The Open Government Initiative was excited to invite KSC’s David Miranda and Ariel Pavlick to share about how they are increasing the awesome at their center with transparency, participation, and collaboration.
“Some would say that those struggles are all over, that all the horizons have been explored, that all the battles have been won, that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this assemblage would agree with that sentiment; for the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won; and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats…
…The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not.”
John F. Kennedy spoke these words at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles nearly a year before he challenged NASA to send an American to the moon. Over fifty years later these words are still relevant as NASA enters a new era of its history in which we are being challenged to in many ways start anew, to do things differently, and to work with new and old partners to achieve our goals. In order to meet these challenges we need to evolve, embrace change, and most importantly innovate.
At Kennedy Space Center (KSC) we have started a group called the Spaceport Innovators; membership is open to everyone on center and includes both civil servants and contractors from nearly every directorate. Our backgrounds are diverse; our drive to innovate and improve how we do business is common.
Spaceport Innovators started as a cryptic and, yet, enticing email sent to a couple dozen KSC civil servants. In the email, we were challenged to brainstorm a new and different way to think about our Center. From the facilities, organizations, partnerships, geography, launch vehicles, and market competition: everything was on the table. How could we make the best space center today, for the next program and for the next 50 years, as our budget and programs fluctuated?
We agreed we need to maintain the unity, technical skills and perseverance that the workforce embodied at the end of the Shuttle program, but we additionally need to retool our skills and make them relevant not just for the technical challenges ahead but for the organizational and cultural whiplash we anticipate as we move to a new era in Space Exploration. Quickly, our focus moved from what the facilities need to look like, to what our organization and culture need to embrace.
We also realized that to truly innovate we will need to have a greater diversity of thought. Innovators are not just a select group of people chosen by management. The entire Center needs to be included, and so we became more open. Our meetings are now advertised in the Center Daily News and our website is open to all of NASA. And so from these beginnings an informal organization has been formed around disseminating information, rethinking how we work, and dreaming about the future of spaceflight.
Our Vision and Mission are simple:
Vision: To think beyond the norm and improve the way we do things at Kennedy Space Center
Mission: To foster innovation and lead change through collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing. Spaceport Innovators will serve as an incubator for innovative ideas and help launch them towards success.
We meet about twice a month and discuss a variety of topics that can be of interest to our community. Topics such as:
- innovation success stories like Project Morpheus and the Max Launch Abort System,
- technology demonstrations like the Harris Corp. Force Feedback Robotic System,
- introductions to resources that innovators can use such as Space Act Agreements and KSC’s Technology Integration Office,
- sources of funding and partnership opportunities like the Center Innovation Fund and the NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Project to Stimulate Competitive Research) program, and
- even long term far reaching and future looking topics like the DARPA 100 Year Starship Study and a proposal for a Network of Ground and Space-based Spaceports.
In the future we hope to find and push forward the innovative ideas that exist at all corners of our Center. We want to help accelerate the successful development of intrapreneurial and innovative teams by providing them an array of support resources through our network of contacts. We also want to better connect with other groups like ours across NASA, share our ideas, and learn more from the many other innovative thinkers across the Agency.
Kennedy ended his famous 1960 speech with words that still echo today:
“That is the choice our nation must make — a choice that lies between the public interest and private comfort, between national greatness and national decline, between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy,” between dedication or mediocrity.
All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we shall do. And we cannot fail that trust. And we cannot fail to try…”
For more information about Spaceport Innovators please visit our (internal) website at: https://sp.ksc.nasa.gov/sites/spaceportinnovators
Also, join us on our Yammer site at: https://www.yammer.com/nasa.gov/groups/spaceportinnovators