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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2020

Efficiencies boost NASA mission past the moon

By Scott Foreman and Chris Gamble DCMA Western Region

The arrival of 10 motor segments to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, June 15, marked the completion of the first major round of oversight by Defense Contract Management Agency personnel in support of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission.

DCMA NASA Product Operations Northrop Grumman Utah employees were responsible for completing the final acceptance data packages. Once complete, the office submitted their findings to NASA, which formally accepted delivery of the motor segments, before they were loaded onto the train for transport from Promontory, Utah to the space center.

“This is just one of many successes shared by the team, and all the credit goes to them for a job well done,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Vue Yang, DCMA NPO Northrop Grumman Utah commander.

The 10 motor segments will create two separate boosters with five segments each. Once added to the core stage rocket, the completed system will result in NASA’s most powerful Space Launch System ever.

According to NASA, Artemis 1 will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond. For DCMA NPO Northrop Grumman Utah, the successful delivery of the motor segments demonstrates the office’s commitment to providing sustained multifunctional expertise to NASA.

Yang said the team’s success comes from more than eight years of support to NASA’s development and production of solid rocket boosters for the newest Space Launch System.

“I’m very proud of the team. Our office and the expertise here predates DCMA’s existence and some of our employees provided support to NASA and the contractor during the shuttle program,” said Yang. “We’re also excited to see how our fellow DCMA contract management offices across the country complete their work on Artemis 1 so the nation can see American ingenuity take us beyond low Earth orbit once again.”

DCMA NPO Northrop Grumman Utah is a part of DCMA NASA Product Operations, which is the agency’s main touch point for all support to NASA. The work on NASA programs has been part of DCMA’s portfolio since the agency was established in 2000. DCMA recently celebrated its 20th Anniversary — a major milestone of providing acquisition insight to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies like NASA.

“By encompassing multiple functional capabilities and expertise, DCMA personnel continue to provide contract administration, property management, plant clearance, earned value management, quality engineering and quality assurance support to NASA and at contractor locations across the country,” said Richard Woodland, DCMA NPO Northrop Grumman Utah deputy commander.

Woodland, who has worked at the Utah office for more than 30 years said working with the contractor, Northrop Grumman Space Systems, and NASA over the years has resulted in many improvements to delivery.

Since 2010, the office has implemented a ground-breaking methodology for quality assurance that has set a new standard across both agencies. DCMA and NASA now use risk-based assessments to guide government insight of the contractor’s quality management processes and systems.

“This methodology has enabled DCMA to significantly reduce the number of government mandatory inspection points while simultaneously increasing overall government insight with the use of in-line assessments,” said Woodland. “With the ILA process, the contractor no longer has to stop manufacturing processes to wait for a DCMA quality assurance specialist to complete an inspection.”

Woodland said the inspection point reduction helped the DCMA NPO Northrop Grumman Utah SLS Booster Team flawlessly perform 4,090 ILAs to ensure the highest quality rocket was delivered on-time. Woodland also said the team's technical expertise resolved 300 Material Review Board issues, matured the contractor's configuration control, metrology, control of non-conforming material and strengthened supply chain relationships.

As the office looks toward the future, Artemis 2 in 2024 and Artemis 3 in 2028, Woodland said he’s excited to take on greater roles in support of SLS.

“No one does what we do here at DCMA NPO Northrop Grumman Utah, and it’s a very proud day for us as well as the country as we pave the way back to the moon and beyond.” said Woodland.

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