NASA Workforce Map
Awards and Recognition

Agency Award Programs

Awards ceremonies are held periodically to recognize employees who have made outstanding contributions to the goals of the Agency. Special awards ceremonies are also held during the year when appropriate. Generally, relatives and friends are invited to attend all ceremonies and share in your recognition. Also, the recognition you receive may come in many forms -- certificates, medals, money, time-off, and others.


Senior Executive Service Bonuses: The SES bonus is the principal means of recognizing outstanding performance in the executive branch. Since it is used throughout the government, the SES bonus program operates under policies and requirements established by law and regulations set up by the Office of Personnel Management. These requirements dictate the purpose and scope of NASA’s bonus program and establish the minimum standards required for awards.

Annual Performance Awards: A lump-sum cash award to recognize an employee’s sustained high level of job-related performance during the annual appraisal period. To offer some guidance and suggestions for determining the value of an employee's contributions NASA developed a tool to valuate the contribution. If you need additional information, please contact your Awards Office.

Quality Step Increases (QSI): General Schedule employees may receive an additional step pay increase to recognize high quality performance above that ordinarily found. Quality step increases permanently increase an employee’s rate of basic pay.

  • Quality Step Increases (frequently asked questions)

Special Act or Service Awards: A lump-sum cash award to recognize an individual employee’s or group of employees’ suggestion, invention, or special act or service which exceeded normal job requirements that contributes to the efficiency, economy, or other improvement of Government operations in the public interest.

On-the-Spot Awards: A "Special Act or Service" award of nominal value designed to give immediate recognition for a job well done.  This award is for employees who "go the extra mile" or who perform "above and beyond the call of duty."

Time-Off Awards: Time off from work without loss of pay or charge to leave is granted to recognize an individual employee’s or group of employees’ superior accomplishment or other personal efforts. A Time-Off Award may be granted along with other forms of awards, as long as the total value of the award given reflects the value of the contribution being recognized.

Suggestion Awards: Suggestions approved for adoption within the originating Center and determined to merit consideration at other NASA Centers , as well as other agencies or departments of the Federal Government, are the responsibility of the originating Center. The originating Center is responsible for identifying other organizations, which may benefit from the suggestion, and should coordinate directly with the appropriate NASA organizations or Centers or other Federal Government agencies. For more information contact your Center Awards Office.

Career Service Recognition: NASA recognition (certificate and a service pin) for Federal career service is presented to all civil service employees. Eligibility for career service recognition is based on total years of Federal service, including all honorable military service. A NASA service pin is awarded upon completion of 5 years of service. Certificates of service and NASA pins are presented for each 5-year interval thereafter. Employees with 40 years or more of service are eligible to receive service pins, certificates, and a congratulatory letter from the Administrator. In addition, employees with 50 years or more of service are eligible to receive a congratulatory letter from the President

Space Act Awards: The awards competitions are held by the NASA Inventions and Contributions Board (ICB). These awards recognize and reward outstanding scientific or technical innovations which further the NASA mission. Space Act Awards may be paid to NASA employees, NASA contractor employees, as well as to other government, university, and industry personnel. The Office of General Counsel sponsors and selects the NASA Invention of the Year Award winners, supported by technical assistance and recommendations from the ICB. The ICB also supports the Office of the Chief Engineer, Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, and Office of the Chief Information Officer who co-sponsor the selection of the NASA Software of the Year Award. Innovators may contact their Center Awards Liaison Officer (ALO) who can assist with the procedures for submitting and obtaining Center approvals for nominations.

NASA George M. Low Awards: Sponsored by the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, these awards are NASA's premier quality and productivity award to recognize NASA's prime and sub contractors. It recognizes large and small businesses that demonstrate excellence and outstanding technical and managerial achievements in quality and technical performance in NASA-related contracts or subcontracts. The award was named after George M. Low, a NASA leader who was dedicated to quality and excellence. A site visit team to each recipient is part of the validation process using seven criteria: performance, cost, schedule, innovation, management leadership, alignment of organizational goals with NASA's strategic plans, customer orientation and adherence to the Total Quality Management philosophy. Recipient companies are honored in a special ceremony during the NASA Continual Improvement and Reinvention Conference on Quality Management in each of four categories: (1) large business product, (2) large business service, (3) small business product and (4) small business service.

