Rocket Ranch Episode 18: To Launch a Starliner

We will ultimately make sure the vehicle is
safe to fly crews. The difference is where we draw the line between
us and the commercial partner. Commercial and government partnerships and
contracts might not sound that fascinating, but when we’re talking about certifying Boeing
Starliner to carry humans to space, the challenges and complexities become a whole lot more interesting. Next on the Rocket Ranch. EGS Program chief engineer verifying no constraints
to launch. Three, two, one, and lift off. Welcome to space. We’ll hear from the certification lead for
Starliner in a few minutes, who is responsible for something called burning down paper. But, first up, we have Steve Payne, his job
is to think through pretty much anything that can go wrong on launch day and how to make
sure we respond to keep everything and everyone safe. All right. I’m in the booth now with Steve Payne. Steve, thank you for joining me today. Hey, good afternoon. Steve, rumor has it that you are a big fan
of model rockets, so you can’t get enough of rockets during your day job, you have to go home and
do it as well, is that true? That is a true statement. I tend to get carried away with things you
can put a rocket motor on. Whoa, wait a second. So, things you can put a rocket motor on. So, I believe, technically, the answer to
that question is you can put a rocket motor on anything. Pretty much. Have you experimented with such things? Well, there is a room in my house with a boneyard
of several things that I have put rocket motors on and flown, from Crayon, piggy banks to
rolled up cardboard tubes from the middle of gift wrapping paper and anything that you
can make pointy and put fins on, that’s around my house will fly. [ Laughs ] I got — couple of years ago, I was — they
asked me to build them a model rocket for display for an event at school. It was a fundraiser. And so, I said, “Well, what do you want?” They said, “Well, a big rocket. You know, about your height and whatnot.” So, I said, “Sure.” And, well, several weeks later, I showed up
with a 15-foot tall, two-scaled Saturn 1B rocket. [ Chuckles ] [ Laughs ] Oh, man. Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. So, they — yeah, give me rocket, I get carried
away. So, Steve, I’ve — you’re the kind of guy
that I just ran into you all the time. Like, I never know where I’m going to see
you pop up but I see you all the time and it’s a pleasure every time. Can you tell me, kind of, what your background
is because I’m not even sure, because I’ve seen you in so many different capacities here? Well, where do you want me to start? Let’s just say, what’s your schooling been? What’s your — what are your degrees in or
degree? All right. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering
from Syracuse. Okay. Where I spent many freezing years. [ Laughs ] After that, I joined the navy. I was a navy pilot for a while after the Tomcat,
the F-14 supersonic fighter bomber, did that for several years. And then, after I finished my active duty
career, I came out to Kennedy Space Center and I started to work for one of our support
contractors here, Lockheed Space Operations Company doing payload operations. I used to load cargo into the shuttle’s payload
bay. Is that, like, you personally would be the
one to, like— I was the– –put things in? –operations person. No. I wasn’t the technicians. We have technicians– Okay. –to do all the turning of wrenches. We have the engineers who develop the procedures
and decide how much torque everything should have. And then, we have the operations folks, which
is where my expertise lies primarily and it’s the person who makes sure that the people,
the paper, the parts, the conditions, the schedules are all there so that it can gel
and the operation can take place. And to grease the skids, make sure that if
they have a hiccup of any sort, we’re the trouble shooters who make sure that we overcome
that hiccup and press on. That’s, kind of, a good segue point, I think,
because we’re here today to talk about the Commercial Crew Program and specifically Boeing’s
upcoming orbital flight test with our Starliner CST-100. And your role is actually, kind of, just that,
of like, accounting for a day we hope never comes. That is– Is that a fair assessment? That is a fair assessment. It is like an insurance policy. Uh-hmm. It costs money and you resent having to pay
it. [ Laughing ] And for most of the time, you’ll never need
it, but the day that you do, you’re– It’s worth every penny. Right. And– Yeah. And if you don’t have it, you’ll wish you
had. So, my job and it is sometimes unpopular is
to point out where we are unprotected and what kinds of things we would need to do to
be able to mitigate whatever hazard there might be or respond to whatever emergency
condition has taken place. And when things get ugly, I’m the guy that
everybody looks at and says, “Steve, fix it.” [ Laughing ] So, I have to have a way to fix it and it
involves quite a bit of planning upfront and setting up of structures, and teams, and mechanisms,
and communications, and procedures so that when you do need it, it works smoothly. So, what’s your official title right now? Just — is it something cool like waste management
specialist or is it like — is it more engineering than that? No. It’s, kind of, a prosaic term. I — I’m a Launch Integration Manager. Okay. Which is the — you know, that little fine
print that says duties as assigned at the end of your job description? Yeah. I think all of us have that somewhere in your
job description and most of us know that it’s, kind of, a catchall for stuff. Yeah. Well, that’s 99.9% of my job is all that stuff
because it doesn’t belong to anybody else. We have engineers who are experts in a particular
system and we have folks that are focused on inflight stuff. We have folks that are focused on fueling
