“The first thing I encountered was a program-wide approach that everybody had their own schedule. The program had been slipping a few months at a time for a couple of years and people had started working to their own schedules. So I tried to instill that schedules were part of the program and we had to work to schedules. It was a matter of attitude,” he recalled. “Second, the government team was moving toward having program operations in the same group as an integration element focused on getting the hardware developed. I thought we needed a stand-alone group for operations, which included the control center management team.
“Another issue was during the budget development for 2002, we found we didn’t have enough money, which really wasn’t unusual. During the time things were not moving, the program actually was running under budget, but things had been added that were not funded. I felt the budget was underfunded, so I submitted a 2002 budget request that was substantially over guidelines. That resulted in OMB [Office of Management and Budget] establishing an independent cost evaluation committee to review the program. I thought that committee knew the answer before they started and were not really interested in the data. It was painful.”
The committee’s recommendations led to canceling a couple of elements, including a Japanese-supplied centrifuge NASA was to launch. The Russians owned, launched, and had 100 percent usage of their own material, but the other international partners used NASA resources, along with their own. NASA “charged” them for launches – not money, but a sort of bartering deal. The barter associated with the centrifuge was deleted and spent on something else. Each partner has its own labs on board ISS, but NASA has an interest in each of those as part of the bartering agreements.
“I felt the budget was underfunded, so I submitted a 2002 budget request that was substantially over guidelines. That resulted in OMB establishing an independent cost evaluation committee to review the program.”
“We were directed on what to do after the OMB review,” Holloway said. “For example, propulsion aboard the station is all Russian and NASA has no backup system. We had a program to do that, but made the decision to cancel that when we had to match the program to the budget we got, although there were some things – like the centrifuge – over which we had no control. It was not a fun time.
“The EU and Canadian partners were not directly affected by NASA’s budget, but the Japanese were. They had representatives at JSC [Johnson Space Center] and we met with them on a regular basis. We worked directly with the international project managers, not the space agency leaders. I tried to implement the idea that this really was an international space station. I tried to take everyone into consideration and treat everyone equally in the decision-making process and not always favor NASA. Having a good relationship with the project level people, be it Russians or Canadians or whatever, helped.”
The Russians had been flying their space stations for 20 years, while NASA’s experience was three missions on Skylab. On the ISS, NASA is the integrating organization and overall in charge of flight safety issues. But the Russians might have been considered the glue holding everything together.
“I tried to implement the idea that this really was an international space station. I tried to take everyone into consideration and treat everyone equally in the decision-making process and not always favor NASA. Having a good relationship with the project level people, be it Russians or Canadians or whatever, helped.”
“After Columbia, we wouldn’t have had a space program if it hadn’t been for the Russians. In the big picture, the Russians have been very cooperative and did what they needed to do. And they were very capable. They might give us a hard time about something from time to time, but, overall, they were very supportive of the program,” he said.
The schedule, the first major problem he faced, was where Holloway believes he made his mark.
“I think my biggest accomplishment was I kept things on track while I was program manager. I’ve been amazed – and I had nothing to do with it – how well this system has operated and the operations and sustainment guys have been able to work around problems they’ve encountered.
“Apollo 11 was the biggest achievement of the 20th century, with only minor problems along the way, but putting this station together, with parts coming from all over the world, is absolutely amazing – especially since none of the hardware saw its physical-and data-mating pieces until they got into orbit. They’ve done more than 100 spacewalks to maintain it and keep it working. It’s an amazing thing.”
Although he is doubtful about a successful commercialization of the ISS, especially by 2024 – “I would predict, at the end of the day, the system will figure out how to keep it going until 2028” – Holloway sees the space station as a blueprint for how future manned space exploration should be done, with a major role for commercial entities.