Dynetics Completes ‘Lunar Lander’ Preliminary Design Review

The U.S. is another “small step” closer to landing Americans on the moon, thanks to a Huntsville company.

Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, has completed the preliminary design review of its Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis Program, marking another critical milestone in human spaceflight. This review provided NASA with insight into the design of the human lander that Dynetics hopes will carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon, Dynetics said in a news release.

“This review, a culmination of nine months of intense design and analysis, included a robust portfolio of development and risk reduction testing,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics HLS program manager. “The PDR demonstrated that our team’s preliminary lander design meets all the system requirements with acceptable risk while remaining within current cost and schedule constraints.”

Additionally, the team presented detailed technical descriptions of design trades, analyses conducted, and a design status to NASA. Verification methods were also explained.

“This is another step toward the lunar surface,” said Kim Doering, vice president of Space Systems at Dynetics. “The PDR confirmed that our team is ready to proceed with a detailed design as we approach the next milestone, Critical Design Review.

“This is yet another notable review that brings us one step closer to landing the next Americans on the moon.”

The Dynetics team has completed four reviews in the 10-month initial Base phase – a systems requirements review, a certification baseline review, the continuation review, and now the preliminary design review.

Sit Down with Success: Lynn Troy, CEO of Troy 7

Sitdown with Success is a feature of the Huntsville Business Journal on entrepreneurs and their keys to success. This month’s subject is Lynn Troy, founder/president/CEO of Troy 7.

Lynn Troy: “Fear of the unknown shouldn’t hold anyone back.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Lynn Troy calls herself an unlikely entrepreneur. Coming up through the ranks at Teledyne Brown Engineering from a co-op position while completing her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UAH, starting her own government contracting business was not a long-term goal. That changed when she and her husband John got married and a contract they were working on seemed to be slipping away.

Troy7 has been a contender for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Best Place to Work Award for eight consecutive years from 2013-2020, and a winner for six of those years. In 2020, Troy7 was named the Chamber’s Woman Owned Small Business of the Year.

A graduate of the Huntsville Leadership Flagship Class (L29), Troy serves on several local non-profit boards. She is vice chair of Economic Development for the Huntsville Madison Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee; vice president of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity; treasurer and finance chair for the Community Foundation; 2021 chair of the American Heart Association’s Heart Ball Executive Leadership Team; and 305 8th Street.

She also serves on UAH’s Last Mile Committee; Women’s Philanthropy Society’s Advisory Board; and is a Hudson Alpha Ambassador.

In 2018, Lynn received the Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership award and was recognized as one of Alabama Media Groups Women Who Shape the State.

In 2013 she received the Technology Award from WEDC’s Women Honoring Women.

What initially attracted you to the Missile Defense industry?

When I was in the ninth grade, I had to do a paper on Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” (Strategic Defense Initiative) program and honestly, I had no idea that was going to be my career destiny.

I thought I was going to be a lawyer, but those plans changed when I found myself a young mother in high school and unable to go off to college or law school.

My dad encouraged me to pursue engineering. He was a mechanical engineer, and knew UAH had an excellent engineering program. He thought electrical would give me the broadest career options, so I enrolled at UAH. When I began working in the Optics Department developing infrared signature models of rockets, that’s when I knew I was hooked on missile defense.

You started working for Teledyne Brown Engineering while you were still at UAH, is that correct?

Teledyne Brown Engineering hired me into their co-op program when I was 18 years old and I had just completed my freshman year at UAH. I was so deeply grateful for the opportunity to have my first real job that I honestly thought I would retire from TBE one day.

It took me 5½ years to complete my electrical engineering degree but along the way I learned so much about government contracting and the various work Teledyne was doing.

I was able to rotate through different assignments and when I landed in the Optics Department, I was hooked, and had found something that I truly loved doing.

It sounds like you had a strong support system behind you at TBE.

I had some amazing mentors who invested in me and helped me not only technically, but who encouraged me to pursue leadership positions.