Space Flight Awareness (SFA) Employee Motivation and Recognition Program: Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, this program focuses on excellence in quality and safety for the lives of the astronauts, for mission success and for the success of America ’s space program. The objective of the Program is to create for all space workers an awareness of their obligation to flight safety and mission success. Following are the various awards presented in recognition of outstanding job performance and contributions of space workers:
  • Silver Snoopy Award
  • Flight Safety Award
  • Honoree Award
  • Team Award
  • Management Award
  • Supplier Award

Agency Honor Awards:  (Any reference to Agency Honor Awards is synonymous with NASA Honor Awards) NASA’s most prestigious honor awards are presented to a number of carefully selected individuals and groups, both Government and non-Government, who have distinguished themselves by making outstanding contributions to the Agency’s mission.  The Incentive Awards Board (IAB) annually requests nominations for the various NASA honor awards.  After rigorous review by Center Review Boards and by Expert Panels consisting of leaders from across NASA, the recommended nominations are forwarded to the IAB Chair, NASA's Deputy Administrator, for approval.  NASA medals and/or certificates are, subsequently, presented to the award recipients by the Agency’s highest officials at the annual awards ceremonies held at NASA Headquarters and each NASA Center. The Call Letter is released in the December/January timeframe.

Quality and Safety Achievement Recognition (QASAR) Awards: Sponsored by the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, this award promotes safety, quality, and continuous improvement throughout NASA. They recognize Government and contractor employees who have displayed or exhibited exemplary performance in contributing to the quality and/or safety of products, services, processes, management programs and activities, or the working environment. The Administrator gives these “Best of the Best” awards at the Annual Continual Improvement and Reinvention Conference to individuals in four categories: Most significant safety or mission assurance (SMA) contribution from within the NASA SMA organization
  1. Most significant safety or quality improvement, service improvement, or initiative from a NASA employee external to the SMA organization
  2. Most significant safety or quality product improvement, service improvement, or initiative from a Government (non-NASA) employee
  3. Most significant safety or quality product improvement, service improvement, or initiative from a NASA prime or subcontractor employee

NASA Small Business Awards Programs: The NASA Office of Small Business Programs presents three annual awards: (1) The NASA Small Business Administrator’s Cup Award, (2) The NASA Small Business Advocates Awards (SBAA), and (3) The NASA Small Business Industry Awards (SBIA). The NASA Small Business Administrator's Cup (SBAC) Award recognizes the NASA Center that has the best overall small business program. The purpose of the award is to honor the significant contributions that a NASA Center has made to the Agency's small business program. The NASA Small Business Advocates Awards (SBAA) and Small Business Industry Awards (SBIA) are presented to NASA employees and NASA contractors, respectively, who make significant contributions to the Agency's small business program. These awards recognize successful and innovative practices that promote small business participation in the initiatives that NASA undertakes.

Congressional Space Medal of Honor: Established by Public Law 91-76, the President, in the name of Congress, may award this Medal to any astronaut who in the performance of his/her duties has distinguished himself/herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and of mankind. The NASA Administrator makes recommendations for this prestigious award, which may be made posthumously, to the President after review and approval by the NASA Incentive Awards Board.

NASA Financial Management Award: Recognizes innovative and effective financial management techniques, procedures, and policies that aid in the improvement of Government-wide financial management functions.

NASA Acquisition Improvement Awards: Sponsored by the Office of Procurement, these cash awards recognize NASA acquisition and program individuals for creating and implementing improved results on individual contracts or innovative changes in contracting processes that save resources and enhance mission attainment.

Military Awards and Decorations to Military Personnel Assigned to NASA: NASA supervisors are encouraged to recognize the outstanding performance of both active and reserve military personnel engaged in NASA-related activities.