the vehicle, folks that are focused on engines, or focused on avionics or other such systems. Somebody has to have a 10,000-foot view, see
the combined picture, and put all the pieces together. That’s what the integration part of the title
is. And if you start to think, if you were going
to launch a rocket somewhere and you had — starting from a blank slate, what would you need? Yeah. Well, you will need a launch team. I mean, other than a rocket, you need a launch
team. Sure. So, in the early days of the program here,
I was helping put up together the, “Who’s going to be on our launch team?” “What are they going to do?” “What are their functions?” “How do we plug in to the commercial provider’s
launch team?” “What communications go back and forth?” “What channels do we need?” “What infrastructure needs to be there?” “What control rooms are necessary?” So, all that had to be thought out and after
much deliberation and back and forth, we came up with a plan. And so, we put all that in place. Some of it is what are the operations that
take place when the crew arrives on the center? Well, the crew officers focus on health stabilization. For example, they arrive seven days prior
to launch. We don’t want them getting sick before going
up to the station, so there’s all these involved procedures for making sure they don’t get
sick and take something up with them and make everybody on station sick. So, we have to come up with a procedure for
that. Last time we looked at it, we had a space
shuttle procedure from the 2011 timeframe and we had been using a procedure that worked
in Russia, but we didn’t have one for now for this program. Sure. That incorporated all those changes and all
the international pieces. So, we have to go create a new one. So, it was integrating again. “What do the Russians do?” “What do the Japanese want?” “What are our European partners need?” “What are our special situations here?” We rewrote a new procedure, got it all partnered
in and then, we have to go execute that. So, somebody had to integrate that story and
then it ended up in my duties as assigned bucket. Yeah. Things like emergency management. If you’re at the pad and something goes wrong,
how do you get off that pad? Well, we have Emergency Egress Systems. Somebody had to provide input as to this is
what we need, this is how we’re going to get out, this is acceptable, this is not acceptable. And so, help the design of that. So, we influence the design of that. Okay. Once we get off the tower, then what? How do you get out of there? Well, we had to provide them with vehicles
that were suitable. We procured armored vehicles and modified
them so that the crew could get away safely. All right. Now, once you’ve left, what happens if you’re
hurt? So, we had to come up with a medical team
to go check them out and make sure that we can patch them if need be. If they have any propellants on them and they’re
contaminated, we need a decontamination team to go make sure that they’re clean. If there– So, are you the guy that’s thinking through
all of these things? Like, is that really role that– That’s my role– –obviously you can’t, like, do all these
things on your own, the application of it but your job is to think through all of these
minute detail. And, some of them are — Correct. —not minute, but— Right. —you’re the guy? Yeah. It’s — I’m the guy that points out, “Hey,
you’re gonna need this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this.” And they say, “That’s great, Steve, go make
it so.” [ Laughing ] And I kick myself for opening my mouth so
much. But I’ve — we’ve gone and we’ve made it so. We’ve worried about the medevac and we found
helicopter support. We’ve configured helicopters. We worried about medical support. We’ve contracted with outside entities to
provide us medical support. We worried about decontamination. We worked with our KSC and Cape Canaveral
Fire Teams to provide decontamination. And so on, and so on, and so forth. Yup. Are you writing the procedures for these kinds
of things or you just — kind of, are you a part of a team that’s writing the procedure
for these? I’m pulling together the team that’s– Okay. –writing the procedures. We run our emergency escape and rescue working
group where all the stuff is discussed. And I’m the coach here and– Okay. –provide guidance and make sure that everything
that needs to be in place is there. And are you — or I have this picture of you
all, this team you, kind of, gathered together just sitting in a room with a giant white
board thinking of, like, “What things can go wrong?” And just, like, throw everything on a wall
and then, go from there? Like, is that a fair picture or is there something
more formal than that? There is a lot of what-iffing and– Okay. And scenario development. If we have — there are so many things that
could go wrong if you let your imagination run wild. Sure. And we do because– Yeah. –usually, life is more interesting than fiction. [ Laughs ] If you imagine a scenario, “Well, we had to
leave the pad because bad weather was coming and so we had to leave.” “Oh, okay.” How do you handle that? Or, “We had to leave the pad because something
was starting to go wrong and we wanted to get out before it got bad.” “Okay.” That’s another response. Or, “We had to leave the pad because, hey,
we’re leaking fuel somewhere and we need to get out of here.” Sure. So, that’s another scenario. Or — then there’s a really bad day, something
went kablooey and we have to go get people up there. So, we had to put together a team to go get
them up there and procedures for that. So, all these things are waiting in the wings
to be called upon on launch day– Uh-hmm. –should we need them. And if anything goes wrong, we’ve got aces
up our sleeve for all kinds of different scenario. You, kind of, talked about the interestingness
of fiction versus reality. Have you had any specific instances in the