I was selected for an incredible opportunity to participate in TBE’s Female and Minority Management Training program.

What triggered your starting your own business?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Teledyne Brown was forced to divest the contract I supported to another company, and Teledyne Solutions was created. While we all hoped it would be an adequate solution to create the separation the government required, after a few years the government decided it was still not enough.

It was during this time, the idea of forming a new company came to being. I had recently remarried and the date was July 7, 2007 or 07/07/07, and that is where I came up with the name of our company, Troy7.

My husband John truly believed we could, together, start a new business.

It was a hard decision to leave TBE after almost 20 years and so many wonderful opportunities, but within a relatively short time after we left, Teledyne Solutions was forced to dissolve as an entity, so I believe we made the best decision we could for us and our family.

How did Troy7 evolve?

With the uncertainty and likely loss of the contract we were on at Teledyne becoming more troubling, we began looking for alternative customers and contracts, and discovered an opportunity with the MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System) program.

MEADS was a tri-national (US, Italy, Germany) program that evolved out of the U.S. Patriot program, and they were nearing their test phase and needed targets to test their system against.

Target flight testing was truly both mine and John’s professional passions. I loved the threat analysis, which ensured the target matched the threat of interest in optical, radar, and flight performance characteristics.

John loved the rockets themselves and knew every detail about them and processing the telemetry flight data on-site all over the world.

We believed we would never have a better opportunity to see if we could build a company doing what we loved than that moment, so, we pulled the trigger and incorporated Troy7 on Nov. 28, 2007, less than  five months after we got married.

Looking back, it’s pretty surreal that we both quit what had been very stable and wonderful jobs and took that leap together. But we both felt strongly that we needed each other, and wouldn’t have been successful if only one of us had tried to do it without the other.

Was the MEADS program your launch pad, so to speak?

We didn’t bring a contract with us for the MEADS work. It was new work, and we worked with (Space and Missile Defense Command) and the NAMEADSMA (NATO MEADS Management Agency) team to set up their Targets Test Program. We were incredibly blessed to support that effort for five years and many flight tests at White Sands Missile Range.

The final test in the program was a dual intercept mission with a south bound ballistic target – John was the Test Conductor – and a north bound air breathing QF-4 target – where I was stationed.

The MEADS system performed brilliantly and successfully destroyed both targets.

It is a little weird to celebrate the destruction of your work, but that’s the life of targets engineers!

During those five years we were working hard to develop new customers and contract vehicles to grow our business and it was a lot of very long days and nights and several years of no vacations or down time, but it was worth it, and I would do it all again.

In a lot of ways, those early formative years are the most fun and exciting, even though you are tired and struggling at times.

What specific challenges did you face in getting started on your own?

I think the biggest challenge we faced in getting started was all the things we didn’t know we didn’t know.

Lynn Troy: “Huntsville is rich with successful small businesses whose founders and leaders are eager to advise and mentor new small businesses.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

I often tell people, I was too naïve to realize how much I didn’t know about the business side, insurances, taxes, corporation rules, the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation), accounting, etc. And it’s probably for the best.

I think it is fear of all those unknowns that holds people back.

I joke that John and I were still in our honeymoon phase, so we were willing to figure it all out as we went. And that is one of the beautiful things about Huntsville. There are so many wonderful and successful people in this town who are all willing to help you, share their experiences, and guide you through the unknowns. Fear of the unknown shouldn’t hold anyone back.

What vision do you have for your business in the future?

We experienced some change in 2020 when John retired.

He had a goal to retire on his 60th birthday so we worked hard to make that a reality last September.

He still comes in a couple days a week to wrap up a project, but it’s more like he’s a consultant, not day-to-day.

This was a huge change for me personally and professionally, and we spent a lot of time talking through the future and our goals.

We know it’s time for us to shift our focus from predominantly subcontracting to going after more prime contracts. We have been so blessed to work with some of the best primes in Huntsville and we have learned so much from them.

