Interview with Ed Mango, Commercial Crew Program Manager

Uploaded by ReelNASA on 13.03.2012

>> We have an opportunity here in the Mission Control Center to be joined
by the Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango. Ed, we really appreciate you stopping by.
I know you, you flew into Houston I guess yesterday and, and so we grabbed you
for a few minutes to come by and I know Mission Control's not unfamiliar to you in your,
in your past life, supporting space shuttle program here.
So, welcome.
Thanks for stopping by for a few minutes.
>> It's very good to be here.
>> Well, you know, I usually, when I talk to folks I usually start
out to let the audience know a little bit about them, your whole history about getting to NASA,
give us a little bit biographical info on how you ended up in the space business,
where you went to school, those types of things.
>> Let's see, I, I grew up in South Florida and I got to see Apollo 17 launch from my backyard
down in South Florida, 'cause it was a night launch.
And that turned me onto this space stuff is pretty cool.
Ended up going to school up in Saint Louis, Saint Louis University, Parks College and,
and then I spent a couple years in the Air Force, about five years in the Air Force,
working the shuttle at Vandenberg, when we were going to do a Vandenberg program.
Once that was decided not to go there, some NASA folks at Kennedy asked me to come work
at Kennedy, so I jumped that in a heartbeat.
And I've been at Kennedy for most of my career since then, except during our return to flight
for post Columbia, I came over here to JSC, great place to work and was Deputy
of the Orbiter Project Office during return of flight phase since I've been back at Kennedy.
And, and about a couple of years ago, I was asked to lead the Commercial Crew Program,
and at that point, it was a planning office,
trying to figure out if we can do a commercial crew endeavor
and now it's a full program and we're trying to execute.
>> Well, here we go.
You know, you, you kind of talked about how you segued into that role but, you know,
the government, the way we've done business in the past, it's a little bit different with,
with your program, moving into a commercial crew endeavor.
But give us a kind of a flavor for how your organization is set up and, you know,
because you've got folks working with the Program Office in Florida,
the Deputy Program obviously based here, so there's a lot of interaction between your team,
but how, how did you organize all that?
>> And see when we started the program, or the Planning Office for the program, Brent Jett,
[assumed spelling] who's my Deputy here in Houston, got together --
him and I got together and said, how do we want to organize.
And, unlike the Shuttle Program that had different projects at different centers,
we wanted to be as centerless as possible and get the right talent in the program.
So we created organizations within the program that are -- have people here in Johnson,
as well as people at Kennedy, as well as people at Marshall,
and they work in the same specific areas, like launch vehicle,
like in our partner integration teams and that kind of thing.
And we looked for the best people to go do those,
it didn't matter what zip code they lived in, to create the program office.
So it's a little different than what the shuttle program did.
At the same point, you know, in our, in 2012, I think the borders of zip codes
and things are much easier to get around because
of all the media ability to communicate back and forth.
>> Right. Right.
The other aspect of commercial crew is if you're operating under Space Act Agreements,
which we're all familiar with that obviously in business,
but it's not a true contract type scenario and try and lay out for us the,
the Space Act Agreement, part of the program, how that works and, and what your,
some of your milestones have been and, and are, are coming up.
>> Yeah, Space Act Agreements are -- as a different set of words when I first started,
again, I was used to contract mechanisms and, and, and general terms of contract is,
is there's a, there's a customer and, and a client.
And then there's someone who's producing the activity
and that's a standard contract approach.
And in SAA, the biggest different is it's a partnership
and we both are bringing capability to the partnership.
In this case, for commercial crew, we are bringing funding, a pretty big part of funding
and -- but we're also bringing our 50 years of experience.
Our engineers are safety professionals, our program management folks
to go help the individual partners move forward.
And our partners are our companies, so we don't call them contractors, we call them partners.
The big thing, big difference is is in a contract you can direct the,
the contractor to do work, sometimes it comes at a cost.
And a partnership, it's really a, it's a discussion between the two partners
of what is the right thing to go do and so the government can't force a partner to go do A,
B or C, but it's through our influence and through our experience
that we can help the partners move forward with their designs.
>> All right.
That's, that's really -- it's an interesting, it's an interesting approach and you,
I think you -- I don't know if this is the right time for you, but you had a short video
that you asked us to prepare for you, is this a good time for that?
>> Yeah. I think it's a, a real good time because it's going
to explain briefly how what we're trying to get done in a, in a very positive sense.
>> 'Kay. Let's run that.
[ Music ]
[ Silence ]
>> Oh, that's pretty fast paced and probably representative of the,
the Commercial Crew Program right now as being pretty fast paced.
You've obviously, you know, we just got where we're operating
under the fiscal '12 budget right now and you, you, you've got probably about half
of what the original request was and that, that -- you had to do a little bit of restructuring
and how you, your philosophy on going forward and can you talk a little bit about that and,
and maybe about your '13 request that obviously is just getting started for the program.
>> Sure. You know, we -- the President asked for 850 last year and the in the end,
through all the negotiating, we end up getting 406, so it's a lot less than we had anticipated.
And so one of the first things we did is we saw
that there's some uncertainty in the budget numbers.
We're going to have, not only for this, a 406, but also for the next couple years.
So we decided to back off from a, a fixed price contract and move into a, back into an SAA.
and I talked earlier about what SAAs were with partners and on our contract,
we can drive them that the, the issue was on the fixed price, the government now is --
on that fixed price is guaranteed to have to pay so much for so much effort.
