NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Named Federal Engineer of the Year

Steve Stich is the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Steve Stich, now manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, monitors the countdown during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in firing room four of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has named Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), as the agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year. Sponsored by Professional Engineers in Government, the award honors engineers of federal agencies that employ at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Stich was recognized during a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 24, alongside recipients from the National Park Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and others.

“This is such an honor and one granted based on the tremendous team with which I am privileged to work,” Stich said. “I’m so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished together, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead this year for CCP and NASA as a whole.”

Stich oversees the development of commercial spacecraft and the certification required to safely send astronauts to the International Space Station. As the CCP manager, Stich played a role in returning human spaceflight capability to the United States following the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

He led the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission that carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station and returned them safely to Earth, validating SpaceX’s transportation system for recurring, operational missions to the orbiting laboratory. Leading up to the mission, Stich provided final approval on vehicle design changes and system and vehicle component certifications. He also oversaw additional testing as required to reduce technical risk.

In the citation released from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Award Office, Stich is recognized for his “exceptional leadership, vehicle design expertise, and risk-mitigation, paving the way for NASA to enable commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) space transportation and for expanding access to space for users across the government, commercial customers, and academia.”

He first started his career at NASA in 1987 and, since then, has led teams within multiple organizations and programs, including Johnson’s Engineering, NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, the shuttle program, and Johnson’s Advanced Exploration Systems. His more than 33 years of expertise at NASA has allowed the agency to continue conducting technology and research investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory and also helped lay the framework for future deep space exploration missions under the Artemis program.

For a full list of award recipients, as well as the top 10 finalists for the NSPE 2021 Federal Engineer of the Year, visit https://www.nspe.org/resources/interest-groups/government/federal-engineer-the-year.

Kennedy Announces Winner for 2020 Best of KSC Software Competition

Members of the development team that redesigned the SpecsIntact software at Kennedy Space Center.
The development team that redesigned the SpecsIntact software at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is made up of NASA and contractor employees from across the center. In the front row, from left is Candy Thomas, Tammy Edelman, and Martha Muller. Middle row, from left is Carly Helton, Marcelo Dasilva, Eric Lockshine, Cheryl Fitz-Simon, and Maria Zamora. Back row, from left is Jim Whitehead, Pierre Gravelat, Stephan Whytsell. Members of the team not pictured are Dan Evans, Belle Graziano, Justin Junod, John Merrick, Jim Morrison, Julie Nicely, Phil Nicholson, Gerard Sczepura, and Daniel Smith. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a premier multi-user spaceport, uses research and innovation to support the future of space exploration. Kennedy’s annual Best of KSC Software competition is an employee-driven contest that fosters creativity and enables new discoveries to improve the quality of life on Earth and the exploration of our solar system and beyond.

Close-up view of the flame trench and flame deflector and Launch Pad 39B.
A close-up view of the flame trench and flame deflector at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 26, 2018. The launch pad has undergone upgrades and modifications to accommodate NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for Artemis I and other deep space missions. New heat-resistant bricks have been installed on the walls and a new flame deflector is in place. Photo Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The 2020 winner of Best of KSC Software was SpecsIntact 5. The development team, made up of NASA employees and contractors from across the center, earned this distinction by redesigning the SpecsIntact software. This automated specification management system is used in construction projects worldwide. The upgraded system reduces the time and cost required to produce facility specifications with an easy and intuitive interface that assists with quality control.

The team at Kennedy Space Center manages the SpecsIntact system, which also is used by many federal and state agencies, including the U.S. military. At Kennedy, NASA used previous versions of the software for the design, construction, and upgrades of several facilities, including modification of the spaceport’s headquarters building and upgrades to the main flame deflector in the flame trench at Launch Pad 39B.

A view looking up at the 10 levels of work platforms in High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The work platforms will surround and provide access for service and processing of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The software was also instrumental to the renovation of High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for NASA’s first integrated launch of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

The SpecsIntact system has evolved significantly since first conceived at NASA in 1965 to support applications across both the government and private sector. NASA’s Technology Transfer Program ensures that innovations developed for exploration and discovery are broadly available to the public, maximizing the benefit to the nation. The program enables U.S. industry efforts to find new applications for NASA technologies on Earth and for human space exploration, including deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.