past that we’ve had a bad day or almost a really bad day and these kinds of — you’ve
been able to use these kinds of applications? Or is this all still been, like, very theoretical
for your world? Well, we have a — I’ve only really had issues
during processing because, fortunately, we haven’t had this happened to us during a launch
countdown but– Cool. –I used to work daily process in the space
shuttles and we every now and again would have a fuel spill issue. And we would find out that you can mechanize
or make automatic all your response all you want but there’s people involve. Yeah. And people respond differently than machinery. We had one case where technicians were working
on some pipes that had contained hypergolic fuels, and they weren’t drained completely. We expect them to be but they weren’t. And so, one of the technicians got an amount
of this fuel on them, and the procedure is you egress the facility. You go out the nearest exit door. You go out to the safety wash shower. You strip down completely and you wash yourself
so that you don’t have chemicals on you. Well, if you consider human nature– Yeah. This shower is an open shower in the middle
of the parking lot. Yeah. People don’t want to strip down completely. Sure. We end up– Well, and that’s what’s going through my head
this time. I’m like, am I standing on the parking lot
doing this right now? Right. So, he didn’t and we ended up — he was contaminated. The medical personnel that responded were
contaminated. The ambulance– Uh-hmm. –I put him in were contaminated. Uh-hmm. When he got to the hospital, the hospital
was contaminated. Uh-hmm. So, with one of those things, you integrate
this and so we started providing modesty garments. Huh. So, that when you go out there and you strip
down you have something to put on. Huh. You’re not just standing out there… Yeah. And the human nature part is the part that
most people forget. Right. Ironically, I think you’re a hundred percent
right. Yeah. So, when we try to design our systems and
our responses that involve humans, we’re trying to make them as simple as intuitive as possible– Uh-hmm. –so, that if you’re in a panic, kind of,
situation, you don’t have to do much thinking. There’s one or two steps and you’re out of
there. And that’s how we try to design all our stuff. We had a — when we have an escape vehicle
that we parked at the base of the — or near the perimeter of the — of the launch pad,
so that when the crew escape from the tower down a wire that’s hanging down, they’ll end
up at this vehicle and they can hop in and leave. Now, we’ve done it so that the vehicles are
running. We’ve done a checklist to make sure all the
switches, and lights, and everything are the way they should be. All the sensor is on board or turned on. Got you. Everything is ready. In theory, all you got to do is sit down,
put it in drive and take off the parking brake. Two steps — three. Sure. Well, we’ve had people screw that up. [ Laughing ] So– Because adrenaline does weird things– Adrenaline does– –into our body. –weird things. You forget. You put it in gear, it’s not moving. Why is it not moving? Oh, yeah, the parking brake. Yeah. So, we tried to simplify things down to the
minimalist steps we can. Yeah. We put big placards on, do this, then do that,
and we trained the crews so that they have that experience. So that if they can’t remember, their buddy
next to them can tell them what to do. Uh-hmm. So, there’s a lot of that simplify, simplify,
simplify. So, that it’s human — it’s a second nature
instead of allowing for people to mess it up because people mess things up. They forget. So, that’s a big piece of the gap. Yeah. As I think about, kind of, the launch day,
typically, we have a launch manager, launch conductor, launch director, something like
that. So, assuming that, kind of, this bad day gets
triggered. Obviously, that’s, kind of, a broad statement
of– Uh-hmm. There’s lots of things that I could mean. Is it — does control, kind of, switch over
to you at that point or does that person, kind of, maintain the conducting role through
that procedure? Well, we are plugged into the commercial provider’s
launch team. They run the launch countdown because it’s
their rocket, their pad– Yeah. –their procedure– An important distinction. Right. And it’s different than what it was for the
old days when NASA ran everything. But we are plugged in as a part of the team. When they call for the pad — for the crew
or even the pad personnel who are out there that tell them get off the tower, it’s dangerous,
go escape. At that point, we go into gear and we deploy
our team. We tell our medical folks to start rolling
forward. We tell our decontamination teams to go. We scramble our medevac helicopter so that
they get in the air and start making their way out there. We coordinate with the launch conductor or
launch director from the provider to count heads, make sure we got everybody. If not everybody got out, then we go send
in pad rescue teams and recover whoever was left. Then, we got to go treat all those people
and we got to package them and do all that, and then report back we got everybody. And pass the information to their companies
because it’s not just NASA now. Right. I have to tell them, “Hey, person from company
A, your employee ended up in this hospital because he was hurt.” Uh-hmm. So, those, kind of, things are how we plug
into their team. And we coordinate in advance. Where are we going to send them once they
get out of the rocket, what’s going on, what’s the weather, what are the conditions, can
we go back in or can’t we go back in? All those kind of things are discussed as
part of the team and that’s one aspect. Also on — in my job bucket is if we have
what we call a pad abort or SpaceX calls it a pad escape, where you have to essentially
jettison the capsule. It’s like an ejection seat but the whole capsule