It’s our goal to grow into a prime role and treat our teammates as well as we have been treated. Although our biggest customer is the Missile Defense Agency, we also support the Army, NASA, and the Air Force.

Our first priority is ensuring we continue providing excellent support to these customers and exploring prime contract options across our customer base is our current growth focus for the future.

What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the government contracting business?

Don’t be afraid to fail but be prepared to learn from the surprises and disappointments you will inevitably encounter.

One of my mentors from UAH, Dr. Bassem Mahafza, told me to imagine myself 10 years into the future and ask myself would I look back and regret it if I didn’t at least try. I’m still grateful for his wise counsel.

Number two – build the dream and the vision of your business in your mind before you start building the business. The opportunities will change and the paths to them will detour, but it is essential to know what you’re striving to accomplish before you take the first step toward that goal.

Number three – don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek advice. Huntsville is rich with successful small businesses whose founders and leaders are eager to advise and mentor new small businesses.

Troy7 and I personally have benefitted greatly from Huntsville small business leaders for over 13 years. I continue to try to pay it forward and help mentor new small businesses the same way I was blessed with help.

I will say, there are more barriers to entry today than when we started Troy7. Expensive IT infrastructure requirements, slower and more restrictive acquisitions, and downward pressure on rates, to name a few.

All of these factors require careful consideration but should not be deal breakers since there are so many resources available to help.

And probably the most important advice I could offer – carefully choose your employees and respect and take care of them. From the bottom of my heart, I believe Troy7 has thrived because of our dedicated and talented Troy7 family. It is not just the services we offer that make Troy7 a successful company. It’s our people.

Blue Origin Mission Demonstrates Crew Capsule Upgrades

It was a picture-perfect launch and landing Thursday for Blue Origin’s New Shepard program.

The NS-14 booster touches down at the landing pad about two miles from where it lifted off at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas. (Blue Origin Photo)

Named after astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, New Shepard is Blue Origin’s fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle.

New Shepard is designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line (100 km), the internationally recognized boundary of space, returning them to Earth with minimal refurbishment required between flights. Thursday’s flight was the 14th mission to space and back for the New Shepard program. 

The rocket engine company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a $200 million, 350,000 square-foot plant in Cummings Research Park. The plant will make the company’s reusable BE-4 and BE-3U engines for the New Glenn program.

Named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, New Glenn is a single-configuration, heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, cislunar, and beyond.

The engines will be tested at Test Stand 4670, the historic site at Marshall Space Flight for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engine. Blue Origin has begun refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history, bringing the sound of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville. 

Mission NS-14 featured a crew capsule outfitted with astronaut experience upgrades for upcoming flights with passengers onboard. There were no passengers on Thursday’s flight.

Among the upgrades in the six-passenger capsule are speakers in the cabin with a microphone and a push-to-talk button at each seat so astronauts can continuously talk to Mission Control; an alert system with a panel at each seat relaying safety messages to passengers; and cushioned wall linings and sound suppression devices to reduce ambient noise inside the capsule.  

The NS-14 crew capsule descends to the West Texas desert after Thursday’s mission. (Blue Origin Photo)

Blue Origin said the flight continued to prove the robustness and stability of the New Shepard system and the BE-3PM liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine. 

The New Shepard vehicle has completed 14 successful consecutive launches, 13 consecutive successful booster landings, three successful escape tests (from the pad, mid-flight at Max Q, and in the vacuum of space), and 15 consecutive successful crew capsule landings, including a pad escape. One of New Shepard’s boosters has flown five times consecutively; the other has flown a record seven times consecutively, both with minimal refurbishment between flights.

 Key Mission Stats 

      • 15th consecutive successful crew capsule landing (every flight in program, including pad escape test in 2012). 
      • The crew capsule reached an apogee of 347,568 feet. 
      • The booster reached an apogee of 347,211 feet.
      • The mission elapsed time was 10 minutes, 10 seconds and the maximum ascent velocity was 2,242 mph.

