Marshall Space Flight Center

Marshall Space Flight Center

Overview
The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is the U.S. government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

's civilian rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

ry and spacecraft propulsion
Spacecraft propulsion
Spacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. There are many different methods. Each method has drawbacks and advantages, and spacecraft propulsion is an active area of research. However, most spacecraft today are propelled by forcing a gas from the...

 research center. The largest center of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, MSFC's first mission was developing the Saturn launch vehicles
Saturn (rocket family)
The Saturn family of American rocket boosters was developed by a team of mostly German rocket scientists led by Wernher von Braun to launch heavy payloads to Earth orbit and beyond. Originally proposed as a military satellite launcher, they were adopted as the launch vehicles for the Apollo moon...

 for the Apollo moon program. Marshall is today the agency's lead center for Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 propulsion and its external tank
Space Shuttle external tank
A Space Shuttle External Tank is the component of the Space Shuttle launch vehicle that contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. During lift-off and ascent it supplies the fuel and oxidizer under pressure to the three Space Shuttle Main Engines in the orbiter...

; payloads and related crew training; International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 (ISS) design and assembly; and computers, networks, and information management. Located on the Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal is a United States Army base and a census-designated place adjacent to Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, United States and is part of the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area...

 near Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the central part of the far northern region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 Census....

, MSFC is named in honor of General of the Army
General of the Army (United States)
General of the Army is a five-star general officer and is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, does exist but has only been conferred twice in the history of the Army...

 George Marshall
George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense...

.

The center also contains the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC), a facility that supports Space Shuttle launch, payload and experiment activities at the Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

, ISS launch and experiment operations.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is the U.S. government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

's civilian rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

ry and spacecraft propulsion
Spacecraft propulsion
Spacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. There are many different methods. Each method has drawbacks and advantages, and spacecraft propulsion is an active area of research. However, most spacecraft today are propelled by forcing a gas from the...

 research center. The largest center of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, MSFC's first mission was developing the Saturn launch vehicles
Saturn (rocket family)
The Saturn family of American rocket boosters was developed by a team of mostly German rocket scientists led by Wernher von Braun to launch heavy payloads to Earth orbit and beyond. Originally proposed as a military satellite launcher, they were adopted as the launch vehicles for the Apollo moon...

 for the Apollo moon program. Marshall is today the agency's lead center for Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 propulsion and its external tank
Space Shuttle external tank
A Space Shuttle External Tank is the component of the Space Shuttle launch vehicle that contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. During lift-off and ascent it supplies the fuel and oxidizer under pressure to the three Space Shuttle Main Engines in the orbiter...

; payloads and related crew training; International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 (ISS) design and assembly; and computers, networks, and information management. Located on the Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal is a United States Army base and a census-designated place adjacent to Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, United States and is part of the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area...

 near Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the central part of the far northern region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 Census....

, MSFC is named in honor of General of the Army
General of the Army (United States)
General of the Army is a five-star general officer and is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, does exist but has only been conferred twice in the history of the Army...

 George Marshall
George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense...

.

The center also contains the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC), a facility that supports Space Shuttle launch, payload and experiment activities at the Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

, ISS launch and experiment operations. The HOSC also monitors rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

 when a Marshall Center payload is on board.

History


After the end of the war with Germany in May 1945, a program was initiated to bring to the United States a number of scientist and engineers who had been at the center of Germany's advanced military technologies. The largest and best-known activity was called Operation Paperclip
Operation Paperclip
Operation Paperclip was the Office of Strategic Services program used to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany for employment by the United States in the aftermath of World War II...

. Under this in August 1945, 127 missile specialists led by Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and in the United States after that.A former member of the Nazi party,...

 signed work contracts with the U.S. Army's Ordance Corps. Most of them had worked on the V-2 missile development under von Braun at Peenemünde
Peenemünde
The Peenemünde Army Research Center was founded in 1937 as one of five military proving grounds under the Army Weapons Office ....

.
Von Braun and the other Germans were sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, joining the Army's newly formed Research and Development Division Sub-office (Rocket).

