News | April 30, 2019

NASA awards lead QA for boosting delivery

By Luis Delgadillo DCMA Western Region

A Defense Contract Management Agency lead quality assurance specialist received NASA’s Space Flight Awareness – Honoree award April 3 at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.  

The award, presented to Trenton Buckalew, recognizes his efforts leading a multi-agency team, across three geographically-separated sites. The team is responsible for quality oversight of NASA's Launch Abort System. According to a NASA fact sheet, the system sits atop the Orion crew module and protects astronauts if a problem arises during launch by pulling the spacecraft away from a failing rocket.

Buckalew received the award from Bill Hill, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, and astronaut Scott Tingle. Tingle served as flight engineer on the Expedition 54/55 crew on the International Space Station from Dec. 17, 2017, through June 3, 2018.

NASA’s Space Flight Awareness Program recognizes outstanding job performances and contributions by civil service and contract employees throughout the year and focuses on excellence in quality and safety in support of human spaceflight. Buckalew is DCMA’s first honoree award recipient to be recognized this year and the results of his work helped NASA and the contractor improve delivery.

“He designed and implemented a closed loop quality oversight system that integrated three disparate government mandatory inspection plans into a single master inspection plan for three sites,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Vue Yang, commander of DCMA NASA Product Operations Northrop Grumman Utah.

Yang said Buckalew’s effort to bring uniformity and his centralization and oversight of government mandated inspection points also led to improved coordination with the contractors and NASA during their production planning. The resulting coordination prevents three days of production downtime when the contractor initiates a design change. Previously, the contractor would implement a design change and such changes, if they impacted mandatory inspection plans, would only be discovered by DCMA team members after the fact. If a design change closed off or covered up another inspection point, then DCMA’s mandated inspections, coupled with the contractors unanticipated design changes, would inadvertently delay production timelines.

In addition to these successes, Buckalew’s data analyses and risk assessments, also led to NASA approval for the removal of 12 mandatory inspection plans, or 24 days’ worth of unnecessary inspections annually.

According to Yang, Buckalew successfully integrated DCMA‘s core initiative of detection to prevention into Launch Abort System production. Additionally, Yang said, Buckalew’s technical acumen, work ethic, interpersonal skills and leadership were the driving force behind program’s successful cold temperature test fire of qualification motor 2, a necessary milestone in the Orion LAS program.

Buckalew, who mainly works from the Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems’ Bacchus Plant in Magna, Utah, received a tour of the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. In addition to his certificate, pin and congratulatory letter from senior management, he also had the opportunity to observe a live hot fire test of RS-25 flight engine No. 2062 on the A-1 test stand at Stennis Space Center. NASA is testing RS-25 engines at Stennis to help power its new Space Launch System rocket, being built to carry humans deeper into space than ever, to such destinations as the Moon and, ultimately, Mars.