Back to Top

Masters Forum 14

Masters Forum 14Masters Forum 14, held April 10-12, 2007 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began with a talk on social capital and innovation from a knowledge perspective and concluded with reflections by NASA’s Chief Engineer on the subject of mission success. In between, participants were engaged by stories from the James Webb Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope missions, and the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission

Attendees also learned how one man, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, masterminded the Soviet drive in the late 1950s and early 60s to beat America to the Moon. Korolev failed to achieve his fondest hope, but today Russian rockets are bedrock support for the International Space Station.

The program also included a Panel Discussion focused on the topic of International Project Management, with panelists from The Space Telescope Science Institute, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the European Space Agency (ESA). And from industry — a presentation addressing the global business environment one company’s philosophy on how to respond to a changing marketplace, with a tour to a local retail store where forum participants had the opportunity to observe and reflect on how to apply these insights to their own project teams.


Dr. Steven Beckwith, Space Telescope Science Institute Tim Brady, NASA APPEL Nick Chrissotimos, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Don Cohen, ASK Magazine Heidi Davidz, Aerospace Corporation
Kerry Ellis, ASK Magazine Lee Graham, NASA Johnson Space Center James Harford, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Johnnie Hernandez, Best Buy Ed Hoffman NASA Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership
Matthew Kohut, NASA APPEL Johnny Kwok, Jet Propulsion Laboratory David Lee, NASA Johnson Space Center Matthew Lemke, NASA Johnson Space Center Michael Menzel, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Dr. Toshifumi Mukai, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Frederic Nordlund, European Space Agency (ESA) Laurence Prusak, ASK Magazine Chris Scolese, NASA Headquarters



Space-to-Space Communications: In-House Hardware Development

  • Matthew Kohut of InFact Communications is a member of the Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) within the Office of the Chief Engineer. He is responsible for the biweekly e-newsletter ASK OCE, APPELs case study initiative, and other communications projects. He has more than fifteen years experience writing about scientific, technical, and quantitative subjects for both general and expert audiences.
  • David D. Lee is the deputy chief of the Systems Analysis and Verification Branch at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex. He oversees a team of highly skilled RF telecommunications and test and verification systems engineers.
  • Matthew J. Lemke joined NASA in 1990 after working for Lockheed, E-Systems, and Monsanto. His expertise includes project management, electronic design, embedded software design, and certification of space flight hardware.

Abstract — When Johnson Space Centers Matt Lemke showed up for work as the project manager of the Space-to-Space Communications System at the end of 1994, he discovered that the project he had inherited was not the one he expected. He had no engineering drawings, none of the designers who had worked on the earlier phase of the development, and a project team with no expertise in complex radio system architecture.

The Space-to-Space Communications System (SSCS) is a sophisticated two-way data communication system designed to provide voice and telemetry among three on-orbit systems: the Space Shuttle orbiter, the International Space Station (ISS), and the Extra Vehicular Activity Mobility Unit (EMU). (An EMU is a space suit worn by an astronaut during a space walk, or Extravehicular Activity.) SSCS is designed to allow simultaneous communication among up to five users. The system comprises three product lines: space suit radios (SSER), the shuttle orbiter radio (SSOR), and the space station radio (SSSR). All three share some commonalities but have unique features and different designs.

This networked communication system was conceived as a breadboard (engineering prototype) concept in the avionic systems laboratories at Johnson Space Center in the early 1990s with funding from the space station program. A few years later, the shuttle program authorized SSCS for formal development to satisfy a critical need for interoperable space communication among the three vehicles in order to execute the construction of the ISS. After soliciting proposals from commercial contractors, NASA decided to treat SSCS as an in-house development, meaning that its own personnel would design and deliver the system. Lemke was chosen to lead the project, the largest in his division, despite the fact that he had never served as a project manager before. As he looked at the obstacles facing him at the outset, Lemke had two choices: he could apprise management of the gravity of the situation, or he could find a path forward. He chose to persevere.

