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The Business of Space

Jul 31, 2009
by Carrie Pack Chowske, '00

Alumnus Mike Galluzzi works to eliminate redundancies in America’s space program while NASA transitions from the shuttle to the moon and beyond

Mike Galluzzi, ’88, is in the business of space. And right now the space business is in a period of transition.

The current shuttle program is set to retire by September 2010, leaving a gap in human space transportation for at least a few years while the new “Constellation” program takes off. Constellation’s plans echo the heyday of the space program with exploration of the moon and eventually manned missions to Mars.

One of Galluzzi’s jobs as NASA’s supply chain manager for the Explorations Systems Mission Directorate is to help ease the transition by streamlining common processes and eliminating redundancies — even looking at ways to use the resources on the lunar surface as part of the interplanetary supply chain. He calls it “designing for sustainment.”

“When you look at us going to the moon and beyond, I like to say ‘Spares are not an option,’ ” he said. “We really have to be focused on what we call the ‘ilities,’ which is reliability, maintainability, supportability and more importantly, affordability, and from an agency perspective, accountability.”

With the significant time gap between human space flight programs, it is unknown whether the companies that supply components of the shuttle will still be producing the same products. Galluzzi says this is the key to his line of work. It’s not just about streamlining current business practices. It’s also about ensuring these same processes can be applied to future programs as well.

“What we’re [NASA’s] designing today may be obsolete when we get up to production,” he said. “So it’s my job to ensure a healthy supply base and ensure that we’re flexible and agile enough to allow the engineering community to design in the next evolution or innovative product.”

At the end of the day, space exploration is still a business. But because of its unique challenges — NASA is entering uncharted territory with the Constellation program — existing business models don’t always apply. Missions to the moon are no longer a week-long “camping trip.” The goal is in-depth, long-term space exploration, and that creates new supply chain dilemmas. Any delay in parts or supplies increases exponentially the moment you leave Earth. Galluzzi has invented software that could help to solve some of those problems.

Prime Supplier™ is a one-of-a-kind supply chain simulation software, which NASA is pursuing a patent on. He developed the software to look at the percentage of business NASA generates for its suppliers, which are shared with the Department of Defense and the aerospace industry as a whole, and to help NASA determine mutually beneficial systems, pooling of resources, etc.

Galluzzi says his philosophy comes from a basic economic concept he learned at Flagler: supply and demand.

“How do you adjust to changing economic and customer demands?” he said. “That is essentially the foundation that I built everything else on, from Prime Supplier, to simulation, to possibly ultimately influencing policy for the agency.”

In an industry where the average civilian worker is an engineer, Galluzzi gets to use his knowledge of business to influence processes that could be used for years to come. But that career path wasn’t always clear.

After graduating from Flagler on a baseball scholarship, Galluzzi was somewhat torn. Within the course of two weeks he had three possible career options: play baseball in Italy, become an Air Force pilot or work in the space industry. Three choices that, in his mind, were dreams come true.

Galluzzi says the decision to join Rockwell International Space Systems Division and work as a logistics engineer on the environmental control and life support system for the space shuttle seemed like the best chance for a long-term career.

“I had the most unique opportunities fall into my lap,” he said. “Then the offer from Rockwell came. So I thought it’s time for me to quit playing around and grow up.”

Galluzzi has “grown up” immersed in business, from that first job at Rockwell, to returning to school for more specialized training, to owning his own company. It’s all helped him understand those basic supply and demand principles even more. But business models aside, Galluzzi really believes in the objectives of space exploration.

“When you start seeing the next vehicle … you start saying ‘Wow, I want more of this. We’ve got to do more.’ When I first stepped into the lunar rover (LER), I thought, ‘I want more … we need to go to Mars.’ We need to do all of these things, and the timeline, from my personal standpoint, is too long. We need to become agile and come up with quicker design and contracting processes.”

That includes looking out for the types of scenarios that will eliminate situations like on Apollo 13 when NASA scientists literally had to find a way to fit a square peg into a round hole because parts weren’t interchangeable.

It’s undeniably a tall order to fill, but Galluzzi tries to stay focused on the big picture.

“There are times when you just stand back [and realize the magnitude of what you are doing],” he said, “but I try not to let that happen. I must stay focused and not be so lost in the fog of admiration that you lose touch with what’s important. Literally people can get hurt if you don’t focus.”

Of course, when you spend your days “seeing what some might consider science fiction become reality,” it’s hard not to live every day in awe of your surroundings.

“We really do work with rocket scientists,” he said.

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