Leidos Webster

March 30th, 2020

Tanya Hanway and Ernest Sanchez explain that Leidos’ name comes from the word “kaleidoscope” to represent the company’s ability to solve difficult problems by applying different perspectives, unlocking new insights, and making new discoveries.

A Kaleidoscope of Space Supplies and Innovation to the ISS and Beyond

From a 55,000 Sq Ft facility on Forge River Road in Webster, Leidos supports human spaceflight and deep space exploration to enable NASA’s next great discovery. Leidos’ local team of innovators works on numerous NASA programs spanning mission operations, research and engineering, payload processing, food development, human spaceflight, and IT support. Just about everything astronauts aboard the International Space Station touch, wear, consume, and do bears Leidos’ signature. From laptops to space suits, tortillas, toothpaste, and experiments, Leidos has shipped more than 210,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.

In Webster, Leidos’ focus is enabling NASA’s mission of driving innovation in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration. The 129-member team inside the Forge River Road facility and 284-member team on site at Johnson Space Center prepare astronauts for space travel, zero-gravity living, and daily work aboard the largest spacecraft ever built—the International Space Station (ISS)—which circles the earth at 17,000 mph and is the astronauts’ habitat for an average of six-month intervals.

Inside Leidos’ Cargo Processing Facility, Cargo Mission Contract Program Manager Ernest Sanchez; Division Manager of NASA Programs Nan Hardin; and Research, Engineering, Mission Integration Services Program Manager Tanya Hanway hold kits of essential supplies, like food and hygiene towels, bound for the ISS. Prior to transport, cargo undergoes about 200 different processes inside the Webster facility.

Special Delivery to the ISS and Beyond

Leidos’ development of clothing, gear, food, and equipment for those aboard the ISS holds significant ramifications for space colonies on the moon, Mars, and beyond. Logistics falls into this category, as well. Just as astronauts on the ISS require regular deliveries of experiment equipment, spare parts, food, air, and water, those who inhabit space outposts will need resupplies, too. Leidos’ expertise in planning, processing, and packing more than 400,000 pounds of supplies annually to the ISS is of critical importance—especially when every ounce matters. Leidos inventories, labels, and fit-checks each piece of hardware and soft goods, like a puzzle, to fit within a cargo transfer bag. Leidos’ very name, which appears in the word “kaleidoscope” to convey a constantly changing shape and form, represents the company’s innovative mindset toward solving problems and making new discoveries. Leidos’ prowess in technology and its far-reaching science and research applications play a vital role in human space activity.

kaLEIDOScope Leidos Innovates

Under NASA’s Cargo Mission Contract (CMC) in the Webster facility, Leidos processes cargo to enable astronauts’ daily health, welfare, and work aboard the ISS. The sheer number of steps and scope of work involved in making, assembling, processing, inventorying, labeling, testing, imaging, certifying, and integrating everything that is sent to ISS crewmembers is mind-boggling. Shipments often include crew provisions, hand tools, equipment, cameras, batteries and power supplies, research experiments, and ISS hardware.

Space-rated Yeti™

The majority of the thousands of different experiments and critical systems hardware that are bound for space are developed at various facilities and sent to Leidos’ Webster team for packaging and packing for launch to orbit.  However, Leidos also plays a critical role in fabricating and developing products for use in space. For example, when NASA wanted to research a low cost, low risk alternative for passively transporting frozen items to the ISS, Leidos’ engineers were charged with developing a custom Passive Cold Stowage Box (PCSB) that could maintain subzero temperatures for up to a week without battery or vehicle power.  Essentially, NASA asked if Leidos could develop and certify a space-rated Yeti®, and within months, the ISS crew was surprised with a shipment of frozen fruit bars to the ISS to enjoy as proof of concept. Leidos has developed many useful and innovative solutions, including a reliable power supply for laptops, a larger, safer, and more efficient food warmer, and a multi-layer insulation blanket needed to protect cargo from extreme temperatures that is fully compatible with the ISS robotic arm.

