Russ DeLoach, Safety and Mission Assurance director at Kennedy Space Center has more than 27 years of experience in SMA.  As director, he ensures KSC’s programs, including Ground Systems Development and Operations, Commercial Crew, Launch Services, Orion, and the International Space Station, have the necessary SMA support to succeed.

DeLoach is responsible for reviewing mishap data to see where incidents are occurring so that resources can be allocated appropriately. He also maintains and enhances core capabilities within the SMA discipline and provides that expertise to programs. He takes a very customer-focused approach and wants to ensure that SMA tailors its offerings to the needs of the center’s programs.

Beyond the Shuttle Program — Looking Towards the Future

DeLoach admits that following the end of shuttle, it was tough to move on, but slowly everyone has started to embrace the future. He points to NASA’s Safety Culture Model as guidance on how to adapt to changing times: you must have a flexible culture. Inflexibility, he notes, often stems from fear —“Am I going to have a meaningful role in this new environment?”

With Boeing, SpaceX and Space Florida all occupying facilities at KSC, one of DeLoach’s main responsibilities is ensuring that both NASA programs and commercial partners are able to operate safely and successfully at KSC. He points out that this is the first time in history two commercial companies are going through the process of launching NASA astronauts, and it’s essential that everything is done right.

Right now, KSC is focused on preparing the center to launch the Space Launch System and Orion. The SMA team is making sure that all the proper hazard analyses are done, the right controls are in place for each of the identified hazards, and that everyone knows what needs to happen for a safe launch.

A Career Spent in SMA

DeLoach has spent his entire career in NASA SMA. Immediately after graduating from the University of Florida, DeLoach was offered two positions at NASA during the post-Challenger hiring boom. Option one was to be a systems engineer working on cryogenics for the shuttle, option two was to learn about Reliability and Quality engineering in SMA. Although being a part of the Space Shuttle Program seemed interesting, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn something new.

Now a member of the Senior Executive Service, DeLoach admits he followed an unusual path to leadership, but says his years in SMA prepared him well for his current role. DeLoach sites working with design engineers, completing Fault Tree Analyses and Failure Modes and Effects Analyses, overseeing operation planning and execution, learning to identify risks, and learning how program management works as a sturdy foundation for overseeing KSC SMA. He also has experience with space propulsion,  science, payloads and institutional management portfolios.