For the next five years, von Braun and the German scientists and engineers were primarily engaged in adapting and improving the V-2 missile for U.S. applications; testing was conducted at nearby White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico
White Sands Missile Range
White Sands Missile Range is a rocket range of almost in parts of five counties in southern New Mexico. The largest military installation in the United States, WSMR includes the and the WSMR Otera Mesa bombing range...

. Von Braun had long had a great interest in rocketry for space science and exploration. Toward this, he was allowed to use a Wac Corporal rocket as a second stage for a V-2; the combination, called Bumper, reached a record-breaking 250 miles (402.3 km) altitude.

During World War II, the production and storage of ordnance shells was conducted by three arsenals nearby to Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the central part of the far northern region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 Census....

. After the war, these were mainly closed, and the three areas were combined to form Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal is a United States Army base and a census-designated place adjacent to Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, United States and is part of the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area...

. In October 1948, the Chief of Ordnance designated Redstone Arsenal as the center of research and development activities in free-flight rockets and related items, and the following June, the Ordnance Rocket Center was opened. A year later, the Secretary of the Army
United States Secretary of the Army
The Secretary of the Army is a civilian official within the Department of Defense of the United States of America with statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the United States Army: manpower, personnel, reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and...

 approved the transfer of the rocket research and development activities from Fort Bliss to the new center at Redstone Arsenal. Beginning in April 1950, about 1,000 persons were involved in the transfer, including von Braun's group. At this time, R&D responsibility for guided missiles was added, and studies began on a medium-range guided missile that eventually became the Redstone rocket.

Over the next decade, the missile development on Redstone Arsenal greatly expanded. Many small free-flight and guided rockets were developed, and work on the Redstone rocket got underway. Although this rocket was primarily intended for military purposes, von Braun kept space firmly in his mind, and published a widely read article on this subject. In mid-1952, the Germans who had initially worked under individual contracts were converted to Civil Service employees, and in 1954-55, most became U.S. citizens. Von Braun was appointed Chief of the Guided Missile Development Division.

In September 1954, von Braun, proposed using the Redstone rocket as the main booster of a multi-stage rocket for launching artificial satellites. A year later, a study for Project Orbiter
Project Orbiter
Project Orbiter was a proposed United States spacecraft, an early competitor to Project Vanguard. It was jointly run by the United States Army and United States Navy. It was ultimately rejected by the Ad Hoc Committee on Special Capabilities, which selected Project Vanguard instead...

 was completed, detailing plans and schedules for a series of scientific satellites. The Army's official role in the U.S. space satellite program was delayed, however, after higher authorities elected to use the Vanguard rocket then being developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

In February 1956, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency
Army Ballistic Missile Agency
The Army Ballistic Missile Agency was the agency formed to develop the US Army's first intermediate range ballistic missile. It was established at Redstone Arsenal on February 1, 1956 and commanded by Major General John B...

 (ABMA) was established; von Braun was the director of the Development Operations Division. One of the primary programs was a 1500 miles (2,414 km), single-stage missile that was started the previous year; intended for both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, this was designated the PGM-19 Jupiter. It was first launched in August 1956, and was eventually taken over by the U.S. Air Force. In this same time period, the ABMA developed the Jupiter C sounding rocket
Sounding rocket
A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. The origin of the term comes from nautical vocabulary, where to sound is to throw a weighted line from a ship into...

, composed of a Redstone rocket first stage and two upper stages. This was first flown in September 1956, traveling 3355 miles (5,399.3 km) and attaining an altitude of 682 miles (1,097.6 km). The Jupiter C capability was such that it could have placed a fourth stage into orbit, but that mission had been assigned to the NRL.

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1 ) was the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space...

, the first man-made earth satellite, on October 4, 1957. This was followed on November 3 with the second satellite, Sputnik 2
Sputnik 2
Sputnik 2 , or Prosteyshiy Sputnik 2 ), was the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit, on November 3, 1957, and the first to carry a living animal, a dog named Laika. Sputnik 2 was a 4-meter high cone-shaped capsule with a base diameter of 2 meters...