goes with you. Right. So, on a day like that and the capsule ends
up out over the water, floating in the ocean off the coast, it’s up to us to deploy rescue
forces. We work with the Department of Defense and
we send out helicopters with a pair of rescue jumpers to jump out, open the hatch, get the
crew out of there. And if they’re injured in some fashion, they
take them off to hospitals and medevac come out. So, that part of the rescue responses are
us, too. So, that’s where the title. Right now, I’m the — that function on launch
day is called the Launch Rescue Director. And so that is my function on the day of launch. Okay. It’s an interesting job. A few minutes ago, you, kind of, mentioned
the fact that this is a very different process than back with shuttle, when it was just,
kind of, NASA doing the space shuttle thing. Can you, kind of, give me a couple highlights
of how is this different? Because ultimately we’re kind of working arm-and-arm
with Boeing, is my understanding, whereas with the Space Shuttle program NASA — it
was really NASA’s program that we owned. So, practically speaking, how is that playing
out differently for you? Well, back in the day, when I was in the test
director’s office, the test director ran the countdown. The test director was also the launch rescue
— landing and recovery director, which was their alternate — one of the alternate jobs
that we also had. And everything from running the count, to
doing the evacuation, to handling the wounded, to medevac-ing them off to the hospitals,
or if we ended up in the water, that was our launch rescue director back, then. If we ended up having to do a return to launch
site because with a winged vehicle, we have that option, we could fly back, that was launch
rescue director’s job to set that up. If we ended up landing overseas because our
engine snuffed out, that was the launch rescue director’s job to do or the landing and recovery
director at that time. And if we ended up anywhere we shouldn’t have
ended up, in the middle of the woods somewhere where no vehicle– Sure. It was their job to go pick all that up. Now, we share those duties with our– Okay. –provider. For scenarios where we land, where we’re supposed
to land, the provider is there to handle all of that, not NASA. If we land, maybe, not quite where we intended
to land but near, well, the provider’s resources are there and we give them the lead on that. Although, we go assist because it’s off nominal. Okay. If we land in the middle of the ocean, though,
not in the designated landing areas, then that becomes a rescue operation and NASA takes
that into our own hands because we have the resources to do that. Where the providers don’t necessarily have
that. Uh-hmm. And would you point to us being a federal
agency as the primary thing there, because ultimately, like, we can, kind of, pull on
the rest of the federal government to, kind of, jump in and help out, which I think is
what we do ultimately. Precisely, yeah. We have the ability to go to pull on our Department
of Defense or other law enforcement, and coast guard, and miscellaneous, other Federal or
State resources to go provide rescue assistance. In fact if it lands overseas somewhere, we
can call on the State Department and get foreign militaries forces– Wow. –to help us out. So– Are you thinking through that kind of stuff,
too? That fortunately is another group but yes. [ Laughing ] Yeah. That’s a lot more. Somebody else’s job, finally. [ Laughing ] Yes. That becomes somebody else’s job but we have
— for example, we fly — our profile for the space station takes us, kind of, up the
coast over Newfoundland and then over near Ireland. Sure. If we were to fall into the ocean for some
reason near Ireland, we’d call on their Department of Defense to help us out, because they have
rescue helicopters, and jets, and other such things. So, we go to the State Department — we’d
go first to our Department of Defense. We would go to the State Department, ask for
assistance. They’d contact our counterparts across the
sea, they would go respond. If we end up in some middle of nowhere and
there are no other foreign agencies, then, we’ll take what’s called the ship of opportunity. Who’s out there, who can go provide aid and
rescue if need be. Yeah. And we send them instructions. This is how you open the hatch. Wow. This is what you have to be careful with. Please take care of my guys. Yeah. So, there’s all that planning and scenario. We do have also aircrafts staged out of South
Carolina and Hawaii, so that if we end up anywhere in the Atlantic, we can fly a large
transport aircraft to where they are within a couple hours. Drop rescue jumpers out the back, drop inflatable
boats, and other miscellaneous things to have at least a floating island– Sure. –of aid. Sure. And then, we send whichever the nearest ship
is to go help them out. The same in the Pacific, if we end up out
there, we do the same thing. There’s an aircraft staged out there. So, there’s a lot of planning– Yeah. –and it’s a lot of coordination in advance. Yeah. And hopefully, you’ll never ever, ever need
this. Yes. But you still got to practice, and you still
got to have the resources in place, and you have to convince people that they need this. Steve, the commercial crew program has been
in motion for about eight years now, and it’s been a lot of hard work. What’s the feeling of the entire team, kind
of, as you’re involved in this day-to-day — obviously, you haven’t flown the Starliner
yet into space, and so that’s still coming. How’s the team — like, what’s that feeling? What’s that atmosphere like? Well, you know that feeling you get when you
have a final the next day? Stress, usually? Yeah. Yeah? That feeling. Urgency? Urgency, stress, am I ready, have we done
everything, have I studied everything there is to study. That is looming over the horizon. You know, we know that we’re getting very