Huntsville Named Headquarters of U.S. Space Command

U.S. Space Command headquarters will be based at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, the Air Force announced today.

“The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense,” a statement from the Air Force Public Affairs Office said. “Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs.

“Additionally, Redstone Arsenal offered a facility to support the headquarters, at no cost, while the permanent facility is being constructed.”

The decision was made by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett. Gov. Kay Ivey was informed today of the selection by Bob Moriarity, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for installations.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command,” Ivey said in a statement. “Our state has long provided exceptional support for our military and their families as well as a rich and storied history when it comes to space exploration.”

Mayor Tommy Battle credited U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby for leading the way for Huntsville.

“The City of Huntsville is honored that Redstone Arsenal has been named as the site for the United States Space Command,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We are grateful to Sen. Richard Shelby for his confidence in Huntsville. Senator Shelby has been front and center of this space effort from its inception.

“As one of our nation’s strongest defense advocates and most knowledgeable leaders in defense matters, Sen. Shelby recognized the value of a program that would focus on space assets and threats. It is his vision to protect our country in space with a dedicated command.”

Ivey agreed, saying multiple agencies working together show the strength and diversity of Huntsville’s work force.

“This combination only enhances the outstanding relationships we have with the 65 diverse federal agencies on Redstone Arsenal, not to mention the growing presence of the FBI and other federal installations,” Ivey said. “The bottom line is simple: the Redstone Region is the most natural choice to become home to such an important mission for our country.”

Other sites under consideration were Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt AFB in Nebraska, Patrick AFB in Florida, Peterson AFB in Colorado and Port San Antonio in Texas.

This is the second significant federal command to be located in Huntsville, with the Space Command joining the FBI at Redstone Arsenal.

Championed the last four years by Shelby, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, the FBI facility would be a “Headquarters 2” for the agency. Efforts to build a new D.C.-based headquarters failed, leading Shelby to push Congress for appropriations totaling more than $1.1 billion the last three years to facilitate the move.

“This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force,” Shelby said in a statement. “This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things.

“I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”

The Redstone Regional Alliance and the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce released a joint statement commending the selection.

“We are confident that the Air Force has made the correct decision to base the Space Command Headquarters at Redstone Arsenal,” the statement said. “The Redstone site offers the Department of Defense the lowest cost option with superior regional capabilities, capacity and quality of life. We look forward to working with Space Command to make this transition as seamless as possible.

“Our region has successfully executed similar moves on several previous occasions and that experience will greatly inform our efforts. We greatly appreciate the support that Sen. Shelby and his staff have provided as well as the efforts of the state and regional team members who have provided their critical support.”

Battle said the Air Force site-selection team “was meticulous in its review and assessment of potential sites, and they put us through the paces in their research these past two years. We will make you proud of your decision.

“The site selection team recognized what we know to be true — Huntsville is a natural choice. We are space. We do space. From the Redstone Arsenal installation to the Space and Missile defense assets that are here, Huntsville has been the leader in all thing space since day one. From the 1950s when Explorer I went into space to the birthplace of NASA, space is in our DNA. We have built the space infrastructure and technical expertise to lead this effort.

“The site team learned about the Redstone region’s proven track record in relocating military commands to our community. Army Aviation moved here in 1995 and Army Materiel Command moved here in 2011. Our low cost of living and doing business means the country’s tax paying dollar will stretch much farther, providing more valuable resources for our space effort and warfighter.

“We look forward to the partnership with U.S. Space Command and pledge to make them a success from day one.”

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said the strength of the regional partnership was a key to the decision.

“Once again, the selection of Redstone Arsenal for US Space Command demonstrates what regional partnerships can do when we collectively work together to reach our goals,” he said. “I congratulate all of our local, state, and federal leaders from Alabama, particularly Senator Richard Shelby for his leadership and work to bring Space Command to Alabama, along with our neighbors in Tennessee that have worked together to prove Redstone Arsenal is the true and best choice for the United States Space Command Headquarters.”