Social Capital and Innovation: A Knowledge Perspective
Speaker — Laurence (Larry) Prusak is Editor-in-Chief of APPELs ASK Magazine, and he is a researcher and consultant and was the founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Knowledge Management (IKM). This was a global consortium of member organizations engaged in advancing the practice of knowledge management through action research. Mr. Prusak has had extensive experience in helping organizations work with their information and knowledge resources. He has also consulted with many U.S. and overseas government agencies and international organizations (NGOs). He currently co-directs Working Knowledge, a knowledge research program at Babson College, where he is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence.Abstract — This presentation focuses on how organizational structures and culture influence innovation in organizations. Specifically, Larry will discuss how the major themes of social capital (networks, trust, norms, space) interact with each other to help bring about new ideas, services, and practices. He will also use cases and examples of how and what organizations actually do, and what managers can do, to encourage and enable these activities and opportunities.

Working with Nuts Running Loose
Speaker — Lee Graham joined the Constellation program office after twenty-two years working at Johnson Space Center for NASA or in support of NASA. His experience includes participation and leadership roles in both large program offices and in small skunk works project offices. His expertise includes systems engineering and integration (SE&I), safety and mission assurance, and real-time operational flight support.Abstract — While doing a tour at the Office of Spaceflight at NASA Headquarters, Lee Graham had driven by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) many times and had often thought, That sounds like an interesting place to work. Six years later, as a deputy project manager for NASA, he would get a chance to be the senior NASA manager on site.

The project became the development and delivery of the vehicle to provide low-cost propulsion for the International Space Station (ISS) and was to be called the Interim Control Module (ICM). Budget and schedule were predicated on existing NRL processes, minimizing the use of NASA processes and, most important of all, not imposing new and unique system requirements to “human rate” the vehicle. It was to be “used as is.” None of this was formally documented; it was mentioned by some senior NASA officials while visiting NRL, with a few other NASA personnel in attendance.

This lack of formal definition would cause many of the management and design problems the project was to face. Spelling out those expectations in a written agreement would have avoided many of the requirements, design, and integration issues the team was to see in the following two years. Or at least it would have given them ammunition to defend their position and start the discussions.

The biggest impact to the project came from the changing requirements, though. The program had originally created the ICM project to ensure the ISS could continue to function should the early Russian modules not show up. With political changes in the wind, and as the technical requirements evolved from the original idea of use-as is, those building the vehicle started to see a fluctuating set of requirements from the program. The vehicle design had to change accordingly. This continued for most of the project life cycle.

James Webb Space Telescope Mass Challenge: Minimizing Stove-Pipe Engineering
Speaker — Michael T. Menzel joined the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) NASA Project Office as the mission systems engineer in 2004. Prior to this, he had been working for the Lockheed Martin JWST team as chief engineer since 1997. He has twenty-six years experience in the development and deployment of space systems in the commercial, Department of Defense, and NASA arenas. His expertise includes systems engineering and mission design, sensor systems engineering, and antenna design.Abstract — The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is being developed to see First Light Objects in the nascent universe. To this end, it must achieve unprecedented sensitivity, by putting the largest space telescope ever built in an orbit 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth. The mass efficiency necessary to do this requires a level of system optimization that can only be achieved by individual product teams actively participating in the systems optimization process. To do this, traditional engineering barriers between these teams, commonly referred to as the stove pipes, must be minimized. This presentation will describe some of the tactics used by the JWST project to do this.

Finding a Way: The Spitzer Space Telescope Story
Speaker — Johnny H. Kwok joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1979 as a trajectory engineer and mission designer. He had worked on missions such as Galileo, Magellan, and TOPEX/Poseidon. He was the manager of the Mission Design Section and the Mission and Systems Architecture Section. He worked on the Spitzer mission (formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, or SIRTF) from November 1988 to December 2003, first as a member of the concept development and proposal team and later as the facility engineer. In that capacity, he was responsible for the mission design, project systems engineering, and launch services for the project.Abstract — On August 25, 2003, a Delta II rocket carried the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) into an orbit that is the first of its kind, with an infrared (IR) telescope design that is also the first of its kind. After three months of successful in-orbit checkout, SIRTF was officially commissioned and renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope, after the renowned astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer.

SIRTF was originally conceived to be a follow-on mission to the InfraRed Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) that was launched in January 1983. At that time, SIRTF was to be launched by the Space Shuttle; its first concept was as an attached payload and later a free-flyer serviceable by the shuttle in a low-Earth orbit.