close. We’ve done everything — we know everything
behind us is complete. And all the T’s are crossed and the eyes are
dotted, like they should be. There’s still a lot of work ahead of us that
we have to get done in what appears to be a shorter and shorter time because the calendar
doesn’t stop for us. Sure. It just keeps going whether we’re finish or
not, and we’re shooting for a target date. That’s always been the case with the rockets,
you pick a date and you say, we’re going to be ready then, you know, and sometimes you
are– Sure. –sometimes you’re not. But in this case, we have a pretty good feeling
that we’re going to get there and it’s happening within the next months or so for us, a little
over a month. There’s still a lot of wickets we have to
jump through. It’s kind of difficult to keep the pace that
we have been keeping because everything has to be finished. Yeah. And we have to get comfortable with everything
and everything has to work right between now and then, because if anything goes funny,
then it inserts questions and uncertainty into the schedule and we don’t know. Sure. But if everything works as planned between
now and then, and we knock out all our scheduled activities as we have, we’re going to get
there. And it’s — we’re going to get across that
finish line having not much left to give because we’re going to give it all we got getting
there. It’s just like a runner, they say, “Don’t
save it for after the race. Use it up while you’re there.” Right. And get through the finish line. Time for a final. It’s time for the sprint at the end. So, we’re getting ready for that last sprint
and I’m very much looking forward to getting our launch in the air and seeing the results
of all those years of hard work pay off. And as we approach launch date, how are you
feeling about it? I’m — it’s kind of interesting and I got
mixed feelings. You know, yes, I’m nervous because, yeah,
I’m going to have to perform. I might have to have a bad day and be there
and be crisp and be right because there– Yeah. –are people in that ship who are counting
on me or there are people on that pad who are counting on me to have their back. On the other side, we’ve been practicing this
and developing these procedures for a couple of years now. And we think we got it down. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement. But we think we’re in the 90 some percent
ready stage. So, I — if it were to happen, we could deal
with it. Of course, the nervousness is still there. As — again, kind of, factoring in the humanity
of this whole thing. That’s perfectly understandable. So, this coming — upcoming flight, the Orbital
Flight Test is un-crewed and then will be followed sometime thereafter by the Crewed
Flight Test. And I believe, I heard you had a interesting
story with one of the crew members, Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson. I’ve heard there’s some good stories. You guys have worked together in the past,
is that true? Yes. He and I went to flight school together back
in the Navy. We were in the same training squadron for
F-14’s back in 1986. And we go way back. We have some embarrassing pictures of ourselves
that every now and again, I’ll drag out and we get a chuckle out of. [ Chuckles ] Very good. So, yeah, it seems like there — this is a
big world. There’s a lot going on but it seems like it
can be a pretty small world as well as this paths kind of come and go and across each
other unexpectedly. That’s a true statement. I — the people who love this job as much
as we do, tend to stick to around and they feel great ownership and responsibility for
what they’re doing. I have never seen anywhere else that but here,
that level of dedication and focus on the mission. I mean, I — I’ve had military background
and I’ve had other such things but here, more than anywhere else, I see everybody pulling
in the same direction and they don’t want to be the person that fails. They — and not because they don’t want to
be seen as failing but because they don’t want to fail their buddies. They know that we have friends on those ships
and everybody is counting on them and you don’t want to let your friends down. You find that in the best organizations and
I’m sure you see that in your Navy Seals and other such folks like that. Where you know they’re counting on you and
you will do your darndest not to let them down. Yeah. As I look at the Commercial Crew Program from
outside, that is what I continue to see time and time again of long hours, hard days, lots
of effort, all kind of with that goal in my mind. So, Steve, appreciate you being here and I
hope very much that on launch day, you are incredibly bored and have very little to do. I hope for the same. Thank you. [ Music ] The overall flight test is major step on the
road certification. Here is Gennaro Caliendo with more. I’m in the booth now with Gennaro Caliendo,
who — let me see if I get this right here. Uh-hmm. The Certification Manager for the Boeing Starliner
or I think, you might have said that there is more two than just Starliner. Correct. There’s two pieces of it or actually there’s
more than two pieces but you’ve got the Starliner which sits on top of the Atlas V, which its
launch vehicle. The two together form the whole part of the
system. Of course, the system includes ground — the
ground processing equipment, as well as the launch system and it’s all included and that’s
what we certify. We don’t certify just the Starliner, we don’t
just the Atlas V. It’s the entire system. Yeah. And I think– From start to finish. I think that’s a great point. And I appreciate you bringing that up just
because people, when they think of a rocket launch, they typically only think of the rocket. Uh-hmm. But ultimately, there’s a ton of work on the
ground to be able to fuel, and process, and handle, and support all the aspects– Correct. –of launch and then, even the emergencies
