NASA today announced plans to create an independent
Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) at the agency’s Langley
Research Center in Hampton, Va., to provide comprehensive
examination of all NASA programs and projects. The center
will provide a central location to coordinate and conduct
robust engineering and safety assessment across the entire

“Among the things we’ve learned during the investigation of
the Columbia tragedy is the need to independently verify our
engineering and safety standards. The new NASA Engineering
and Safety center will have the capacity and authority to
have direct operational influence on any agency mission,”
said NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. “When it comes to
safety and engineering analysis, we need to improve our
ability to share technical information, practices and talent,
and independently ensure we are in the best position to
achieve mission success.”

The NESC is expected to draw on the talents of about 250
people throughout NASA and will report to former astronaut
General Roy Bridges, Langley Center Director. Bryan O’Connor,
also a former astronaut and Associate Administrator for the
Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA Headquarters
in Washington, will have policy responsibility for the
organization. O’Connor’s task will be to assure the effective
use of all agency assets and expertise to derive the
independent assessments.

“As we move forward with our ‘Return to Flight’ efforts, the
development and implementation of the NESC will help us focus
on the future of our technical and safety imperatives,” said
O’Connor. “We have a responsibility to make our programs as
safe and as sound as possible. This project raises our
commitment to unprecedented levels.”

Planned activities of the new organization include:

  • Independent engineering assessment and testing to support critical NASA projects and programs
  • Engineering and safety review and evaluation through independent analysis, hazard and risk assessment, safety audit, and participation in mishap investigations
  • A central location for independent trend analysis utilizing state-of-the-art tools and techniques
  • A structure to support engineering collaboration for problem resolution
  • Central coordination of engineering and programmatic lessons learned, technical standards, and technical discipline expertise
  • Independent inspection and validation of activities to ensure the constant maintenance of NASA safety standards

“We need to go further than what we expect to see in the
findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board
(CAIB),” added Dr. Michael Greenfield, Associate Deputy
Administrator for Technical Programs at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. Greenfield co-chairs the agency’s Return to
Flight Team with Associate Administrator for Space Flight
William F. Readdy. “We need to look beyond the CAIB and
provide a centralized clearinghouse that provides NASA with
authoritative and consolidated analysis and assessment for
all of the agency’s high-risk endeavors,” Greenfield

Additional information about NASA and Langley is available on
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