NASA “Meatball” Insignia and ESA Logo Added to Artemis I Fairings

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairings in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s (European Space Agency) strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions, as the ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

NASA’s Artemis I Orion spacecraft is being outfitted with additional artwork as technicians began installing the logo for ESA (European Space Agency). ESA provided the European-built service module, which provides power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, and will also provide water and air for astronauts on future missions.

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairings in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
The ESA (European Space Agency) logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch. Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions. The ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch.

Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility, where it will undergo fueling and servicing by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs Technology teams in preparation for the upcoming flight test with the Space Launch System rocket under the agency’s Artemis program.

Shoreline Restoration Protects Kennedy Infrastructure, Wildlife

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center occupies a scenic stretch of land along Florida’s east coast, including miles of pristine beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. A restoration project has shored up the dunes that create a natural barrier from the waves. Native coastal vegetation has been added to stabilize the rebuilt dune and offer a habitat for Kennedy’s coastal wildlife. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Situated beside the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of central Florida, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has critical space facilities, launch infrastructure, a world-class workforce, and wildlife to protect from the unique weather threats posed by tropical cyclones. The elevated sandbank along the spaceport’s shoreline is the crucial first line of defense against these storms and the resulting erosion.

Click the photo to view full size. This aerial view of Kennedy’s Atlantic Ocean coastline reveals the rebuilt sand dune planted with rows of native vegetation. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Kennedy recently completed the second phase of an ongoing project to plant vegetation on the dune, which has been replenished with additional sand to rebuild its natural structure. The addition of native plants helps prevent erosion while providing habitats for some of the vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species that have settled at the Florida spaceport.

The shoreline restoration project successfully rebuilt about four-and-a-half miles of dune during two construction phases. Workers trucked in nearly 38,000 loads of sand to strengthen the dune and roads around the space center, which has frequent brushes with severe weather, especially during the June to November hurricane season. Added vegetation provided the finishing touch to help protect the dunes.

Native coastal plants such as sea oats, sea grape, and railroad vine were selected because they’re specifically adapted to grow in the coastal environment, which includes loose, shifting, sandy soils, along with salt water and salt spray. Additionally, their deep root systems serve as an anchor, stabilizing dune systems. The plantings were carefully planned and installed as each section of dune replenishment was completed.

“It takes a year or so for the plants to reach maturity, and that’s also dependent on rainfall once they’re established,” said Don Dankert, technical lead for Kennedy Space Center Environmental Planning. “You can see the succession of plants as you look down the dune from north to south. The vegetation in the northern section is much more robust – it was planted first.”

Kennedy’s Environmental Management Branch, part of the center’s Spaceport Integration and Services directorate, planned the placement of the vegetation to mimic the clusters and open spaces found in a natural dune system.

“Some of the federally threatened and endangered species that live in our coastal areas are gopher tortoises, southeastern beach mice, indigo snakes, and sea turtles,” Dankert said. “The newly created dune provides habitat for these species. For example, for sea turtles, the dune helps to protect our beach from light intrusion, which in turn aids nesting and hatchling turtles by reducing disorientation during the nesting season.”

The dune has held up well since the restoration project began in 2018, with only minor loss of sand on the dune’s eastern side when Hurricane Dorian passed along the coast.

The Environmental Management Branch will continue to monitor the dune for signs of erosion, including pre- and post-storm assessments during hurricane season. The team also will track the health of the vegetation as well as the use of the dune environment by wildlife throughout the next two years.

Artemis I Boosters Take Shape

The Space Launch System solid rocket boosters are being stacked on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The twin solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) are being stacked on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The boosters will power SLS on the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Booster stacking continues! The second to last set of segments for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters were placed on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs transported the segments from the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility, where they have been since June. Once fully stacked, each booster will stand nearly 17 stories tall. The twin boosters will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket during the Artemis I mission. This uncrewed flight later this year will test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights.

NASA’s Space Launch System Receives Another Major Boost

SLS solid rocket boosters
The solid rocket boosters will power the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The third of five sets of solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket were placed on the mobile launcher inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The middle segments, painted with the iconic “worm” logo, were lifted onto the launcher by Jacobs and Exploration Ground Systems engineers using the VAB’s 325-ton crane.

The twin boosters will power the first flight of the agency’s new deep space rocket on its first Artemis Program mission. Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights.

