Space Industry Leaders Address Affordability of Space Systems

CHANTILLY, Va. (Feb. 10, 2014) – Balancing affordability and risk in a cost-constrained acquisition environment led the discussion among top space leaders during the sixth annual U.S. Space Mission Assurance Summit held Feb. 5-6 at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va.

“Creating a More Affordable Enterprise: Best Practices for Life Cycle Mission Success,” was the theme of this year’s forum for the government and industry space community. During the summit, attendees collaborated on best practices and lessons learned on maintaining affordability and risk while achieving mission success. Attendees included senior executives from Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and The Aerospace Corporation, organizer of the event. Executive government leaders from National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the NRO, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center were also in attendance.

Dr. Wanda Austin, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, emphasized to the attendees in the executive session the value of space. “Our space systems continue to provide extraordinary value. Our efforts to be more cost effective are providing great results while our systems continue to provide essential and reliable products to support national security,” said Austin. “As we become more innovative in the development and acquisition of our space systems, we continue to apply lessons learned and leverage our best practices to deliver 100 percent mission success.”

In addition to the executive session, two lesson-sharing segments were also held to address acquisition/programmatic and technical hardware/software topics. The summit also featured both government and industry executive panels. During the summit’s industry executive panel, corporate leaders from ULA, Northrop Grumman, Intelsat General, SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin discussed different approaches to achieve space systems acquisition success, reducing costs while increasing reliability and lessons learned from successes and failures. They also provided insight into how the government and industry could collaborate on managing risk to ensure mission success.

The government panel consisted of Mr. Robert Lightfoot, Associate Administrator for NASA, Mr. Frank Calvelli, Principal Deputy Director of the NRO, Maj. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Deputy Director of the MDA, and Mr. David Madden, Executive Director of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Government leaders provided their perspectives on space acquisitions in a time of cost constraints and shared their respective best practices and lessons learned in delivering mission success in an affordable manner. Mr. Calvelli encouraged attendees to avoid thinking of mission assurance as an “add on,” noting that mission assurance is itself a means to help reduce costs and limit schedule delays.

Betty Sapp, Director of the NRO, discussed past launch vehicle and space vehicle failures and successes in her keynote address to the summit participants. She described a cycle where sustained good performance leads to a pressure to divert resources to other areas, especially during times of budget constraint, which can then result in mission failure or degradation. The failure is then followed by a “back to basics” approach and added resources, which returns successful performance. “The challenge for us is to figure out how we deal with a resource-constrained environment and maintain success and how we measure the risk associated with dialing up or down mission assurance,” said Ms. Sapp.

Following the panel discussions, attendees received summary presentations of the Joint Space Quality Improvement Council and Space Supplier Council meeting and lessons sharing forum from the previous day. The meeting concluded with comments from government executives.

The Aerospace Corporation is a California nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has almost 3,500 employees. It provides technical guidance and advice on all aspects of space missions to military, civil, and commercial customers to assure space mission success. The Aerospace Corporation is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., with multiple locations across the United States.


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