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News | Dec. 15, 2022

DCMA helps NASA launch Artemis I into space

By DCMA Quality Assurance

Defense Contract Management Agency personnel were part of the team that launched the Artemis I, complete with solid rocket boosters and an Orion capsule, into space on Nov. 16 from the Kennedy Space Center. Agency involvement helped NASA overcome multiple challenges to make the launch possible.

“The Artemis I launch represents another milestone accomplishment for DCMA and NASA’s relationship by supporting the return of American astronauts to the moon and establishing permanent lunar operations,” said Craig Bennett, DCMA headquarters NASA team lead and subject matter expert from Quality Assurance. “This is the first spaceflight vehicle designed to return humans to the moon and beyond since the Apollo 17 launched in December 1972. This is a testament to DCMA as an agency, dedication, and customer commitment.”

Accompanying Bennett at the launch site was Brian McGinnis, NASA Product Operations director, who said NASA, as a customer and partner, has a deep appreciation for the entire DCMA team, including personnel at the headquarters’ level and the more than 40 contract management offices, which helped make the launch a success.

“The entire DCMA team provides a strategic and technical voice of reason within a time of rapid innovation and rapid change,” said McGinnis. “Additionally, NASA finds confidence within DCMA’s comprehensive contract, technical, and business capabilities, ensuring contract cost, schedule, and performance.”

Bennett agreed that the teamwork within DCMA played a significant role in supporting NASA and the Artemis I launch.

“DCMA exhibited agency strength through harmonizing and correlating the efforts of the entire team by providing a unified approach to the spaceflight contract oversight,” Bennett stated. “This initial Artemis I launch is just the first step towards continuous off-world human operations, orbiting outposts, and travel to other worlds. This is DCMA’s moment in time in space flight, and the agency should savor the moment.”

This milestone comes after three earlier launch attempts, which were hampered by technical challenges and weather delays. A previous hydrogen fuel leak due to a damaged seal involved DCMA quality assurance specialists being onsite to witness critical repairs on launch pad 39-B to correct the issues. Later, there were weather delays, including the Artemis I suffering minor damage from Hurricane Nicole.

The Artemis I is approximately 330 feet tall, weighs 5.75 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 hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel will be expended within the first eight minutes of flight, with the Artemis I reaching approximately 24,500 miles per hour.

The performance of the space launch system rocket and the Orion spacecraft has exceeded expectations and key performance parameters. The Artemis I launched as the world’s most powerful rocket at 8.8 million pounds of thrust. Additionally, it is performing within the smallest performance variability of any launch vehicle to date, and it is the test vehicle for future rocket launches. The next space launch system, Artemis II, is designed to produce 9.5 million pounds of thrust.

On July 8, 2011, Space Shuttle Atlantis departed from Kennedy Space Center on Space Transportation System 135, ending the space flight chapter for the shuttle program. NASA later received Presidential Space Policy Directive 1 to return American astronauts to the surface of the moon to establish a long-term lunar presence and to prepare for human spaceflight to Mars.

The challenge of deep spaceflight has involved updating major systems that were designed for low earth orbit and to support deep spaceflight and off-world human-related missions. DCMA supports NASA with significant Department of Defense and NASA spaceflight acquisition and contract oversight, expertise and knowledge.

“Over the years, we have developed spaceflight acquisition best practices, lessons learned, and developed a vision to provide enhanced DCMA spaceflight contract oversight and insight,” said Bennett. “This vision has allowed the agency to provide unified spaceflight contract support. We have established strategic-level guidance and support with what we know today as the integrated NASA support manual.”

Michael Shields, acting DCMA Technical Directorate director and the executive director of Quality Assurance, said agency personnel are committed to supporting NASA, whether it is for Artemis I or other projects. The successful launch highlighted the behind-the-scenes work of the DCMA team.

“DCMA is fully engaged and partnering with NASA, shifting from heavy oversight to a balanced spaceflight acquisition approach,” said Shields. “As one team, we are leaning forward with NASA during this transition and supporting discussions with other NASA programs.”

The DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) mission, which is a flying analytical chemistry laboratory, and HALO (Habitation and Logistics Output), are two of the programs DCMA expects to contribute expertise to in the future.

“During a rapid-changing environment, we are continually advancing strategic initiatives through redefining the possible and normalization of the extraordinary to implement a detection to prevention culture,” said Shields. “We are modernizing surveillance business practices to become agile and data driven. We are leveraging access to data to provide acquisition insight and make data informed decisions.”

Throughout the years, DCMA employees have provided oversight and insight on a variety of space shuttle era products, including the design and integration into deep spaceflight hardware systems. DCMA provides 97 percent of the Artemis I acquisition oversight.

As NASA’s partner, DCMA leveraged core capabilities providing oversight efficiencies and effectiveness at Northrop Grumman for the Artemis’ solid rocket boosters; Boeing Space Launch System core section, including liquid rocket engines; and Lockheed Martin for Orion crew spacecraft.

“DCMA’s technical and business experience, knowledge, and predictive insight of the prime contractors has proven invaluable to NASA,” said Bennett. “We provide a holistic insight into each contractor’s capabilities and processes. Future DCMA support to NASA will increase our spaceflight contract insight, productivity and efficiency.”

For more information, visit the Artemis I website