An infrared telescope in a low-Earth orbit has several disadvantages. First, the Earth is a significant heat source. Second, the Earth blocks half the sky. Lastly, the radiation environment around the Earth interacts with IR detectors to produce undesirable noise.

To overcome these disadvantages and the loss of the use of the shuttle, a 100,000 km high-Earth orbit (HEO) concept was proposed in 1989. The HEO has a significant disadvantage, however. To achieve it, the launch vehicle would have to carry the telescope into a parking orbit, initiate a burn to transfer the telescope to 100,000 km (a quarter of the distance to the moon), and then perform a second burn to circularize the orbit. The total change in speed of the two burns is about 4 km/sec, more than what is needed to send a spacecraft to Mars. It requires a Titan IV launch vehicle. One estimate of the total cost of the mission was close to $2 billion. In the budget-constrained climate at NASA, it was inevitable that the Titan SIRTF would be cancelled, as it was in late 1991.

The project had to regroup. Jim Evans became the project manager in January 1992. This is a story about the leadership in a time of crisis that encourages innovation and communication and enabled NASA to complete the fourth Great Observatory after the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The author recounts his interaction with Jim Evans that led to the proposal of the solar orbit, which also enables a radically different telescope design. Consequently, SIRTF emerged with a new mission and system architecture with reduced mass that allowed the use of a Delta II rocket and a cost that was only a quarter of the HEO design.

Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon
Speaker — James Harford has written several publications, including Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon and Merton and Friends. His previous experience includes executive director of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (19531988); engineer, selling pumps then becoming a technical journalist in New York and Paris during the Marshall Plan (19461953); and engineering officer in the U.S. Navy.Abstract — Its hard to believe that almost fifty years agoon October 4, 1957an upstart technological country like the Soviet Union could have taken a big leap on the United States by launching into orbit Sputnik I, the world s first man-made spacecraft. Not only that, but only six weeks earlier, using the same launch vehicle, the Soviets had sent the first ever ICBM 4,000 miles from Baikonur to Kamchatka.

The man principally responsible for these feats, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, went on to orbit the first dog, the first large satellite (the 1,317 kg Sputnik III), the first man (Yuri Gagarin in April 1961), the first three men, and the first woman. He performed the first EVA; sent the first spacecraft to hit the Moon, then Venus; and then made a Mars flyby.

All of this was done with technology that, at the time, would have to be described as primitive compared with U.S. launch vehicles and guidance systems. Nonetheless, it did the job and had the great United States scrambling to catch up. In the fifties and sixties we experienced failure after failure. One Russian space engineer joked that the U.S. Ranger spacecraft, which sustained a series of catastrophic failures in attempting to land on the Moon, was “the Americanski Kamikaze program.”

Sadly for him, however, Sergei Korolev failed in what had been his fondest hope: to beat America to the Moon. It must be remembered, though, that the Apollo program that finally defeated him cost about $24 billion in 1969 dollars and required the efforts of millions of Americas ablest engineers and scientists — in NASA, industry, and academia — over a period of ten years.

Still, Russian rockets are bedrock support for the International Space Station (ISS). Updated versions of the R-7 vehicle have been launched around 1,800 times, rarely experiencing failure as the shuttle did, carrying astronauts, cosmonauts, cargo, as well as communications, weather, Earth resources, and spy satellites routinely into orbit or to the ISS, in spite of the bad weather often experienced in Baikonur. Where “high winds aloft” would cause cancellations at Cape Canaveral, not so at Baikonur in snow, sleet, or heavy rain.

Panel Discussion: An International Perspective

  • Don Cohen is managing editor of APPELs ASK Magazine, devoted to stories of project management and engineering excellence and insights into organizational knowledge and learning.
  • Steven V. W. Beckwith is a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, where he served as director for seven years until September 2005.
  • Frederic Nordlund is currently the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Washington Office, representing ESA in the United States and Canada. In this capacity, he supports cooperative actions of ESA with NASA, NOAA, the CSA, and many other entities.
  • Toshifumi Mukai has been senior chief engineer of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) since October 2005. Previously, he was a professor at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Science in the University of Tokyo.