. The United States attempted a satellite launch on December 6, using the NRL's Vanguard rocket, but it barely struggled off the ground, then fell back and exploded. On January 31, 1958, after finally receiving permission to proceed, von Braun and the ABMA pace evelopment team used a Jupiter C in a Juno I
Juno I
The Juno I was a four-stage American booster rocket which launched America's first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. A member of the Redstone rocket family, it was derived from the Jupiter-C sounding rocket...

 configuration (addition of a fourth stage) to successfully place Explorer 1, the first American satellite, into orbit around the earth.

Effective at the end of March 1958, the U.S. Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC), was established at Redstone Arsenal. This encompassed the ABMA and its newly operational space programs. In August, AOMC and Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, a Department of Defense organization) jointly initiated a program managed by ABMA to develop a large space booster of approximately 1.5-million-pounds.thrust using a cluster of available rocket engines. In early 1959, this vehicle was designated Saturn
Saturn (rocket family)
The Saturn family of American rocket boosters was developed by a team of mostly German rocket scientists led by Wernher von Braun to launch heavy payloads to Earth orbit and beyond. Originally proposed as a military satellite launcher, they were adopted as the launch vehicles for the Apollo moon...

.

On April 2, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 recommended to Congress that a civilian agency be established to direct nonmilitary space activities, and on July 29, the President signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act
National Aeronautics and Space Act
The National Aeronautics and Space Act is the United States federal statute that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration . The Act, which followed close on the heels of the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, was drafted by the United States House Select Committee on Astronautics...

, creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The nucleus for forming NASA was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915 to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958 the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel transferred to the newly created National Aeronautics and...

 (NACA), with its 7,500 employees and Ames Research Center (ARC), Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center is the oldest of NASA's field centers, located in Hampton, Virginia, United States. It directly borders Poquoson, Virginia and Langley Air Force Base...

 (LaRC), and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory
Glenn Research Center
NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field is a NASA center, located within the cities of Brook Park, Cleveland and Fairview Park, Ohio between Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the Cleveland Metroparks's Rocky River Reservation, and has other subsidiary facilities in Ohio...

 (later LRC, then Glenn RC) becoming the initial operations of NASA.

Although there was then an official space agency, the Army continued with certain far-reaching space programs. In June 1959, a secret study on Project Horizon
Project Horizon
Project Horizon was a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a scientific / military base on the Moon. On June 8, 1959, a group at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency produced for the U.S. Department of the Army a report entitled Project Horizon, A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment...

 was completed by ABMA, detailing plans for using the Saturn booster in establishing a manned Army outpost on the moon. Project Horizon, however, was rejected, and the Saturn program was transferred to NASA.


The U.S. manned satellite space program, using the Redstone as a booster, was officially named Project Mercury
Project Mercury
In January 1960 NASA awarded Western Electric Company a contract for the Mercury tracking network. The value of the contract was over $33 million. Also in January, McDonnell delivered the first production-type Mercury spacecraft, less than a year after award of the formal contract. On February 12,...

 on November 26, 1958. With a future goal of manned flight, monkeys Able and Baker were the first living creatures recovered from outer space on May 28, 1959. They had been carried in the nose cone
Nose cone
The term nose cone is used to refer to the forwardmost section of a rocket, guided missile or aircraft. The cone is shaped to offer minimum aerodynamic resistance...

 on a Jupiter missile to an altitude of 300 miles (482.8 km) and a distance of 1500 miles (2,414 km), successfully withstanding 38 times the normal pull of gravity. Their survival during speeds over 10,000 miles per hour was America's first biological step toward putting a man into space.

On October 21, 1959, President Eisenhower approved the transfer of all Army space-related activities to NASA. This was accomplished effective July 1, 1960, when 4,670 civilian employees, about $100 million worth of buildings and equipment, and 1840 acres (7.4 km²) of land transferred from AOMC/ABMA to NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. MSFC officially opened at Redstone Arsenal on this same date, then was dedicated on September 8 by President Eisenhower in person. The Center was named in honor of General of the Army
General of the Army
General of the Army is a military rank used in some countries to denote a senior military leader, usually a General in command of a nation's Army. It may also be the title given to a General who commands an Army in the field....