 

Dynetics Achieves Critical NASA Milestone

Dynetics has submitted its proposal for Option A of the Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis Program. The team has also completed the HLS Continuation Review, a critical milestone during the 10-month base period, which NASA will use to assess progress on HLS hardware development and program plans.

The Huntsville company is performing main engine tests at its propulsion test site in Huntsville and at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, has also conducted tests of its smaller reaction control system engines at its own facilities.

Dynetics is using a low-fidelity hardware simulator and has added a software simulator provided by Draper Laboratory. The new simulator component enables early human testing of the Dynetics HLS guidance, navigation, and control software.

“Our team is making great progress on our system design and analysis, hardware development, and testing. The incredible volume of technical data and outstanding products delivered to date speak to the power of the swift, yet rigorous, engineering approach with which the team has executed,” said Kim Doering, vice president of space systems at Dynetics. “We believe this body of work lays a solid foundation for our crew-centric, sustainable solution to become NASA’s choice for safe human transportation to and from the lunar surface.”

Members of the team are Sierra Nevada, Oceaneering, Paragon Space Development and Maxar Technologies. The team will continue with the subsystem- and system-level design reviews and critical technology demonstrations as it awaits NASA’s Option A selection decision early this year.

Huntsville Officially 1 of 6 contenders for Space Command Headquarters

What are the chances of Huntsville being selected by the Air Force to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters? Well the odds just got a lot better.

The Redstone Region has been selected as one of six final contenders for the honor and with Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal’s distinguished space and military legacy, state and local leaders think we are in a strong position to make it happen!

The other five sites are Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado and Port San Antonio in Texas.

We are the Rocket City!

“The Redstone region provides an unparalleled workforce for the U.S. Space Command with capabilities that include missile defense, aerospace, and intelligence,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We have the infrastructure capacity, community support, low cost of doing business and high-quality expertise to serve as the headquarters for USSPACECOM. When you analyze all the variables, Huntsville is the clear choice for this vitally important unified combatant command.”

Air Force officials have said previously it could take some six years to build the facilities necessary to house U.S. Space Command, once a location is chosen.

Redstone Arsenal already provides all the assets necessary such as military housing, health care, child care, commissary, and personnel and logistics support to assure the U.S. Space Command. 

The region boasts a well-established business, government, and community support ecosystem with a proven record of success in the space industry.

Redstone Arsenal isn’t simply a military installation. It is a federal R&D campus with more than 70 entities including NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center; the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command headquarters; the Army Materiel Command; the Program Executive Offices for Army Aviation and Missiles & Space; Foreign Military Sales; the majority of the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency operations; and a wide portfolio of specialized R&D capabilities addressing all aspects of space, missile and missile defense endeavors.

Not to mention, the FBI will have a 4,000-agent presence at a massive campus on the arsenal. This area received a ringing endorsement from David Schlendorf, the FBI’s associate executive assistant director.

“The northern Alabama area and Redstone Arsenal, in particular, offer numerous advantages to the FBI: Secure locations to conduct investigative and administrative operations, lower overall business costs, ample opportunities to leverage existing science and technology expertise and capabilities, proximity to leading universities and colleges and a favorable quality of life for our employees,” he said in the annual Redstone Update presentation recently.

The “Redstone Region” boasts the highest per capita concentration of engineering workforce in the nation. The universities offer research resources specifically tailored to address the most challenging problems facing both our military and other technology-centric agencies. 

Huntsville’s world-class aerospace/defense cluster consists of 400 aerospace/defense companies; 80,000 employees in aerospace/defense; the nation’s second largest research park in Cummings Research Park; and more than 30 of the top 40 U.S. defense companies. 

Local governments are investing in our success, including $360 million for roads and greenways, plus fiber to the home, retail and dining growth, residential and commercial development, and strategic investments in cyber, geospatial, energy, and biotech.

