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NASA May Merge Human Spaceflight and Operations Divisions

WASHINGTON ?NASA is considering a plan to merge its space operations and humanspaceflight missiondirectorates to better align with the U.S. space agency's mannedspaceflightgoals, according to NASA officials.

In a Dec. 20memo to agency employees, the heads of NASA's Exploration Systems andSpaceOperations mission directorates said they had been tasked by NASAAdministratorCharles Bolden to formulate a plan for combiningthe two organizations and report back to the agency chief inearly 2011. [WhatAmericans Plan in Space for 2011]

"Withthe upcoming retirement of the Space Shuttle and the likely transitionawayfrom the Constellation Program, planning is underway that could lead toNASA'sSpace Operations and Exploration Systems Mission Directorates mergingto createa new directorate to manage the integrated humanspaceflight portfolio for the Agency," wrote Doug Cooke andBillGerstenmaier, associate administrators for NASA?s Exploration SystemsMissionDirectorate and Space Operations Mission Directorate, respectively.

"Whilethere has not been a final decision made, we wanted to fully inform youof thisplanning and the fact that we will be working the upcoming OMB'passback' as anintegrated team," the document reads, referring to the White HouseOfficeof Management and Budget's process for setting spending ceilings forU.S.government agencies to use in drafting their annual budget requests.

According tothe document, NASA hopes to identify the best organizational structuretoimplement its human spaceflight program consistent with the goalsoutlined inthe NASAAuthorization Act of 2010.

"Such anew organization would manage the International Space Station,Commercial Crewand Cargo, Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Programs,amongothers currently existing within the two directorates," the documentstates.

The mergeris intended in part to "minimize distraction" to the agency's spaceshuttle workers as that program winds down next year. Although theagency hadplanned to transition many of these workers to the Constellationprogram, a5-year-old effort to replace the aging space shuttle fleet with newrockets andspacecraft optimized for lunar missions, U.S. President Barack Obamaproposedcanceling Constellation in his 2011budget blueprint to Congress.

The documentalso says the merger would combine the directorates into a singleorganization,rather than making one directorate subordinate to another. Anunderlying goalof the effort is to make sure "everyone has a home in the neworganization."

Thisarticle was provided by Space News,dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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