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Marshall to Lead Lunar Lander Program with Huntsvillian in Charge

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered some welcome news Friday to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

In fact, there were two announcements:

One – he said the Marshall Center, which is in charge of developing the rocket program, will also manage the lunar lander program.

And, two, a Huntsvillian will lead that program.

“We greatly appreciate the support shown here today … for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.”

The program will be managed by Huntsville native Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan.

“Imagine this: We are landing the next man and the first woman,” Bridenstine said. “The program that will be managed here … that landing system is being managed … by one of NASA’s best engineers, right here, and she just so happens to be a woman.”

Watson-Morgan, a 30-year NASA veteran engineer and manager, previously served as deputy director of the Engineering Directorate at Marshall.

“Lisa’s appointment to this key role not only reflects NASA’s confidence in her visionary leadership, but confidence in the proven expertise and world-class capability that define Marshall’s contributions to safely landing humans on the Moon and launching complex spacecraft to the Moon and Mars,” said Marshall Director Jody Singer.

Bridenstine also noted that some members of Texas’ congressional delegation were upset that work was being split between Marshall and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, after lobbying the space agency to get the lander program.

“I understand some of their concerns,” Bridenstine said. “I will say that this is not a decision that was made lightly. A lot of hard work has been done here in Huntsville over, really, well over 10 years now regarding landing systems.”

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks thanked Bridenstine for recognizing the work performed at Marshall.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers.

“I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.”

With years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with American companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the moon.

The Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages major NASA human spaceflight programs including the Gateway, Orion, Commercial Crew and International Space Station, will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together. Johnson also will manage all Artemis missions, beginning with Artemis 1, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems.

 

Dynetics Teams with Maxar, NASA for Lunar Gateway

The United States is formulating plans to return to the moon by 2024 within the framework of the Artemis program — 55 years after NASA landed a man on the lunar surface during the Apollo days — but this time the mission is much different.

This time, NASA plans to put the first woman on the moon upon the return. This time, the country doesn’t plan to explore the Earth’s satellite and its mysteries and simply return home. This time, the goal is to establish a lunar presence with an eye already cast toward flights to Mars.

David King, CEO of Dynetics, and Mike Gold, vice president of civil space at Maxar Technologies, sign “Powering Lunar Exploration”‘ teaming agreement. (Eric Schultz/Huntsville Business Journal)

“NASA is going back to the moon and is committed to doing so by 2024,” said Mike Gold, vice president of civil space at Colorado-based Maxar Technologies. “The program is aptly called Artemis, because we are going to make history by this small step being a giant leap by putting the first woman on the surface moon.”

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. She is the goddess of the hunt and the moon.

“… this time we’re going back to the surface of the moon to stay,” said Gold. “Which is why NASA is building the Gateway.”

The Gateway project is an arm of Artemis. Gateway is a space station that will orbit the moon.

Gold recently joined political representatives and administrators from Maxar, NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center and Huntsville’s Dynetics at the latter’s campus on the western edge of the city for a press conference celebrating a “teaming agreement”’ between Maxar, Dynetics and NASA to develop Gateway.

NASA awarded Maxar a contract to spearhead the development of power and propulsion elements (PPE), which is the foundation of Gateway and spacecraft that will carry Americans back to the moon and beyond. While Maxar is a leading company in space technology, the company needed experienced partners in space travel and Dynetics was a fit to help get Americans eventually to Mars.

In a press release, Dynetics billed itself a responsive, cost-effective engineering and scientific firm with 2,000 employees providing IT solutions to national security, cybersecurity, space and critical infrastructure sections.

The Artemis/Gateway playbook calls for the country to put astronauts back on the moon in 2024, to establish a sustained human presence on and around the moon by 2028 and then prepare for missions to Mars.

Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element and will aid establishment of a sustainable presence on the moon.

Huntsville, long conjoined with space exploration, will once again take on a large role in the process.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle relayed a message through Harrison Diamond, business relations officer for the city, in honor of the “teaming agreement” signing between Gold and Dynetics CEO David King.

“He said it’s a wonderful thing to say you can’t get to the moon without going through Huntsville first,” Diamond said. “And eventually to Mars.”