Finding 3.1. The NASA plan for post-shuttle retirement of shuttle-specific training facilities is generally appropriate. However, the Shuttle Engineering Simulator Dome may be useful in training for future activities, such as rendezvous and docking operations during commercial transportation of ISS crew.
Recommendation 3.1. NASA should evaluate potential future requirements for the Shuttle Engineering Simulator Dome and, if it will be needed, should preserve this facility.
Finding 3.2a. Now that the shuttle is retired, the specific spaceflight crew operations shift from shuttle operations and ISS assembly to Soyuz and ISS nominal and emergency operations, ISS payload operations, and ISS maintenance. The requirements for training of flight crews for those ISS operations include emergency response training, extravehicular activity operations, and the full suite of nominal operations for U.S. and international partner ISS elements, including Soyuz. Thus, the ISS ground-based training facilities are required for the support of crew training for future operations and maintenance of the ISS.
Finding 3.2b. The requirements for U.S. astronaut training include international partner ISS element operations at international partner facilities and Soyuz operations in Russia. The U.S. international partner agreements also require that the United States provide for enhancing skill proficiency and training for the international partner astronauts.
Recommendation 3.2. NASA should retain the capability and training facilities to conduct International Space Station (ISS) mission-specific training after retirement of the space shuttle to ensure the continued safety and mission success of ISS operations.
Spaceflight Readiness Training
Finding 3.3a. The spaceflight readiness training requirement is derived from safety and mission success requirements, not tied to any specific mission. Although the requirement is not expressly documented at the NASA Headquarters program level, it was developed by the Flight Crew Operations Directorate in response to NASA Headquarters-controlled safety and mission success requirements and embedded at the level of the NASA JSC Certificate of Flight Readiness for safe operations of flight, which is then provided to NASA Headquarters. Any changes in spaceflight readiness training need to be made with great care because changes can result in increased risk to safety and mission success.
Finding 3.3b. Spaceflight readiness training using high-performance aircraft has been demonstrated and documented to prepare crews for successful and safe spaceflight, dating back 50 years, from the inception of the Mercury program to the current International Space Station program. SFRT is more than just flying—the full spectrum of experiences gained is not restricted to the operation of high-performance aircraft but extrapolates to crew resource management and performance under stress. SFRT is used effectively internationally to produce qualified members of the Astronaut Corps who are independent of crew position or vehicle design.
Recommendation 3.3. To ensure continued safety and mission success, NASA should maintain a spaceflight readiness training program that includes high-performance aircraft.
Finding 3.4a. FCOD maintains the Astronaut Corps and provides the capability to conduct SFRT.