 George C. Marshall
George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense...

, Army Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
The Chief of Staff of the Army is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Army, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Army; and is in...

 during World War II, United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

, and Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 winner for his world-renowned Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

.

Capabilities and projects


From its initiation, MFSC has been NASA's lead center for the development of rocket propulsion systems and technologies. During the 1960s, the activities were largely devoted to the Apollo Program – man's first visit to the Moon. In this, the Saturn Family
Saturn (rocket family)
The Saturn family of American rocket boosters was developed by a team of mostly German rocket scientists led by Wernher von Braun to launch heavy payloads to Earth orbit and beyond. Originally proposed as a military satellite launcher, they were adopted as the launch vehicles for the Apollo moon...

 of launch vehicles were designed and tested at MSFC. Following the highly successful Moon landing
Moon landing
A moon landing is the arrival of a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. This includes both manned and unmanned missions. The first human-made object to reach the surface of the Moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 2 mission on 13 September 1959. The United States's Apollo 11 was the first manned...

, including initial scientific exploration, MSFC had a major role in Post-Apollo activities; this included Skylab
Skylab
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a mass of...

, the United States' first space station. With a permanent space station as an objective, the Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 was developed as a reusable transportation vehicle, and with it came Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

 and other experimental activities making use of the Shuttle’ cargo bay. These and other projects are described in a later section. But first, MSFC's present capabilities and projects are addressed.

Present and future – 2000s onward


Marshall Space Flight Center presently has capabilities and projects supporting NASA's mission in three key areas: Lifting from Earth (Space Vehicles), Living and Working in Space (International Space Station), and Understanding Our World and Beyond (Advanced Scientific Research).

Space vehicles


MSFC is NASA's designated developer and integrator of launch systems. The state-of-the-art Propulsion Research Laboratory serves as a leading national resource for advanced space propulsion research. Marshall has the engineering capabilities to take space vehicles from initial concept to sustained service. For manufacturing, the world's largest-known welding machine of its type was installed at MSFC in 2008; it is capable of building major, defect-free components for manned-rated space vehicles.

In early March 2011, NASA Headquarters announced that MSFC will lead the efforts on a new heavy-lift rocket that, like the Saturn V of the lunar exploration program of the late 1960s, will carry large, man-rated
Human-rating certification
Human-rated or man-rated are terms used to describe the certification of a spacecraft, launch vehicleor airplaneas worthy of transporting humans. NASA and the U.S. GAO now uses "Human-rating" when describing requirements for these systems...

  payloads beyond low-Earth orbit. The Center will have the program office for what is being called the Space Launch System (SLS).
Constellation Program

Before it was cancelled by President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 in early 2010, the Constellation Program had been a major activity in NASA since 2004. In this program, MSFC was responsible for propulsion on the heavy-lift vehicles. These vehicles were designated Ares I
Ares I
Ares I was the crew launch vehicle that was being developed by NASA as part of the Constellation Program. The name "Ares" refers to the Greek deity Ares, who is identified with the Roman god Mars...

 and Ares V
Ares V
The Ares V was the planned cargo launch component of the Constellation program, which was to have replaced the Space Shuttle after its retirement in 2011. Ares V was also planned to carry supplies for a human presence on Mars...

, and would replace the aging Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 fleet as well as transport humans to the Moon, Mars, and other deep-space destinations.

Starting in 2006, the MSFC Exploration Launch Projects Office began work on the Ares projects. On October 28, 2009, an Ares I-X test rocket lifted off from the newly modified Launch Complex 39B
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
Launch Complex 39 is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, USA. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. NASA began modifying LC-39 in 2007 to...

 at Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

 (KSC) for a two-minute powered flight; then continued for four additional minutes traveling 150 miles (241.4 km) down range.
Space Shuttle

MSFC had responsibility for the Space Shuttle's propulsion engines. On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on February 1, 2003, when shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the death of all seven crew members...

 occurred, with the orbiter disintegrating during reentry and resulting in the death of its seven crew members. Flights of the other Shuttles were put on hold for 29 months. Based on a seven-month investigation, including a ground search that recovered debris from about 38 percent of the Orbiter, together with telemetry data and launch films, indicated that the failure was caused by a piece of insulation that broke off the external tank during launch and damaged the thermal protection
Space Shuttle thermal protection system
The Space Shuttle thermal protection system is the barrier that protects the Space Shuttle Orbiter during the searing heat of atmospheric reentry...

 on the Orbiter's left wing.

