Space Industry Leaders Meet to Analyze New Budget Environment

Chantilly, Va. (Dec. 21, 2012) – Top space leaders focused on how best to balance mission success, affordability, and risk-taking during the fifth U.S. Space Enterprise Mission Assurance Summit, where the government and industry space community come together in their shared goal of mission success.

Attendees at the Dec. 6 event included senior executives from Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance, as well as executive government leaders from NASA, The National Reconnaissance Office, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The summit was held at the NRO and was organized by The Aerospace Corporation.

During the summit’s inaugural industry panel, participants discussed risks and space systems acquisition success. They also provided insight into how the government could assist industry in managing risk to ensure mission success, as well as how they intend to assist their government customers in maximizing buying power, while continuing to provide the best possible opportunities for 100% mission success.

During the panel discussion, Michael Gass, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, explained that it is important “to get the right level of affordability and the right level of risk.” Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, noted that mission assurance is a process that should begin “at the start of a program,” but cautioned that “there is no process that can compensate for poor workmanship.”

During her opening remarks, Betty Sapp, NRO director, discussed the importance of maintaining mission assurance processes in an era of cost-cutting.

Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander, Space and Missile Systems Center, United States Air Force, was the keynote speaker for this year’s summit.  During her address, Pawlikowski stressed the importance of mission assurance in a cost constrained environment; advising that decisions be made methodically, based on historical lessons learned, as the community prepares for upwards of 100 launches over the next five years. 

A message that resonated across the space community, where mission assurance remains vital to achieving mission success, is that despite fiscal constraints, balancing affordability with efficiency and thoughtful risk management is essential.

In addition to the industry panel, this year’s summit also featured a government panel, consisting of Sapp, Pawlikowski, Robert Lightfoot, acting associate administrator for NASA, Maj. Gen. Susan Mashiko, deputy director of the NRO, and Maj. Gen. Samuel Greaves, deputy director, Missile Defense Agency. 

Government leaders provided perspective on space acquisitions in a time of cost constraints as well as their expectations of industry to provide mission assurance in an affordable manner. 

In her introductory remarks, Dr. Wanda Austin, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, said, “We have had 12 successful launches over the past two years. We have also had two near failures that remind us that building space systems is a very complex, and often risky endeavor. Our challenge looking forward is evident — we must reduce the cost and still attain mission success.”

Greaves summarized his view of the government-industry partnership: “What I need from industry is for you to deliver on the promises that you have made so that we can deliver on the commitments we have made to you, the warfighter, and to the nation.”

As both panels concluded, attendees divided into four intensive breakout sessions, designed to provide participants an opportunity to collaborate on a path forward.  The sessions covered cost/risk balance for tech demo to cost plus to fixed price; design lessons learned and assuring design integrity; parts, materials and processes risk posture; and tailoring specs and standards.  Each group summarized the results of their session, providing recommendations to improve space system acquisitions.

The Aerospace Corporation, based in El Segundo, Calif., is a nonprofit company with almost 4,000 employees and operates a federally funded research and development center that provides technical guidance and advice on all aspects of space missions to military, civil and commercial customers to assure space mission success. 

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