Furthermore, a cohesive congressional delegation of representatives in the greater North Alabama and South Central Tennessee is well-positioned to support growth, especially on the Appropriations and Armed Services committees.

And as if we need more compelling reasons to take the mantle, we have energy costs nine percent lower than the U.S. average thanks to TVA, and state and local taxes that are 33 percent lower than the U.S. average. Overall, Huntsville’s metro is a low-cost, high-value leader in the space industry with a cost of living 6.6 percent below the U.S. average. 

Battle put it simply: “When you analyze all the variables, Huntsville is the clear choice for this vitally important unified combatant command.”

Stellar Group Named to Advisory Board for Drake State Space Construction Research Program

A nine-member advisory board has been named to oversee Drake State Community  & Technical College’s new Frontiers Research Program.

The Frontiers Research  Program was established after Drake State was selected by NASA’s Marshall Space  Flight Center as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies to support the Artemis  mission

The Frontiers Advisory Board, made up of technical experts, NASA officials and  community leaders will provide guidance to the research team throughout the year long project. 

“NASA is calling on us to help develop construction techniques suitable for use on the  moon,” said Dr. Pat Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College. “Our advisory board has the expertise to help guide our efforts as we complete this  significant work.” 

In addition to the advisory board, the Frontiers Research team will be supported by  representatives from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and ICON, a construction technologies company leading the 3D space construction research efforts for NASA. 

Drake State is the first community college and only Historically Black community college to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s CAN opportunity since its inception in 2013.

The Frontiers Research Program team – which consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s Engineering Design program  – will test 3D-printed concrete structures to help develop construction techniques for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

Frontiers Research Program Advisory Board Members 

Joe Fitzgerald – Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama 

Jeff Haars – Vice President and Deputy Program Manager, Jacobs Space Exploration

Laura Hall – State Representative (D) District 19 

Larry Lewis – Cofounder and President, PROJECTTXYZ, Inc. 

John Mankins – President, Artemis Innovation Management Systems 

John Meredith – President Pro Tem, District 5, Huntsville City Council 

Raymond Pierce – President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation 

Ritchie Whorton – State Representative (R) District 22 

Lisa Williams – Cofounder and President, 3D Research Corp.

Evan Jensen – ICON

Jason Ford – ICON

Dmitri Julius – ICON

Huntsville Companies Among Fortune Best Small & Medium Workplaces

Playing on a national stage, three Huntsville-based business have landed on Fortune’s Top 100 Best Small & Medium Workplaces 2020 in the country.

All three companies – Intuitive Research and Technology Corp., PeopleTec and Canvas – were recognized by Fortune magazine as top performing companies. To be eligible for the ranking, they must also be Great Places to Work-Certified companies, meaning at least 70 percent of the companies’ employees report a consistently positive experience working at their company.

Earning a spot of the list is based on confidential survey feedback representing more than 189,000 employees working at small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States.

Intuitive, an aerospace engineering and analysis firm in Cummings Research Park, is ranked the highest on the list at No. 5. Ninety-eight percent of Intuitive’s employees say it is a great place to work, compared to 59 percent of employees at a typical U.S.-based company.

“It is a true testament to the Intuitive culture and our employees that we have been honored as Best Workplace in the Nation nine years in a row, all nine years in the top five,” said Intuitive President Vergenia Shelton. “Receiving this honor reflects what is most important to Intuitive … Our employees are the driving force to our success, which is why we invest so heavily in our people. It has always been our priority to provide a workplace where employees are proud of where they work and excited about what they do.”

Also in Cummings Research Park, PeopleTec. is ranked No. 9. The employee-owned small business got its start in Huntsville in 2005 to help provide and retain a highly skilled workforce throughout the area. The No. 9 ranking came with a 98 percent employee satisfaction rate.

“Our unique culture and our commitment to the Warfighter creates a second home for our employee-owners, where trust is high, and everyone feels welcome,” PeopleTec CEO Terry Jennings said.