that are — that might be encountered. Right. Right. And for instance at Pad 41, where the Atlas
V is going to launch from, we actually worked with the commercial provider and in this case,
it was Boeing. Through their subcontractor, ULA, United Launch
Alliance, which launches the Atlas V for Boeing, to create a system whereby we can access it. You know, the 41 has been there forever and
it’s been used predominantly for unmanned satellites and interplanetary, kind of, missions,
ULA’s used to over the years for commercial as well as NASA missions, as well as DOD missions. And so we have to— Sure– So they had to actually modify it to support
launching crews and that meant, building a big tower, so if anybody goes out there, you’ll
see those big towers that allows the crews to actually climb up to the top and ingress
the CST 100, which sits on top of the vehicle. As well as provide for any emergencies. Those are in our requirements and I guess,
we can talk about requirements here to allow the crews to get off in emergency. For those who have seen the Shuttles fly,
you may have seen some of the emergency systems that were out at the launch pad. Right. They’re installing or have installed something
very similar to that but it also has a kind of a flavor of if you’ve ever taken these
— I’m trying to think of the word, this, sort of, rides. The zip line? Zip lines. Kind of rides, yeah. And things like that. Thank you. Similar but different. Similar but different because their role is
different, obviously. Sure. Again, in the way of an emergency, they actually
put one of those zip line systems where people can escape in an emergency. That would mean the flight crews as well as
ground crews that are out there and they can transport them very quickly from that level
down to the ground and then into protective vehicles until the emergency passes or they
can drive themselves out. Those emergency vehicles are ones that, actually,
we provide to them as a government provided service or government provided equipment. It’s the same vehicles that we use for, I
think, it’s Constellation — Exploration now, right. Not Constellation, it’s the old word. Yeah, EGS? Yeah, EGS. Yeah. Yeah. So — and I want kind of back track because
your title is Certification Manager. Correct. And, so, I’ve heard the phrase thrown around
burning down paper. Uh-hmm. When I first say that we’re not actually lighting
paper on fire, right? Correct. Correct. Okay. So we’re not– That’s absolutely correct. We’re not burning paperwork here but this
is a phrase— Right. –we use. So, can you, kind of, talk about what does
that mean and, kind of, as a Certification Manager, what’s your job? So, my job is to lead a small team on the
NASA side. You know, the thing about certification is
in the commercial world that has a slightly different flavor for us as NASA people. In the past, we had a set of requirements
that we used to call level one or very high level requirements. And then, we would create sub tier requirements
or level two, and three, and four. Okay. That would actually decompose a top level
requirement. So, for instance if you said, which we do
today, transport for people to the station and return them safely home, that would be
your top level requirement. Okay. And then, what we would do, ordinarily, if
it was a heritage NASA program, we would — we would take that top level requirement and
we would decompose it down into components, pieces, parts of that. In this world, in commercial, we leave it
at the high level and we let the provider actually decompose it. Now, that particular requirement it’s — in
itself, we give them — we give the commercial providers some flavor of what we expect in
there but we leave it up to the provider to actually decompose it. So, in that particular one, well, it sounds
like transport crew and return them safely seems very, very generic. There are words within our requirements set
that says this is what we expect it to be. In that case, it’s all about ascent trajectories,
and entry trajectories, entry descent and landing, and rendezvous and docking. It’s all part of that. And so the commercial provider then provides
the details behind all of that. When we say burning down paper, what we mean
is the contractor, in this case Boeing, in my case Boeing will supply the evidence, the
actual physical documentation. Now, you know, we’re living in a new, sort
of, millennium and paper is an abstract kind of thing– Sure. So– Yeah, even paper is a fluid term– Even paper is, kind of, a fluid term. Right. So, they deliver a lot of this electronically
to us. Sure. And we review it electronically and we look
to see if meets the intent of what we were doing. So, in a test flight world where we are today,
not all the requirements are active or required for a particular test flight. So– Give me for instance. What does that mean? So, we have approximately — there is somewhere
in the neighborhood of 280 requirements that we said these are safety in performance requirements
that are out there for Boeing, in this case to meet. Is that like the tier one level? Yeah. Two hundred and eighty of those? Two hundred and eighty of those. And then, they have– Okay. –an additional somewhere in the neighborhood
of close to 500 and change of performance from the safety requirements that are required
to fly to the ISS. Those would be our international space station
programs requirements. Okay. So, between the two, we have approximately,
almost nearly 800 total requirements that they have to satisfy, which may sound like
a lot to most people but when you think about it and you compare it to some of the other
programs, they’re probably — those requirements are then decomposed into– Sure. –thousands of smaller lower level requirements. Right. We don’t necessarily require the decomposition