MSFC was responsible for the external tank, but few or no changes to the tank were made; rather, NASA decided that it was inevitable that some insulation might be lost during loss and thus required that an inspection of the orbiter's critical elements be made prior to reentry on future flights.

NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, leaving America dependent upon the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for manned space missions.
Orbital Space Plane

The initial plans for the Space Station envisaged a small, low-cost Crew Return Vehicle
Crew Return Vehicle
The Crew Return Vehicle , sometimes referred to as the Assured Crew Return Vehicle , is the proposed lifeboat or escape module for the International Space Station...

 (CRV) that would provide emergency evacuation capability. The 1986 Challenger disaster led planners to consider a more capable spacecraft. The Orbital Space Plane
Orbital Space Plane
The Orbital Space Plane program was a NASA concept designed to support the International Space Station requirements for crew rescue, crew transport and contingency cargo such as supplies, food and other needed equipment...

 (OSP) development got underway in 2001, with a early version expected to enter service by 2010. With the initiation of the Constellation program in 2004, the knowledge gained on the OSP was transferred to Johnson Space Center (JSC) for use in the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle
Crew Exploration Vehicle
The Crew Exploration Vehicle was the conceptual component of the U.S. NASA Vision for Space Exploration that later became known as the Orion spacecraft...

. No operational OSP was ever built.

International Space Station


The International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 is a partnership of the United States, Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian Space Agencies. The station has continuously had human occupants since November 2, 2000. Orbiting 16 times daily at an average altitude of about 250 mi (400 km), it passes over some 90 percent of the world's surface. It weighs over 800,000 lb (350,000 kg), and a crew of six conducts research and prepares the way for future explorations.

NASA began the plan to build a space station in 1984. The station was named Freedom in 1988, and changed to the International Space Station (ISS) in 1992.. The ISS is composed in modules, and the assembly in orbit started with the delivery of Russian module Zarya in November 1998. This was followed in December by the first U.S. module, Unity also called Node 1, built by Boeing in facilities at MSFC.

As the 21st century started, Space Shuttle flights carried up supplies and additional small equipment, including a portion of the solar power array. The two-module embryonic ISS remained unmanned until the next module, Destiny, the U.S. Laboratory, arrived on February 7, 2001; this module was also built by Boeing at MSFC. The three-module station allowed a minimum crew of two astronauts or cosmonauts to be on the ISS permanently. In July, Quest air-lock was added to Unity, providing the capability for extra-vehicular activity
Extra-vehicular activity
Extra-vehicular activity is work done by an astronaut away from the Earth, and outside of a spacecraft. The term most commonly applies to an EVA made outside a craft orbiting Earth , but also applies to an EVA made on the surface of the Moon...

 (EVA).

Since 1998, 18 major U.S. components on the ISS have been assembled in space. In October 2007, Harmony or Node 2, was attached to Destiny; also managed by MSFC, this gave connection hubs for European and Japanese modules as well as additional living space, allowing the ISS crew to increase to six. The 18th and final major U.S. and Boeing-built element, the Starboard 6 Truss Segment, was delivered to the ISS in February 2009. With this, the full set of solar arrays could be activated, increasing the power available for science projects to 30 kW. That marked the completion of the U.S. "core" of the station,

In March 2010, Boeing officially turned over to NASA the U.S. on-orbit segment of the ISS. It is planned that the International Space Station will be operated at least through the end of 2020. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet in 2011, future manned missions to the ISS will depend upon the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the immediate future.