NASA, SpaceX to Launch Second Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California on Jan. 11, 20201. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX
Members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station participated in training in Hawthorne, California, on Jan. 11, 2021. Pictured from left are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Photo Credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Tuesday, April 20, for launch of the second crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the International Space Station.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission will launch four astronauts aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the space station. It will be the first mission to fly two international partner crew members as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Crew-2 also is expected to arrive at the space station to overlap with the astronauts that flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

Return of Crew-1 with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, is currently scheduled for late April or early May. Crew-2 astronauts are set to return in fall 2021.

NASA and SpaceX also continue preparations for the launch of the agency’s Crew-3 mission, which currently is targeted for fall of this year.

Artemis I Boosters Continue to Stack Up

In High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the right-hand center aft booster segment for Artemis I is stacked on the mobile launcher for the Space Launch System (SLS) on Jan. 7, 2021.
In High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the right-hand center aft booster segment for Artemis I is stacked on the mobile launcher for the Space Launch System (SLS) on Jan. 7, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Booster stacking for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is continuing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The second of five segments for the SLS rocket boosters have been placed on the mobile launcher in preparation for the launch of Artemis I later this year. This marks four out of 10 solid rocket booster segments being lifted via crane and placed on the launcher, the structure used to process, assemble, and launch SLS. The twin boosters will power the first flight of SLS, the agency’s new deep space rocket for Artemis I. This uncrewed flight will test the SLS and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

NASA and Boeing Target New Launch Date for Next Starliner Flight Test

Technicians observe Boeing’s Starliner crew module being placed on top of the service module in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 14, 2021.
Technicians observe Boeing’s Starliner crew module being placed on top of the service module in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 14, 2021. The Starliner spacecraft is being prepared for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2). As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, OFT-2 is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path to fly crew missions for NASA. Photo credit: Boeing/John Proferes

NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than Thursday, March 25, for the launch of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2, or OFT-2, is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path to fly crew missions for NASA to the International Space Station.

The target launch date is enabled by an opening on the Eastern Range, the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, steady progress on hardware and software, and an International Space Station docking opportunity.

Boeing recently mated the spacecraft’s reusable crew module on its brand new service module inside the Starliner production factory at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Teams are working to complete outfitting of the vehicle’s interior before loading cargo and conducting final spacecraft checkouts.

Boeing also recently completed the formal requalification of Starliner’s OFT-2 flight software. Teams conducted a full software review and several series of tests to verify Starliner’s software meets design specifications. Boeing also will complete an end-to-end simulation of the OFT-2 test flight using flight hardware and final versions of Starliner’s flight software to model the vehicle’s expected behavior before flight.

The OFT-2 mission will launch Starliner on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, dock to the space station and return to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test flight to prove the system is ready to fly crew.

Learn more about commercial crew by visiting https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/ and following @Commercial_Crew on Twitter and the Commercial Crew Facebook account.

Learn more about Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner by visiting www.boeing.com/starliner.

Kennedy Space Center Honors Fallen Heroes of Human Spaceflight

Kennedy Space Center’s Day of Remembrance ceremony will take place Jan. 28, 2021, at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

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The crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other fallen astronauts who lost their lives in the name of space exploration and discovery, will be honored by NASA Kennedy Space Center employees and guests with a ceremony at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial.

The Day of Remembrance ceremony is set for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m. Honoree family member Sheryl Chaffee (daughter of former  NASA astronaut Roger Chaffee) will be in attendance. Speakers include Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, retired Space Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach, and Astronauts Memorial Foundation President and CEO Thad Altman.

“From Apollo 1 to the crews of Challenger and Columbia, we are humbled as we recall the sacrifices of the brave men and woman who gave their lives for the broader cause of exploring and understanding our universe,” Cabana said. “Each year, on this day, we commit to not only remembering their legacies but dedicate ourselves to ensuring the safety of those who come in the future.”

The date marks the 35th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. NASA centers throughout the country participate in the agency’s annual memorial event.

All CDC and local health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus — including physical distancing and face coverings — will be followed at the event, which is limited to 100 guests. Click here to view the ceremony live on Kennedy’s Facebook page.

Following the commemoration, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at the Space Mirror Memorial. Attendees will be given flowers to pay respects to our fallen heroes.

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that built and maintains the Space Mirror Memorial. The mirror was dedicated in 1991 to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training. It has been designated a National Memorial by Congress.

Click here for more information about Kennedy Space Center.