The next class of NASA astronauts prepares to complete their certification with the help of a team of schedulers who track their progress, schedule their training and help them achieve readiness for assignment. Beginning October 2014, the astronaut schedulers, with a combined 32 years of experience in the astronaut office, joined DynCorp International (DI) as a result of the company’s expanded role in supporting NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the astronaut corps. In addition to the aircraft maintenance, operations and logistics services already provided at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, DI was selected by NASA to assume responsibility for scheduling astronaut training and administrating public appearance requests for the corps.
Under the current contract, DI has been working directly with NASA’s astronaut crews for two-and-a-half years through maintenance, safety assurance and operations services on the astronauts’ T-38 training aircraft. Depending on their role within the astronaut corps, each astronaut must obtain a specific number of flight hours in the T-38 aircraft every year to maintain flight certification. Now with the addition of the Astronaut Scheduling Office and the Astronaut Appearance Office (AAO) personnel, DI has a more significant role in supporting the astronaut corps from scheduling their preparation and training, to sharing their experiences with the public upon their return from space.
“Our team is proud to contribute to America’s space program,” said Jim Snowden, executive manager, NASA Aircraft Maintenance Operational Support (AMOS) contract, DynCorp International. “We are committed to helping NASA achieve maximum efficiency in astronaut scheduling and the team has been performing flawlessly despite their heavy workload.”
The DI astronaut schedulers are responsible for ensuring that astronaut training objectives and requirements are met through on-schedule, properly sequenced and integrated training. In 2014, unassigned astronauts and the current class of astronaut candidates completed more than 35,000 hours of training. This rigorous training prepares them for their upcoming assignments like missions aboard the International Space Station, a variety of technical assignments and required proficiency training.
The scheduling office also maintains a NASA database for all astronauts and international partners that includes educational history, job titles, hours flown and training records.
Expeditionary Training for Astronauts
In addition to tactical training, expeditionary training is a significant part of an astronaut’s training. Week-long survival camping trips in the wild with a select group of peers, spelunking in total darkness for days at a time, winter survival training in Russia, or working in Antarctica for an extended period are all examples of this kind of remote training.
“Expeditionary training is used to put potential and assigned crew members into uncomfortable situations to test them physically, mentally, and psychologically,” said Donna Fugitt, astronaut scheduler, DynCorp International. “The idea is to see how well-equipped they are to handle stressful conditions and to observe how they work as team. This is used to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to prepare them for long-duration spaceflight missions.”
Helping NASA Share the Astronauts’ Story
In addition to the critical scheduling support in training, the DI team members in the astronaut office help NASA achieve its public outreach, education and external relations goals through administration and public relations services for all astronaut appearance requests worldwide.
The AAO personnel are dedicated to helping returning flight crews and all other astronauts share the excitement of space exploration to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts. Through carefully coordinated appearances, the AAO team helps expand the reach of the astronaut corps via virtual and in-person appearances. Last year, 43 astronauts completed 427 individual appearances.
The training coordination, scheduling, appearance administration and publicity work was added to the NASA AMOS contract, which began June 2012. Under the AMOS contract, DI has been providing NASA with aircraft maintenance, safety reliability, quality assurance, modifications, operational services and engineering support at Ellington Field at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; NASA facilities in El Paso, Texas; Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and other locations worldwide as required.
The AMOS team helped grow the company’s role in supporting the Johnson Space Center by being a trusted partner. This trust stems from the AMOS team consistently demonstrating the values and attributes of the DI Star including satisfying customers, improving processes and meeting commitments.