront of space exploration. There is a tremendous shortage between where they are right now to where they need to be -- and it's just plain not going to happen in the timeframe required. No way."

New Shuttle Issues

Destination Space, Channel 13

"More trouble in NASA's return to flight plans as space shuttle Discovery is again damaged in an accident at the Kennedy Space Center. The space agency says workers were repositioning a lamp near the nose of the shuttle's external fuel tank when it fell, causing it to ding the foam insulation."

Space shuttle engineers assess new wiring issue, SpaceflightNow

"Initial wind tunnel tests indicate recent modifications to the foam insulation on the shuttle's external tank may not be as easily analyzed as initially hoped, sources say. While additional testing may resolve the matter, showing the removal of wind deflectors called PAL ramps from the tank will not compromise safety, other ongoing technical issues, including a new concern about possible circuit board wiring problems, threaten the July 1 target date for the next shuttle mission."

Investigators: Launch put public at risk, Orlando Sentinel

"Everything appeared normal June 5, 2002, as shuttle Endeavour thundered to orbit from Kennedy Space Center through hazy afternoon skies. Unknown to the public, however, the Air Force's top two safety officials at Cape Canaveral had tried to stop the countdown. Air Force technicians could not verify that a critical backup system used to destroy errant rockets was working properly. In an apparently unprecedented move, the safety officers were overruled after a phone conversation between Brig. Gen. Donald Pettit, commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, and KSC Director Roy Bridges. Endeavour launched minutes later in violation of flight rules designed to protect the public."

NASA Appoints Board to Investigate Shuttle Arm Incident

"On March 4 at about 10:10 p.m. EST, shuttle technicians inside a bridge bucket work platform device accidentally bumped into Discovery's robotic arm. The arm is a 50-foot-long, jointed extension used to grapple payloads, remove them from the payload bay and move spacewalking astronauts to various work platforms."

KSC Reader note: "As a result of a spate of mishaps, missteps and accidents in Shuttle processing, KSC senior management decided to have the whole center (save the folks supporting the PEGASUS launch in California) take two hours off on Thursday 3-16 to "discuss safety". The string of incidents cited for this decision were:

STS-121 Update

NASA Announces New Window for Space Shuttle Mission STS-121

"NASA announced today July 1 to 19 is the new launch planning window for Space Shuttle Discovery's mission, designated STS-121. The new window gives the agency time to do additional engineering work and analysis to ensure a safe flight for Discovery and its crew."

Shuttle launch pushed to July, Orlando Sentinel

NASA Announces Space Shuttle Program Update Today

Summary of comments by Wayne Hale:

Editor's note: "Yesterday United Space Alliance held an "informational meeting" in Houston to advise employees that their tasks were no longer deemed necessary. As a result, USA would soon be eliminating those tasks from the current contract with NASA. Still unknown is the timeframe for separations - all that was given was a range between May and October of FY06. Employees were advised to start seeking employment elsewhere. The USA HR rep stated that USA is not even considering any early retirement or severance packages for displaced employees. Employees will be given the standardUSA two week notice. Employees who are offered positions within USA - and then decline those offers - will be treated as a "voluntary resignations" and therefore probably not be eligible for unemployment benefits."

Transcription of Press Conference with Mike Griffin at NASA KSC

"GRIFFIN: We are not, in your words, we are not "whacking" the space science program to pay for human exploration. This is not "The Sopranos," we don't whack people or programs here."

Editor's update: The following was sent to NASA Watch by Jeff Carr at USA. Houston: "Hi Keith - Id like to offer some additional background related to the recent NASA Watch posting, "USA Layoffs Are About to Begin." There are a small number of Flight Ops Training jobs (9 USA; 5 subcontractors) that are being eliminated from the SFOC as the number of training tasks required to fly out the program are reduced. We are giving the affected employees as much time as possible to try to find a new job with USA or elsewhere. As always, we will do our best to place them internally. Any employee who is involuntarily terminated is entitled to standard company severance benefits. An employee who declines an offer of continued employment is not. This is not a Reduction in Force and, in fact, is a measure to help prevent that from happening. If/when we are ever faced with such an action, there will be extensive communication in advance with all employees, our customers and the Congress. Ill be happy to include you in that process."

Shuttle tank sensors an issue again in launch processing, Aviation Week and Space Technology

"The modified external tank for the next shuttle mission is starting a processing flow with no schedule margin, while engineers here assess issues that could affect NASA's May launch target for Discovery, such as those with engine cutoff (ECO) sensors."

Editor's note: this story was posted on the Aviation Week and Space Technology website on 5 March 2006 - and was printed in the 6 March 2006 edition of the magazine.

NASA checking shuttle tank concerns, MSNBC

More ECO sensor trouble?, Orlando Sentinel

NASA assesses unexpected reading from fuel tank sensor,



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