at our level, but we do require them to decompose them and then roll them back up for us. All right? So, when you talk about this because– Uh-hmm. –kind of, you made this point of, like, in
a heritage program, which I think is a great way to describe it. Uh-hmm. You have, maybe, thousands more requirements
as a part of it. So, does that really make our job easier or
does it make our job harder because I could, kind of, see that going either way because
we’re a little bit more hands off. Right. So, yeah, Josh, that’s a really good question. In some cases, it makes it easier and in some
other cases, it does make it much more difficult because you leave it up to the provider to
figure it out and then you have our people, which have a lot of heritage history, and
so they have certain expectations of what needs to be delivered. So, there’s a lot of give and take that goes
along with that– Right. –of what we expected versus what they delivered. And so, sometimes those two aren’t very — they
don’t flow very well together. Sure. So, it’s been a lot of back and forth between
us and the commercial provider to figure out what the right level is. And once we get to that right level and we’re
satisfied they meet the intent, then we’re good to go and we move on to the next one. Now, not all of those close to 800 requirements
are required for each of these test flights. So, we have a sub-tear of those — subset
of those that are required. What we call the minimum requirements. In the case of space station, that’s mostly
all of them. Yeah. [ Laughing ] Because in order to approach the, the spacecraft– We take very good care of the space station. Yeah, in the case of our requirements where
you have an unmanned vehicle that’s going to fly here, OFT, Orbital Flight Test, there’s
nobody onboard, there’s certain subsets of those that we don’t necessarily require to
be completed, simply because you don’t have people onboard. For instance, the most obvious one is a requirement
that we have for launch abort or abort systems, not just launch abort but abort systems. Yeah. Since no one is onboard, we don’t necessarily
require the abort system requirement to be satisfied. Okay. We leave that risk up to the commercial partner. Okay. In this particular case, I don’t know if a
lot of people know, but Boeing will have the — they have an abort system onboard but they
only have part of it actually functioning. And that’s on the launch vehicle. It’s the emergency detection system. It will follow along and it will record events
in the event of an abort trigger getting — a red line getting triggered. It will record it and — but it won’t abort
the vehicle. Okay. The spacecraft itself won’t have the capability
to abort. The big launch abort engines– Okay. For those of you that saw the pad abort test
here not too long ago. Yeah, great test. Those big engines that you saw that lit to
launch the vehicle off the top, they won’t be active on this flight. They — in fact, they won’t even be there
for the simple reasons that it’s just not required. Sure. But when we get to CFT, that requirement will
certainly be part of the next set of requirements for Crewed Flight Test. Yeah, and before we start recording today,
you made a comment to me– Uh-hmm. –which was really intriguing. Uh-hmm. That ultimately, there are these things that
have to meet before we’ll let you go try and fly the space station. Right. But ultimately, those aren’t actually the
certification that you’re really after. And that comes later down the road. Can you talk more about kind of what do — what’s
the — really the end goal here? Yeah, the end goal is to certify the entire
system. All right? You’ve got a commercial crew transportation
system, that’s the launch vehicle, the spacecraft, the ground systems, the personnel, the communications
systems, the launch control centers, the mission control centers. They’re all part of the entire system, not
one piece of it. And so, ultimately these requirements that
we have out there have piece parts associated with all of those aspects of a system. And so, we wind up getting to a point where
we want to certify the entire end product. And that’s done through what we call the certification
review. And that’s typically done or in our case,
it will be done post two test flights. And the two test flights, the first one here
coming up here in December is the unmanned or un-crewed version of the vehicle. The next one would be the crewed version sometime
early next year. And then, post that they’ll be a significant
review where we look at all that data. We look at how the vehicles worked, and how
it functioned, and how well it performed. And then, we’ll have the final sign off which
is called certification review, which means the system is now certified to fly. And then, post that, we’ll have what we call
a post certification missions, PCMs. And– Awesome. We’ll be flying the crews on a fairly regular
basis to station about once every six months or so. Yeah. And one of the things we talked about in our
office and I’m just kind of curious to get your thoughts on the challenges that this
presents, is that at no point in history has anybody ever done what we’re trying to do. Correct. Because we’re — people probably — they may
not realize that we’re marrying commercial and government in a way that this has never
happened before. Right. Do you guys feel that? Is that something that’s like, feels like,
an impossible hurdle? Is it just like, “Hey, like, this is a cool
challenge to undertake?” What’s the feeling amongst you and your team? Oh, absolutely, it’s — some days, it’s really
cool to be a part of it. Another day is it’s really, really challenging
because of where a lot of us come from. You know, I’ve been in this business about
30 years, over 30 years. And a lot of the people I work with have a
significant amount of time in this business. Some of us have background in shuttle, some
of us had background in station, International Space Station. Others have background in the Launch Services