Coming in at No. 35, Canvas provides services and technical solutions for federal and commercial customers. The company finished with the highest positive employee rating from among the three at 99 percent.

“Canvas is proud to be recognized by our employees for creating one of the best small business workplaces,” said CEO Jami Peyton. “Our high-trust culture has not only helped us navigate a challenging 2020, but also continued to propel Canvas forward in the best way possible. We simply couldn’t be a Best Small Workplace or Great Place to Work without our incredible employees.”

Great Place to Work is a global people analytics and company culture research firm. Certification is based on responses to employee questionnaires based on the extent to which employees trust leaders; the respect with which people are treated; the fairness of workplace decisions; and how much camaraderie there is among the team.

Drake State to Partner with Marshall Space Fight Center in Historic Agreement

Drake State Community & Technical College is shooting for the Moon and has set a historic precedent on the way.

Marshall Space Flight Center selected Drake State as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies that will help prepare for sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade and for future human missions to Mars. 

With the selection, Drake State becomes the first community college and only Historically Black Community College to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s Cooperative Agreement Notice program since its inception in 2013.

“Being Huntsville’s community college, we’re especially proud to have received this CAN award,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, President of Drake State Community & Technical College. “We’ve  been a part of the Rocket City since 1961. The opportunity to support NASA with our research  project is truly exciting.”

Drake State submitted a proposal to Marshall’s seventh competitive CAN for Dual-Use Technology Development solicitation. The award will fund collaborative research in support of NASA’s Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction  Technologies project. This project aims to develop, deliver, and demonstrate capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials. 

The research team consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s  Engineering Design program. It will test 3D printed concrete structures to help develop  construction techniques suitable for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

The one-year research project is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and  Education Project. The research team will collaborate with ICON, an innovative 3D printing construction company in Austin, Texas. ICON is working with NASA on early research  and development of a space-based construction system that could support exploration of the Moon and Mars.

“Our team will use 3D printing technology to build concrete structures, conduct destructive and  non-destructive testing, and collect and analyze data on the material that ICON produces,” said Robert Grissim, Director of Workforce Development at Drake State Community & Technical  College and Principle Investigator. 

Additionally, instructors in the Engineering Design program will develop curriculum related to the research project and add the specialty classes to the College’s course catalog. 

“Our goal is to continue to support the Artemis mission and NASA after our research project is completed,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, Dean of Instruction at Drake State Community &  Technical College. “Training our students to work in space-based construction technology will create a pipeline to a workforce skilled in this highly-specialized field.” 

 

Dynetics Unveils Lunar Lander Module Mockup

Dynetics recently unveiled a test version of its full-scale lunar lander that the company hopes will take people to the moon.

The Dynetics test article will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program,, Dynetics said in a statement. The Dynetics team will use the test article for analysis, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

The mockup includes the crew module, autonomous logistics platform for all-moon cargo access, ascent and descent propellant tanks and deployable solar arrays. This low-slung design could allow for easier and safer access to the lunar surface.

The full-scale lunar landing system mockup will be used for testing for NASA’s Artemis program. (Dynetics Photo)

“Our team is pleased to bring this system to life,” Kim Doering, Dynetics Vice President of Space Systems, said in a statement. “Our reusable, sustainable approach is ready to support a safe and successful hardware delivery for NASA’s mission.”

The focus of the test article rests on crew interfaces, enabling the team to test crew activities within the module. The flexible design is readily reconfigurable, allowing the human systems integration team and flight crew to review and provide feedback on early concept designs and execute quick-turn iterations.

The test article was constructed just three months after the start of the contract and was built and delivered in collaboration with LSINC, a Huntsville-based subcontractor.

Huntsville-based Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is competing with  is one of three prime contractors selected to design a lander for the NASA’s Artemis Human Landing System Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Dynetics; SpaceX; and The National Team, led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, were awarded contracts in April totalling $967 million to build the landing systems.