The chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics says she wants answers following the abrupt resignation of NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Douglas Loverro, on the eve of a crucial human flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade. Under this Administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our efforts at human space flight,” tweeted Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.)
“The bottom line is that, as the Committee that oversees NASA, we need answers,” she added.
The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program has resigned three days before a flight readiness review (FRR) for the first human spaceflight from U.S. soil in nearly nine years.
Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations (HEO), resigned on Monday — nine days before a Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and aboard is scheduled to be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 27.
Loverro, who took on the job in December, was to have presided over a two-day review set to begin this Thursday on whether to go ahead with the crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Loverro would have made the final go/no decision.
SpaceX won a multi-billion NASA contract to transport supplies to the lunar Gateway by providing a superior cargo ship with more capacity at a lower price than three major aerospace giants, according to a source selection document released by the space agency.
NASA eliminated Boeing from the competition because its proposal had the lowest mission suitability score while asking for the highest price. The evaluation board found eight weaknesses, four strengths and not a single significant strength in the company’s technical approach.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Wednesday named Douglas Loverro as the agency’s new associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Loverro succeeds former astronaut Kenneth Bowersox, who has been acting associate administrator since July.
“I worked with Doug for many years on the Hill, and he is a respected strategic leader in both civilian and defense programs, overseeing the development and implementation of highly complicated systems,” said Bridenstine from NASA Headquarters in Washington. “He is known for his strong, bipartisan work and his experience with large programs will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical time in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both Commercial Crew and Artemis.”
For once, a lack of anomalies is a problem for NASA.
The House of Representatives has passed a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the government operating for seven weeks when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. A CR keeps government spending at FY 2019 levels until Congress passes and the president signs a new budget.
NASA, which the Trump Administration tasked earlier this year with landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, has sought a number of exceptions or anomalies to allow for new program starts. But, the Democratic House did not include any for the space agency in the CR.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said earlier this year that a CR instead of a new budget would be “devastating” to the Artemis program meeting the 2024 deadline.
Ken Bowersox, the NASA official who is overseeing Artemis, told the House space subcommittee this week that NASA would need funding for lunar landing contracts by the end of 2019 or the landing would slip into 2025.
The Republican-controlled Senate, which has been supportive of the Trump Administration, has not passed a CR yet.
The Government Accountability Office released another depressing review this week of NASA’s Artemis program, specifically looking at the space agency’s progress on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and the exploration ground systems (EGS) required to support them.
Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, summarized the report’s conclusions on Wednesday in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shook up management of the space agency’s effort to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024 on Wednesday by removing long-time associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) William Gerstenmaier from a post he held for 15 years.
“Effective immediately, Ken Bowersox will serve as Acting Associate Administrator for HEO,” Bridenstine said in a memo. “Bowersox, who previously served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for HEO, is a retired U.S. Naval Aviator with more than two decades of experience at NASA. He is an accomplished astronaut and a veteran of five space shuttle missions and served as commander on the International Space Station.”
Florida Todayreports that Scott Henderson, SpaceX’s director of Mission Assurance and Integration, has left the company to take on a vice president role at Raytheon’s Integrated Information Systems Division.
“It is my understanding that he got an offer he couldn’t refuse,” said SpaceX spokeswoman Katherine Nelson. “While we certainly will miss his contributions to SpaceX, we absolutely wish him all the best.”
In addition to his mission assurance role, Henderson headed SpaceX’s external relations in Florida. In that role he was the company’s primary liaison between NASA, the Air Force and elected officials from the state.
Former NASA Astronaut Ken Bowersox, who quit as SpaceX’s vice-president of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance late last year, is now advising ATK on how to human-rate its Liberty rocket.
SALT LAKE CITY, July 2, 2012 (ATK PR) — ATK and the Liberty program announced an independent assessment team and their first tasking to advise the company on development of its commercial human certification plan for the Liberty system, which includes the launch vehicle, upper stage, abort system, composite spacecraft, ground and mission operations, crew and passenger training and a test flight crew.
The FAA is authorized by Congress to regulate commercial human spaceflight. Over the next few years, the FAA will use a phased approach to regulating the crew and passenger safety of the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry. In the meantime, and in the absence of specific government human certification standards, the developers themselves must look to NASA and International Partner human spaceflight best practices and lessons learned to develop their own design and operations criteria. Developing the Liberty-specific commercial human certification plan early in the program ensures the system will be designed from the outset to ensure flight crew and passenger safety.
Space News is reporting that former astronaut Ken Bowersox quit as SpaceX’s vice president of astronaut safety and mission assurance. No reason has been given for the decision.
Bowersox joined SpaceX in June 2009 after a successful career at NASA. The space agency selected him as an astronaut in 1987. He flew the space shuttle five times as a mission specialist, pilot and commander. Bowersox served as Expedition 6 mission commander for the International Space Station and has logged 211 days in space.
“Ken Bowersox is a critical asset to the SpaceX team, as we prepare for crewed missions aboard our Dragon spacecraft,” said Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX, said at the time Bowersox was hired. “His experience in the U.S. astronaut corps, and aboard the International Space Station, will be invaluable in shaping the future of commercial manned spaceflight.”
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces Ken Bowersox as vice president of the newly formed Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance Department. He will be co-located in Houston, Texas, and SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Bowersox joins SpaceX with over 19 years of experience at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Selected to the astronaut corps in 1987, he has flown five times on NASAâ€™s Space Shuttle, serving as pilot, commander and mission specialist, and once on a Russian Soyuz, where he served as the flight engineer during descent.