Inside the Decal Lab, 8,000 to 10,000 decals are created each month to support ISS missions. Decals, labels, and placards are generated for everything—contents, barcodes, tracking info, serial numbers, operating instructions, and safety.

Shipments to ISS average between 4,000 and 7,700 pounds

Inside Leidos’ Webster CMC facility, packaging takes on a completely new meaning. Bubble bags, Ziplocs, and Velcro abound inside the main cargo processing room, as well as the ubiquitous cargo transfer bags that come in various sizes to hold just about everything. Special shipping containers and lifts to handle heavy equipment are complemented by imaging services, HAZMAT assessments, and Department of Transportation coordination. Cargo kits become part of cargo transfer bags, which are clearly labeled and contain stringent inventory data to ensure that all hardware is handled in accordance with safety protocols. Electronic Launch Return On-Orbit Data Sets (eLRODS) protect hardware during all phases of processing—from receipt, ground handling, and delivery to the ISS. Custom foam enclosures made in the Foam Operations Lab protect flight hardware, just as decals, labels, and placards created in the Decal Lab protect and aid astronauts, so they know the precise sequencing for unpacking, setup, and operations. Labels are created in accordance with stringent NASA flight-approved materials and certifications and contain essential safety, inventory, tracking, and operating information.

Leidos’ work is not all inventorying, packaging, and labeling. The Webster team also works to ensure astronauts are healthy and comfortable. In fact, Leidos touts a seamstress who tailors clothing for astronauts and fabricates specialty items and equipment. Buttons on shorts or pants must be replaced with Velcro closures, and pockets with straps or closures must be added. Special equipment and soft goods are also fabricated inside the Webster facility. For instance, Leidos designed a camera covering that allows an astronaut’s huge, thick glove to handle and actuate buttons on the camera during a spacewalk or extra vehicular activity (EVA).

Leidos also considers toiletries and astronaut hygiene in its cargo preparation.  Every kilogram counts for payloads; water must be imported to the ISS, as no method for cleaning clothes currently exists. This means astronauts receive a single clothing kit, clearly labeled for two weeks’ worth of wear. A change of outfit might transpire twice a week. Astronauts can choose among their favorite brands for hygiene products, such as shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant—many of which will be outfitted with a Velcro backing.

Ernest Sanchez displays a 3D printed mock-up of the Keyence BZ-X800E All-In-One Fluorescence Microscope, an automated microscope with high-resolution imaging and analysis system, that was recently certified by Leidos for use on the ISS.

Manifest to Delivery: Six Weeks 13-15 Flights to ISS Annually

While food is made off-site, all of it is labeled, packaged, and processed in Webster where it’s categorized, numbered, placed into kits, and pressurized for transport. Factors, like nutrition, digestion, dietary conditions, shelf life, and zero-gravity have a huge role in determining what astronauts eat. A four-pound bag labeled “fruits and nuts,” for example, contains individual bags of almonds, apples with spice, applesauce, berry medley, cashews, dried apricots, dried pears, fruit cocktail, macadamia nuts, peaches, peanut butter, peanuts, and more—clearly listed in alphabetical order with tracking or inventory number.

Just as Leidos processes nearly all of the cargo that goes to the ISS, the Webster facility is the repository for returning payloads, as well. This includes time-sensitive or temperature-critical experiments, research materials, malfunctioning hardware, and used, but valuable, gear and equipment. The constant challenge to innovate and develop new modes for life and work in space is Leidos’ focus in Webster and at Johnson Space Center.

Next Stop: Lunar Station

Leidos is poised now to be the supplier to Gateway—the lunar orbital platform that brings astronauts to the moon to operate a space station and serves as a “gateway” for deep space missions. Under the Research, Engineering, Mission Integration Services (REMIS) contract, Leidos is currently developing the navigation and alignment aides for the Gateway Program to ensure safe docking of the various modules. Additionally, as commercialization of low earth orbit continues to ramp up rapidly, Leidos’ unparalleled expertise in logistics, research, engineering, IT, and mission integration services is in demand.