Program. And then, someone like me who has a little
bit of all of that, it becomes — it’s difficult because in all those other programs, with
the exception of maybe the Launch Services Program because they did do some hybrid of
the model we’re doing now. We’ve owned the hardware. We’ve owned the requirements. Yeah. We’ve had taken all of the liability and responsibility
to ensure the safety of this vehicle. Not to say that that’s not what’s going to
happen here. That is absolutely 100% going to happen here. We will ultimately make sure the vehicle is
safe to fly crews. The difference is is where we draw the line
between us and the commercial partner. This is a true shared — what we call a shared
accountability between ourselves and the commercial partner, where we allow them to kind of work
a lot of the down and in details. And we looked at the primary safety and performance
requirements at the top, which is what I was sort of alluding to before. Right. All right. And so, we don’t dive down nearly as deep. So, some days it’s very challenging because
of our expectations of what that is. And other days, it’s really a lot of fun to
work with these partners to see how creative they can get. Yeah, so, probably the last question for you
here. Yeah. Where are you going to get to be on launch
day? Are you working or are you just get to be
a spectator? No. I’m probably going to help you guys out,
I think. Oh, good. I work for the systems engineering immigration
office. Most of our work will be done before launch
day. Very good. In fact, all of it should be done before launch
day. [ Laughing ] And so I don’t have an active role in the
control centers. As a matter of fact, as part of the model
we follow, NASA isn’t really actively working the countdowns. Uh-hmm. They are there in a support role. We are certainly there in the go-no-go — final
no–go-no-go role. Sure. And then, we’ll have some technical expertise
that will be listening in on the nets, on the voice nets, and the loops to hear for
any kind of issues that might be occurring during countdown. That group of people is a very small number. It’s not very large. And they will be strategically positioned
in the ASOC where ULA launches the vehicle from. We’ll have some people and believe it or not,
mission control center Houston because the Boeing model is actually using our NASA people
to, in sort of a sub-contractor role– Sure. –to actually fly the vehicle for them. They are working directly for Boeing. Uh-hmm. And so they don’t necessarily work directly
for us. However– Interesting. –in this interesting hybrid role– Yeah, [ Laughs ] –they do have, and own, and contain NASA
badges. Huh. They are mostly NASA and NASA support contractors. This is kind of a unique approach for the
Boeing model and it’s unique for us. But actually, you know, in some ways, it buys
down a little bit of risk because they’re using heritage people to fly the vehicle for
them in a sub-contractor role. Now, they ultimately answer directly to Boeing. And then– Right. –we then provide through our commercial crew
program the final go to actually fly to space station along with our ISS partners. It seems like every time I talk to somebody
about this program, there’s more complexities that kind of pop up. Yeah. Yeah. Which I love and again, it just shows the
resolve of our people and the commercial companies were working alongside of to get the job done. Yeah. Yes. So, then, it absolutely is. And so our role is, sort of, in a much smaller
oversight sort of role. And we’re going to support the team involved
from making that last minute go or final go to fly with a handful of people, as opposed
to what you may have seen in the past with say the LCC over here. We had several hundred people and we were
actively working the countdown not to say that Boeing/ULA won’t have a similar number
of people. Although, I don’t think they’ll have as many. They’ll just be located here in ASOC. They’ll be located in Mission Control Center
Houston. And then, we’ll have our people in various
places looking over their shoulder and just making sure that everything goes as planned. Those people are going to be highly experienced
people that have been working closely with Boeing over the last — in some cases, eight
or nine years, so they understand the architecture very, very well. They understand — they’ve been working very
closely. They understand any of the issues or concerns
that have come up during the whole develop — design development and test program that
Boeing’s gone through and we’ve been there side-by-side with them. It’s just not going to be a huge number. My role, even though, I’ve been there the
last eight or nine years with them, will be mostly done since I’m mostly the paper guy. [ Laughing ] And I’ll be sitting there probably helping
you guys, maybe, take some people around on launch day. Great. Yeah. Good. Well, Gennaro, obviously, you have a busy
couple of weeks ahead of you– Yeah. I sure do. So I’m going to let you get out of here. But I appreciate your time and we’re looking
forward to seeing this thing fly. All right. So am I, believe me. [ Laughing ] And so are we. Thanks. I’m Joshua Santora and that’s our show. Thanks for stopping by the Rocket Ranch. And special thanks to our guests, Steve Payne
and Gennaro Caliendo. To learn more about the Commercial Crew Program
visit crew. And to learn more about everything going on
at the Kennedy Space Center go to Check out NASA’s other podcast to learn more
about what’s happening at all of our centers at A special shout out to our producer, John
Sackman. Our sound engineers, Michelle Stone and Lorne
Mathre. Editor, Chris Chamberlain. And special thanks to Marie Lewis, Tori Mclendon,
and Jenn Wolfinger. And remember, on the Rocket Ranch, even the
sky isn’t the limit.

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