And if we didn't have that kind of money, then, then the government side
of that contract would, would be in trouble.
So, that we -- for flexibility went back to an SAA.
This year, we're, you know, the President's budget asked for 830,
and the reason for that is, is you know, the, the --
we need enough money to get into serious design work,
serious development work and then in the certification.
So if we're 830 per year for the next four or five years,
that's how much money we think we need in order to get at least
to multiple systems through certification basically.
The reason, you know, a lot of talk about competition and I just, I would say that,
you know, for all of us, the competition is, is key to how we do our whole acquisition approach
because as you have competition, then individual companies are going to see
that they have a competitor on their side, and therefore they have to do things in order
to make their system better, in order
to make their system either more cost effective or have more performance.
>> Right. Right.
Well, you know, part of that is, you know, what you're talking about,
narrowing it down to a couple of companies, obviously I believe you got seven now that are,
that are operating under funded and unfunded Space Act Agreements and lay out how that,
how that is all structured right now, and, and what some milestones are leading
up to selecting the finalist, if you will.
>> Okay. I think we even have a chart that kind of highlights all seven of our current partners
of which, we can show that, that would be good.
Let's see, we have four partners that are funded and three that are unfunded and we did
that as we entered in the [inaudible].
The agency and, and the organization, the program looked at the entrance of [inaudible]
and said, our biggest technology risks, or our biggest risk towards development are really
in spacecraft at this particular point.
And so we really wanted to fund those spacecraft entities, and that's what we did for [inaudible]
and that's why those are funded ones.
Alongside of that, there are some unfunded ones that wanted to have us continue to work
with them on their launch vehicles and how they might design their launch vehicles
and or certify the launch vehicles.
And so we entered into a couple more unfunded with some launch vehicle folks.
And there is another spacecraft that wanted also to have it unfunded.
So, we, we worked with all seven of those.
The unfunded ones don't cost the taxpayer any dollars, except in, really in NASA support
to go support those particular entities,
but there's no funding exchange going on between us and the partner.
The funded ones are, are really the ones that are trying to move us forward
on overall development and there are four of those.
The first is really Blue Origin.
Blue Origin is out of Seattle, and they are working towards some very good effort
on their abort system, as well as a potential launch system for their, for their design.
Boeing is the next one and Boeing is really working hard, a little more conditional
in how they do business and they're working towards a preliminary design review
of which we just finished their hardware one a couple of weeks ago, and in fact that's why I'm
in Houston is to close out their PDR.
We call it preliminary design review and, and that was really a joint partnership
between us and, and, and Boeing to where a lot of the findings and a lot of the issues
that came out of that PDR were found through a joint team between us
and Boeing, very, very good effort.
Let's see, Sierra Nevada is our next, another company, they're out of Colorado
and they have a winged vehicle that they are developing and the biggest part
about a wing vehicle is how, how are you going to integrate the G&C, or the guidance
and control systems of a wing vehicle, so they're focused on that.
And plus, also working towards a PDR kind of effort that they'll do later here this spring.
And the last is Space X and Space X is really taking their cargo system and trying
to convert it to a, a human capable system to carry crew
and their biggest effort during [inaudible] is really about aborts
and their abort motors and abort system.
>> Right. Well, it's a, it's a, it's a great opportunity obviously for all
of these companies to, to get involved, a perfect opportunity to --
for you to be here because obviously the, one of the goals is to transport crew back and forth
to the space station and of course this is the Station Flight Control,
in fact just a little while ago, Dan Burbank had an opportunity to do a, an interview
and he was asked about that and he, he mentioned that the time is right and, and, you know,
that some of the systems are well enough understood to, to get to that point
where we can actually have a U.S. spacecraft.
And one of the last questions I wanted to ask you while you had time was, you know, I,
I kind of sense it working supporting the commercial crew a little bit,
but it seems to me there's a lot of excitement, not only on, on the NASA side, but on --
with all of these companies as they, you know, as kind of an integrated approach
and you've got folks that are supporting each one of those, but I mean, do you,
do you sense that when you travel a lot and talk to those people?
>> Yeah. Let's see, our, our -- what we call them, PIT teams, our partner integration teams,
and I call them PIT crews for short and I think you'll be talking to some
of them over the next week or so.
Our PIT crews are extremely excited about what's going on with each of their partners and,
and in the program, we're really excited
about how we are developing the system very nontraditional.
Overall, it's a nontraditional approach, but we are, we have the confidence
that says that we are going to get there.
And given enough funding, we can get there by the middle of the decade and I think Dan and,
and the crew on station would like us very much to have a capability that has a U.S. flag flying
on it, in order to get, not just our crew, but the crew from across the planet to the ISS
and to that great laboratory that we have on -- in space and so the timing is right.
Shuttle was a fantastic capability, it, it ended last year and now it's time to move forward
with the next capability to get to low Earth orbit
and that's what we're, that's what we're all doing.
The companies are really over the top on, on excited, you know?
They -- and because of the competition, you can see it's like, it's like different teams trying
to compete against each other and really against themselves to perform so,
so well and get designs that can work.
>> Yeah. Well, look, Ed, we really appreciate you taking time out.
I know you're busy and with all the work that you came to Houston for, but it's really great
for you to come by here and visit Mission Control and, and kind of update us
on everything that's going on with commercial crew, so we appreciate it.
Ed Mango, the Manager of the Commercial Crew Program stopping by here in Mission Control
for a, a talk about his program and what's been going on there.
Thanks, Ed.
>> Thank you.
Thank you very much.