John F. Kennedy Space Center
NASA is on the verge of a dramatic and exciting era of spaceflight that will draw on private companies' innovations in using the agency's expertise to send astronauts into orbit, managers of the agency's Commercial Crew Program told a group of employees at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Whether astronauts ultimately fly aboard a Boeing or SpaceX capsule or the winged Dream Chaser under development by Sierra Nevada Corporation – or all three – the steps that get to that point did not come about by accident, said Ed Mango, program manager of CCP.
"We had two days to put together a white paper of how we were going to organize that program and execute that program and what we've seen in the three years since then fit that almost to a T," Mango said. "The lesson is that it isn't about think-tanks and lots of discussions, it's just takes innovation. Taking the experiences from our past and thinking about it outside the box."
Mango and Lisa Colloredo, associate program manager at Kennedy, discussed the program Tuesday during the first of four "Masters with Masters" sessions by Ed Hoffman, NASA's chief Knowledge officer.
With engineers and managers from each of the agency's field centers involved, Mango said he thinks of NASA's 200-person CCP team as a widely spaced team that works in a virtual office that requires them to call and video conference with each other often.
Emphasizing that point, Mango participated in the Kennedy session remotely, phoning into the discussion from Colorado where he was taking part in milestone evaluations with one of CCP's partners.
Colloredo, answering questions in person, said the program has found new ways to do things so often that its people are used to looking at things differently. They also are finding ways to get over cultural and operational hurdles at the different centers.
"I don't think we have anything that is routine," Colloredo said. "I give Ed and (former deputy program manager) Brent Jett a lot of credit for breaking down the walls at the centers."
Although there is still some time to go before commercial companies carry an astronaut into space, Mango said one of his major goals is to keep alive the competition between the private developers.
"It's their company name on the side of the rocket, and they want to do it better than the other guy," Mango said. "The competition really helps."