Abstract — Successful project management always involves effective communication and negotiation to coordinate the activities of various project groups and make sure their contributions work together to support the shared goal. The members of this panel, including Dr. Steve Beckwith, of the Space Telescope Science Institute; Dr. Toshi Mukai, senior chief engineer of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency; and Frederic Nordlund of the European Space Agency, will draw on their own experience of complex projects to discuss project management effectiveness, especially on international projects, which face some special challenges.

For instance, differences in language and culture and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that may limit what can be communicated to some team members can increase the already considerable difficulties of managing complex project work.

They will discuss the inherent difficulties and the particular benefits of projects they have participated in and the approaches that contribute to coordination, communication, and project success. These approaches are likely to be equally applicable to the differences and misunderstandings between organizations that have to be overcome both within and between countries.

Project Turn Around: STEREO
Speaker — Nick Chrissotimos has 25 years of project/program management experience at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He is the associate director of flight projects for the Exploration and Space Communications Projects Division. The division is responsible for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) project, TDRS project, Space and Ground Network Projects, and Constellation program support.Abstract — In July 1999, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center began the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission. The STEREO mission will offer a new perspective on solar eruptions by imaging coronal mass ejections and background events from two nearly identical observatories simultaneously. To obtain unique views of the sun, the twin observatories must be placed in a challenging orbit where they will be offset from one another. One observatory will be placed ahead of Earth in its orbit and the other behind. Just as the slight offset between your eyes provides you with depth perception, this placement will allow the STEREO observatories to obtain 3-D images of the sun.

A series of lunar swing-bys will be used to place the observatories in their orbits. All projects go through a period in which the team is formed and roles and responsibilities are defined. Sometimes teams are formed within one organization and the team structure is clear including roles and responsibilities. Other projects, for a variety of reasons, have a team formed across several organizations. For STEREO, team members came from Goddard, NASA Headquarters, Applied Physics Lab (APL), and universities across the country and the world. As a result, there were differences in culture, vision, and valuesall of which affected team performance and morale. During STEREOs formulation and early implementation stage, these differences were especially problematic for APL and Goddard. Project management from both APL and Goddard recognized this issue and made a commitment to work together to address the challenge.

During this presentation, the program manager of STEREO will identify ways and tools that your project may find useful for building productive relationships among organizational team members.

The Journey of Best Buy: Learning from Challenge and Change
Speaker — Johnnie Hernandez joined Best Buy in 1987 after several years in other retail sectors. His career with Best Buy began in the Best Buy retail stores more than twenty years ago as a part-time commission salesman. His career spanned fourteen states and every level of leadership, including district and regional leadership responsibilities. Mr. Hernandezs contributions to the Best Buy organization are primarily in support of the companys merchandising strategies, retail stores execution, leadership training, behavioral change, and diversity. He also supports enabling innovation and process development around innovation, creating synergies between a corporate and retail work environment, and building empowered work teams.Abstract — Best Buy is viewed as an innovative and growing Fortune 100 company. Its mission is to give customers great experiences — whether they are shopping for consumer electronics, home-office products, entertainment software, and appliances or using those products and related services in their homes and offices. To accomplish its mission, Best Buy is growing its business by:

  • Converting more stories to a customer-centric operating model.
  • Adding new stores to better serve existing and new markets.
  • Expanding and strengthening service offerings.
  • Boosting employee retention in order to deliver better customer experiences while increasing productivity.
  • Adding individualized marketing capabilities to its skills in mass marketing.
  • Simplifying its internal processes so it responds better to customers changing needs.

This presentation will address the global business environment and the Best Buy philosophy in responding to a changing marketplace. Reinvention is a constant and Best Buy has developed an approach to streamline the change process while fostering a spirit of innovation. Johnnie Hernandez will discuss the organizations strategy, system infrastructure, relationships that are nurtured and maintained with retail store personnel and customers, and the power distribution that remains in flux. Participants will have the opportunity to investigate these components at a local Virginia Beach retail store and apply their insights to their own project teams.

Transform Wisdom into Action: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

  • Dr. Edward Hoffman is responsible for the development of program and project leaders and teams within NASA, including the development of a comprehensive program and project management training curriculum, consulting services for project management teams, lessons learned, knowledge capture, and research and special studies on program and project management. He works both within NASA and externally with leaders of industry, academia, and other government agencies to enhance capabilities in program and project management.
  • Kerry Ellis is the technical editor for ASK Magazine (Academy Sharing Knowledge), which grew out of APPEL’s Knowledge Sharing Initiative and is considered NASA’s source for project management and engineering excellence. She joined APPEL after four years of editing, layout, and production experience in newspaper and book publishing.

