SMA Leadership Profile: Frank Groen

2-minute read
SMA Leadership Profile: Frank Groen

In his first year as director of his division, Dr. Frank Groen is focused on flexibility, adaptability and preparing to ensure the safety and success of future missions.

Groen became the Director of the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance (OSMA) Safety and Assurance Requirements Division (SARD) in September of 2013. He is responsible for overseeing agency-level efforts to maintain and enhance the Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) disciplines, and advocating for related technical considerations through the development and dissemination of policy, standards, guidance and advice, as well as methods and tools.

Groen and SARD are facing an era of transformation, with recent and anticipated changes to NASA’s mission, acquisition models, engineering practices and technological advances impacting how the division operates. Groen sees a new emphasis on speed, efficiency and adaptability to understand and overcome challenges that impact safety and mission success at NASA. These challenges include

  1. Changes in acquisition practices, such as the movement to commercial crew transportation capabilities, have shifted NASA’s focus from oversight to insight and collaboration, which requires a re-evaluation of traditional assurance processes encoded in NASA’s assurance requirements.
  2. Changes to engineering practices, such as an ongoing evolution toward agile software development and model-based systems engineering, will require the adaptation of assurance methods and also provide opportunities for assurance strategies to be implemented more effectively and efficiently.
  3. Technological advancements have been cropping up at an exponential rate in the last few years, with rapid advancements in areas such as 3-D printing, electronic parts, manufacturing processes and production techniques. The division, with the help of its delegated programs such as the Non-Destructive Evaluation program and NASA Electronic Parts Program, has the challenge of keeping pace with these advancements to produce new and valid assurance methods.
  4. NASA’s missions also have expanded to include smaller spacecraft and a greater emphasis on research and technological development performed by the Space Technology Mission Directorate. These changes have initiated a need for SARD to adapt its safety and mission assurance practices and re-assess its capabilities and methodologies.

The task ahead for Groen and SARD is to keep up with these changes, to be flexible and adaptable, and to meet these new challenges head on.

“With the help of our discipline leads, our office will regularly assess our challenges and opportunities and establish priorities to best serve NASA’s missions while protecting the public, workforce, assets and environment, now and in the future,” said Groen.

Prior to this position, Groen worked as the Manager for Reliability and Maintainability in the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. Groen also served as the document manager for NASA’s Human Rating directive, program executive for the Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) Payload Safety program, and program executive of the Micrometeoroids and Orbital Debris (MMOD) program. Groen holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Reliability Engineering from the University of Maryland and an Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Delft University of Technology.