With a track record of success at NASA centers across the country, Leidos provides the mission understanding and technical expertise necessary to support advancements in space exploration and human spaceflight across the public and private space sector. From enterprise IT modernization to operations and logistics to systems engineering and integration, Leidos stands ready to support NASA in achieving its next discovery.

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station

January 28th, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 12:29 p.m. EST on Dec. 5, 2019, carrying the Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station. Credits: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Terry and Kevin O’Connell

NASA has selected Axiom Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use.

“NASA has once again recognized the hard work, talent, and experience of Houstonians as we expand the International Space Station and promote commercial opportunities in space,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “I’m proud Axiom will continue to build upon Texas’ legacy of leading the nation in human space exploration.”

This selection is a significant step toward enabling the development of independent commercial destinations that meet NASA’s long-terms needs in low-Earth orbit, beyond the life of the space station, and continue to foster the growth of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

Today’s announcement is an exciting and welcome step forward in the efforts to commercialize low-Earth orbit,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “This partnership between NASA and Axiom Space – a Houston, Texas original – illustrates how critically important the International Space Station is, and will continue to be, for developing new technologies for low-Earth orbit and beyond, and for continuing America’s leadership in space. Congratulations to Axiom Space on this exciting award – Houston is known as Space City for a reason, and I look forward to this great Space City company and NASA turning this announcement into reality.”

The element will attach to the space station’s Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable economy in which NASA is one of many customers. NASA and Axiom next will begin negotiations on the terms and price of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option.

“Congratulations to Axiom Space! This is not only a win for Texas, Johnson Space Center, and the International Space Station, it is also a great step forward for NASA as we move towards an increased commercial presence in low-Earth orbit,” said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. “I am proud to see this work coming to Space City – Houston, Texas – as the Lone Star State continues to lead in space exploration well into the future.”

Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of five elements of NASA’s plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.

“Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration. It is a similar partnership that this year will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil.”

NASA selected Axiom from proposals submitted in response to a solicitation through Appendix I of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement, which offered private industry use of the station utilities and a port to attach one or more commercial elements to the orbiting laboratory.

Because commercial destinations are considered a key element of a robust economy in low-Earth orbit, NASA also plans to issue a final opportunity to partner with the agency in the development of a free-flying, independent commercial destination. Through these combined efforts to develop commercial destinations, NASA is set to meet its long-term needs in low-Earth orbit well beyond the life of the station.

The agency will continue to need low-Earth orbit microgravity research and testing to enable future missions to the Moon and Mars, including the arrival of the first woman and next man on the Moon with the Artemis III mission as part of the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

Learn more about NASA’s efforts to develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy at: https://www.nasa.gov/leo-economy

Follow station activities on the station blog at space station blog, or on social media at @space_station, @ISS_Research, ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram.

 

Senate panel hears BAHEP president on importance of International Space Station funding after 2024

August 1st, 2018

BAHEP President Bob Mitchell

The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership has been an avid supporter of NASA, and specifically of the missions of the NASA’s Johnson Space Center, for decades. Elected officials and the media often consult with BAHEP President Bob Mitchell to share his expertise in regard to the aerospace industry.

In May 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz, chairman of the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation invited Mitchell to provide testimony before his subcommittee regarding the International Space Station.

Given just five minutes to state his support for federal funding for the ISS beyond 2025, Mitchell testified before the subcommittee on June 6, 2018. Following is his testimony in full.

Chairman Cruz, Ranking Member Nelson, distinguished members of the committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to testify on the important topic of the International Space Station.

