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NASA Faults Lockheed Martin In Satellite Accident

By | October 5, 2004

      A year after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) N-Prime satellite was damaged during assembly by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. (LMSSC) in the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., plant, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials pointed the finger at workers for failing to follow procedures.

      In a report dated Sept. 13 but released to the public yesterday, NASA said the N-Prime satellite was damaged Sept. 2, 2003, when it slipped from a turnover cart (TOC) and fell to the floor. “The reason [it fell to the floor] was clear from inspection of the hardware: the satellite fell because the TOC adapter plate was not secured to the TOC with the required 24 bolts,” the report found. The exact extent of the hardware damages resulting from the fall is “still being assessed,” NASA reported.

      As to the cause for the bolts not being secured, NASA said in its report it was caused by the LMSCC “operations team’s lack of discipline in following procedures [which] evolved from complacent attitudes toward routine spacecraft handling, poor communication and coordination among operations team, and poorly written or modified procedures.” NASA added it found LMSCC’s system safety program “to be very ineffective. Few resources are allocated to system safety, few requirements for safety oversight exist and little programmatic supervision was provided for safety representatives.”

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