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SAIC Lands Space Safety Contract From NASA

Former astronaut Frank Culbertson will lead a team of Science Applications International Corp. professionals in implementing a $148 million space safety contract.

San Diego-based SAIC is set to begin working on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s contract May 1.

SAIC, a Fortune 500 research and engineering firm, will provide safety and mission assurance support services for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The NASA contract includes two one-year options that bring the total contract value to $256.5 million in a three-year span.

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Ron Zollars, SAIC’s director of public affairs, said the government is reimbursing SAIC for reasonable and allowable costs up to the total value of the contract, with the reimbursement amount based on the quality of the contractor’s performance.

Culbertson began working for SAIC several years ago after retiring from NASA in 2002. Before joining SAIC, he conducted three space missions, one as a pilot and one as a commander on a shuttle mission, and one as a commander of the International Space Station from August through December 2001.

Supporting Spaceflight

As SAIC’s senior vice president and general manager of the Space, Earth and Aviation Sciences Business Unit, Culbertson will lead a team of 400 SAIC employees and contractors that support human space flight programs at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. SAIC employs 4,700 in San Diego County, although the team members are primarily based in Houston.

The team will support safety, and ensure reliability and quality for the space shuttle Discovery, the International Space Station, and payloads.

Culbertson, located at SAIC-Houston, said the team will support operations for the crew of three spaceflight programs based in Houston, such as developing hazard prevention strategies.

SAIC will also give technical and safety support with future programs and new technologies at the White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“We always do a thorough analysis of a mission to make sure no hazards have been overlooked,” Culbertson said. “A lot of people end up working with the astronauts themselves, so they take the issue of safety very personally.”

New Venture

Although SAIC has been involved in providing safety support to NASA since 1997, this contract will expand to include support for the Constellation Program’s planned missions to the moon and Mars. Initially, the new program calls for construction of a crew exploration vehicle and a crew launch vehicle.

Culbertson said Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. teams will be involved in developing the vehicles for the Constellation Program. SAIC will be analyzing projects that might endanger human life or the success of a mission.

The work involves a variety of tasks, from analyzing launch loads to studying the thermodynamics of spacecraft re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, or studying the effects of a vacuum in space.

“Some of the hardware has to operate inside a pressurized vehicle as well as outside on spacewalks in a vacuum,” Culbertson said. “We test to make sure it won’t fail, whether it’s electronics or something as simple as a wrench.”

High-Quality Crew

SAIC’s team was nominated by the Johnson Space Center for the George M. Low Award, a quality and productivity award given by NASA to the aerospace industry.

NASA’s 20-year awards program was renamed the George M. Low Award in 1990 in memory of a leader who contributed to the early development of the NASA space programs during 27 years of service.

Although SAIC was not a winner in the recent awards, four U.S. companies were honored in several categories March 3 at the NASA Industry Conference on Excellence in Alexandria, Va.

SAIC has more than 43,000 employees in some 150 cities worldwide. The company reported revenues of $7.2 billion for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2005. SAIC will post its annual report for fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2006, in late April, after filing with the appropriate federal agencies. For the quarter ended Oct. 31, SAIC reported net income of $91 million on revenue of $2 billion.

SAIC scientists have explored and developed new technologies to assist NASA, and the military, space and intelligence communities for more than 20 years. Zollars said SAIC has been involved in more than 20 contracts with NASA.


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