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By DCMA Technical Directorate
The Defense Contract Management Agency and NASA have partnered for more than a decade to forge space exploration based on former astronaut Neil Armstrong’s quote, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
On July 8, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis departed from Kennedy Space Center here on Space Transportation System 135, ending the space flight chapter for the shuttle program. NASA and DCMA forged a relationship throughout the lifespan of the shuttle program. The shuttle program was a source of tremendous pride for the nation, as well as the NASA and DCMA personnel that supported it, but the retirement of the shuttle program brought about uncertainty for the future of U.S. human space flight.
As the agencies collectively set sights on how to conduct surveillance on the newest NASA platforms for transporting our nation’s astronauts into space in the post-shuttle environment, NASA and DCMA have used their extensive experience working together on the shuttle program to improve communication, and develop policies, tools and training, As a result, DCMA developed the NASA support manual and enhanced tools for tracking workmanship standard training. It also aligned DCMA NASA Product Operations as the NASA integrator for the agency.
The Safety and Mission Assurance Office and Office of Procurement at Marshall Space Flight Center and Johnson Space Center recently issued prime delegations to DCMA NASA Product Operations for DCMA employees to provide acquisition support for the Artemis program. DCMA NPO serves as the catalyst for coordinating workload throughout the agency, and the team provides feedback to NASA program offices and center leadership. The teamwork across DCMA includes the regional commands working together to ensure oversight on the new Space Launch System.
On March 17, the new Space Launch System Artemis 1 rocket, complete with solid rocket boosters and an Orion capsule, rolled out of the Vertical Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center shortly after 6 p.m. A crowd of people witnessed the historic event. This was the first rollout for the Artemis program and the first rollout since the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched in 2011. The Artemis is the first vehicle designed to return humans to the moon since Apollo 17 was launched in December 1972.
Three DCMA personnel were at the Kennedy Space Center during the recent rollout: Craig Bennet, DCMA headquarters NASA team lead and subject matter expert from the Technical Directorate, Brian McGinnis, NPO director, and Kevin McWashington, DCMA center integrator for Johnson Space Center.
“The recent rollout represents another milestone accomplishment for DCMA and NASA in the return of American astronauts to the moon by 2025 to establish lunar operations,” said Bennett. “This event also marks the culmination of DCMA oversight on NASA’s latest launch system from the bottom of the nozzle on the RS-25 (Aerojet Rocketdyne) main engine to the tip of the launch abort system. DCMA has provided contract and quality oversight to everything in between.”
As NASA’s partner, DCMA leveraged core capabilities providing oversight efficiencies and effectiveness at Northrop Grumman for the solid rocket boosters; Boeing Space Launch System core section, including liquid rocket engines; and Lockheed Martin for Orion crew spacecraft. DCMA support was instrumental in ensuring seamless spacecraft integration to meet the Presidential Space Policy Directive 1 to return American astronauts to the lunar surface.
McGinnis said supporting NASA is a global commitment with over 40 contract management offices, operating units, and centers that have been involved in partnership with NASA providing government oversight to the core stage rocket, solid rocket boosters, main engines, spacecraft adapters, and Orion multipurpose crew vehicle.
“It was incredible to be here to witness this historic event,” said McGinnis, who emphasized that the rollout of the Artemis made him feel proud to work for DCMA. “It was just luck that the rollout was delayed to the week that I was scheduled to be at the Kennedy Space Center. I have seen the Space Launch System grow from a collection of piece parts when I joined DCMA in 2016 to a completed rocket ready to fly.”
The Artemis 1 is approximately: 330 feet tall, weighs 3.5 million pounds, and expends 2.5 million pounds of solid fuel in the first two minutes of the flight boost phase. About 780,000 gallons of liquid fuel will be expended within the first eight minutes of flight reaching approximately 24,000 miles per hour.
“This event is NASA’s presentation of their rocket to the world for the first time. It is truly humbling to know the amount of effort that went into building the rocket and the oversight and insight that DCMA employees provided along the way,” said McWashington.
The Artemis 1 will remain on launch pad 39-B for integration testing and a rehearsal that will fully-fuel the rocket and take the countdown up to just before launch. The rocket will then be defueled and rolled back to the Vertical Assembly Building for multiple inspections and to complete work on the main engines. Later this summer, the rocket will be rolled back out to the launch pad for an unmanned mission around the moon in preparation for American astronauts return to the moon in 2025.
“DCMA is leading the way. This is just the first step to support continuous presence on the lunar surface to include lunar orbiting outpost, and manufacturing on the lunar surface. Artemis 1 represents the space acquisition dominance and partnership between the DCMA and NASA teams,” said Bennett.
For more information about the program, visit https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/index.html.
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