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The NESC, NASA Engineering and Safety Center, serves as an independent technical resource for NASA managers and employees. Created in November 2003, in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, the NESC is reporting its initial assessments and lessons learned concerning four research projects.
CALIPSO is an earth science satellite being prepared by NASA and the French space agency for a 2005 launch. A concern about possible leaks of the spacecraft's highly reactive fuel led to multiple recommendations to minimize risk to personnel, the mission and the environment.
An X-43A team member contacted the NESC concerning the research vehicle's aerodynamic characteristics that could potentially lead to a loss of vehicle control, resulting in failure to achieve mission objectives.
The NESC worked in conjunction with the X-43A project ensuring the employee's concern was properly addressed.
During renewal of hardware in a Space Shuttle orbiter, a concern was raised about the age and effectiveness of grease on replacement hardware in long-term storage. The NESC conducted extensive tests and analyses to determine that the grease is still effective. A lesson learned was that programs should periodically review hardware components to ensure that they are operating within qualification and certification limits.
The NESC participated in program reviews prior to the two Mars Exploration Rover landings in January. While both landings were highly successful, one review revealed that current spacecraft instrumentation does not adequately record the aerodynamic environment encountered during descent.
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