Abstract — Sharing knowledge has proven an effective way to teach others those hard-earned lessons we once had to experience for ourselves. Often it can be difficult to figure out what it is we know and should pass on to the next generation, and the best way to pass on that knowledge can be an even tougher challenge. One medium that has proven effective is storytelling.

Dr. Ed Hoffman will talk about what a story is and is not and why this venue is important for transforming wisdom into action. He will also share an example of good storytelling, after which Kerry Ellis will facilitate an exercise for participants to share their own stories.

Developing the Next-Generation Systems Engineering Capability

  • Tim Brady is currently on detail from Johnson Space Center to NASA Headquarters Office of the Chief Engineer. Prior to the detail assignment, he worked in the Space Shuttle Orbiter Project Office as the project manager responsible for developing on-orbit tile repair capability.
  • Heidi L. Davidz is currently a senior member of the technical staff at The Aerospace Corporation in the Systems Architecture, Engineering, and Cost Department, where she provides support to NASA and National Security Space customers. She completed her doctoral degree in the Engineering Systems Division (ESD) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where the title of her dissertation was “Enabling Systems Thinking to Accelerate the Development of Senior Systems Engineers.”

Abstract — NASA faces an engineering environment riddled with complexity and uncertainty. Mounting this challenge and achieving the Vision for Space Exploration demands excellence in program/project management and systems engineering. The NASA Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership and programs at the NASA Centers address this development need. To enhance these programs, the focus of this session will be to introduce the audience to research on developing systems engineering (SE) capability. It will begin with a presentation of an empirical study on how to accelerate the development of senior systems engineers. The underlying results of this research show that the primary mechanisms that develop systems thinking in engineers are experiential learning, individual characteristics, and a supportive environment.

A discussion of the changing problems faced by NASA will follow. Complications include an increasing level of complexity, an increase in interoperability needs, the long-term development life cycle, changing stakeholder expectations over time, rapid innovations in technology, inherent uncertainty, and a focus on capability rather than functionality. An architecting/engineering spectrum is given to show how these demands necessitate higher-level systems engineering competencies, and strategies for developing SE capability are discussed. The current NASA APPEL strategy for developing SE capability will be shown.

After the initial presentation, participants have an opportunity to express their opinions on the status of SE capability development at NASA. After an individual survey, participants will assemble into groups to discuss SE capability development at NASA. A debrief of the session will follow. Data gathered during the session will be used to directly enhance NASA systems engineering development programs to help the Agency meet its mission goals.

Mission Success: Reflections from the NASA Chief Engineer
Speaker — As NASA chief engineer, Chris Scolese is responsible directly to Administrator Michael Griffin for the overall review and technical readiness of all NASA programs. The Office of the Chief Engineer ensures that the development efforts and mission operations are being planned and conducted on a sound engineering basis with proper controls and management.Abstract — NASA missions rarely get second chances, and our margin for error is nano-thin. So what does it take to achieve this consistent level of mission success? In short, it requires nothing less than excellence.

Technical excellence is a goal, not an objective that can be measured over a fixed period of time. The elements that enable technical excellence — policies and processes, professional development, engineering rigor, and open communication — are all necessary to achieve mission success within the unique context of NASA, a high-reliability organization that builds one-of-a-kind systems.

Given the complexity of the systems that NASA will develop and deploy to fulfill the Vision for Space Exploration, clear policies and procedures are essential. Taken together, NPR 7120.5D (NASA Program and Project Management Processes and Requirements) and NPR 7123.1 (Systems Engineering Procedural Requirements) represent our best thinkingdrawing on NASAs nearly fifty years of experience in running space flight programs — about the essentials of program/project management and systems engineering.

A robust framework for technical authority is a critical element of technical excellence at NASA. Technical authority is more than a process; it is the formal means by which engineers are able to function as the technical conscience of our projects. The complexity of our work demands an open, vigorous culture of continuous communication that flourishes within the context of policies and procedures while empowering individuals at all levels to raise concerns without fear of adverse consequences.