I serve as the president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, a member-driven, 501(c)( 6) nonprofit economic development organization located just outside the gates of the Johnson Space Center in Bay Area Houston. We have over 268 members, which include a diverse mix of businesses in aerospace, medical, life sciences, petrochemicals, and maritime.

We also are proud to work on initiatives that contribute to the economic growth of the 13 cities and two counties in the area around the Johnson Space Center. Although aerospace companies make up a fraction of our membership, the entire business community understands and values the contributions of NASA and the space community in making all of our lives better.

The ISS is a critical element of the work performed in Houston at the Johnson Space Center and the backbone to maintaining a number of key elements of our success in human spaceflight: the astronaut corps, mission control, countless technical resources, and world-class researchers. The Johnson Space Center offers an unparalleled national capability that has been built over decades of experience. The loss of or weakening of its capabilities would have dramatic implications to our outcomes in deep space exploration.

The Return on Investment (ROI) on the ISS can be calculated in many ways. It is difficult to quantify the exact dollar value of many of these returns, but the overall impact is undeniable. The International Space Station – by its design and enactment – has established the foundation for sustained generation of technology that improves life on earth.

Each year, spinoffs like new drugs, materials, and scientific technology become licensed and begin generating new revenue streams for companies large and small.

Beyond the ability to show an ROI, the International Space Station positions us to tackle the challenge of deep space by buying down cost and risk now to give missions to the Moon and Mars a head start. The station is a critical, inexpensive test bed for exploration hardware that needs to work perfectly on its first live mission. It allows us to test, tweak, and perfect life support systems, radiation abatement methods, and other advanced materials. These breakthroughs will eventually make it from the launch pad into our homes and businesses across America.

Through engagement with the Russian space agency and 13 other ISS partners, the U.S. has led an era of peaceful collaboration and exploration that has provided stability in space leading to the current level of space commercialization.This commitment to the ISS — uninterrupted for the last 25 years — has provided more than just a destination in space. The ISS has cultivated:

  • A cultural learning lab for diplomacy, education, and inspiration
  • A learning lab for technology applications – testing performance machines, materials, and humans in space
  • A science lab for comparing terrestrial knowledge in a new frontier of weightlessness
  • A lab for exploring both our earth and outer space in preparation for the next exploration endeavors

I think it is important to take a detailed look at the overall ISS budget, which is often cited at $3 billion per year. What is misleading about that estimate is that the Commercial Crew and Cargo programs are funded out of those funds, along with overhead costs at the centers housing the programs and other expenses. The real ISS budget is a fraction of that total cost, ranging from $1B – $1.5B/year. Saving this much each year will have a minimal impact on our overall exploration efforts in terms of a funds transfer. Commercial alternatives would likely cost significantly more than sustaining the ISS, essentially creating an entirely new development program, while providing a fraction of the existing capabilities.

If the U.S. government terminates its support of the ISS in 2025, and we step away from ISS before an equivalent long-term engagement is created, there will be a disruption in the space program and the emerging commercial space industry.

Not very long ago, NASA’s Constellation Program was cancelled at the same time as the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program, which had a profoundly negative impact on America’s leadership position in space.

I sincerely hope that we all learned a valuable lesson from this and trust that you will not allow history to repeat itself! My position is that the U.S. government should commit to the ISS for as long as it is safely feasible to do so.

However, as we succeed, others look to follow. As you have probably seen, just last week China invited other nations to partner with them on their space station. They realize, as we do, the power of these partnerships and the leadership and the technology that can be gained from them.

As we question our commitment to the future of ISS, the Chinese space program is actively seeking to leverage this moment in time to provide an alternative path and platform for our traditional international partners in space. This has very serious implications for our national security, trade and technology partnerships and leadership if this is not managed carefully. At the end of the day, the ISS program is the culmination of all of the reasons we are so passionate about the entire space program – it represents America’s future in global leadership, education, innovation, healthcare, and our quality of life.

Thank you for the invitation to speak on this topic, and I look forward to your questions.