Advanced scientific research


MSFC is involved in some of the most advanced space research of our time. Scientist/Astronaut researchers aboard the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 are engaged in hundreds of advanced experiments, most of which could not be conducted except for the zero-gravity environment. The deep-space images from the Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

 and the Chandra X-ray Observatory
Chandra X-ray Observatory
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a satellite launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. It was named in honor of Indian-American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is known for determining the maximum mass for white dwarfs. "Chandra" also means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit.Chandra...

 are made possible in part by the people and facilities at Marshall. The Center was not only responsible for the design, development, and construction of these telescopes, but it is also now home to the only facility in the world for testing large telescope mirrors in a space-simulated environment. Preliminary work has started on a Hubble successor, the James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope , previously known as Next Generation Space Telescope , is a planned next-generation space telescope, optimized for observations in the infrared. The main technical features are a large and very cold 6.5 meter diameter mirror, an observing position far from Earth,...

 (JWST); this will be the largest primary mirror ever assembled in space. In the future, the facility will likely be used for another successor, the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope
Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope
The Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope is an 8 to 16.8-meter UV-optical-NIR space telescope proposed by Space Telescope Science Institute, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope...

 (AT-LAST).

The National Space Science and Technology Center
National Space Science and Technology Center
The National Space Science and Technology Center is a joint research venture between NASA and the seven research universities of the state of Alabama, represented by the Space Science and Technology Alliance. The aim of the NSSTC is to foster collaboration in research between government,...

 (NSSTC) is a joint research venture between NASA and the seven research universities of the State of Alabama.. The primary purpose of NSSTC is to foster collaboration in research between government, academia, and industry. It consists of seven research centers: Advanced Optics, Biotechnology, Global Hydeology & Climate, Information Technology, Material Science, Propulsion, and Space Science. Each center is managed by either MSFC, the host NASA facility, or the University of Alabama in Huntsville
University of Alabama in Huntsville
The University of Alabama in Huntsville is a state-supported, public, coeducational research university, located in Huntsville, Alabama, United States, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees, and is organized in five...

, the host university.
Deep-space astronomy

The Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

 was launched in April 1990, but gave flawed images. It had been designed at MSFC, but used a primary mirror that had spherical aberration
Spherical aberration
thumb|right|Spherical aberration. A perfect lens focuses all incoming rays to a point on the [[Optical axis|optic axis]]. A real lens with spherical surfaces suffers from spherical aberration: it focuses rays more tightly if they enter it far from the optic axis than if they enter closer to the...

 due to incorrect grinding and polishing by the contractor. Facilities were not available at that time for ground-based ene-to-end optical testing, so the defect was not found until the telescope was in orbit. The design was such that repairs were possible, and three maintenance missions were flown in Shuttles during the 1990s. Another servicing mission (STS-109) was flown on March 1, 2002. Each mission resulted in considerable improvements, with the images receiving world-wide attention from astronomers as well as the public.

Based on the success of earlier maintenance missions, NASA decided to have a fifth service mission to Hubble; this was STS-125 flown on May 11, 2009. The maintenance and additions of equipment resulted in Hubble performance that is considerable better than planned in its origin. It is now expected that the Hubble will remain operational until its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope , previously known as Next Generation Space Telescope , is a planned next-generation space telescope, optimized for observations in the infrared. The main technical features are a large and very cold 6.5 meter diameter mirror, an observing position far from Earth,...

 (JWST), is available in 2014-15.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory
Chandra X-ray Observatory
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a satellite launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. It was named in honor of Indian-American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is known for determining the maximum mass for white dwarfs. "Chandra" also means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit.Chandra...

, originating at MSFC, was launched on July 3, 1999, and is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is a research institute of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it is joined with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics .-History:The SAO was founded in 1890 by...

. With an angular resolution
Angular resolution
Angular resolution, or spatial resolution, describes the ability of any image-forming device such as an optical or radio telescope, a microscope, a camera, or an eye, to distinguish small details of an object...

 of 0.5 arcsecond (2.4 µrad), it has a thousand times better resolution tnan the first orbiting X-ray telescopes. Its highly eliptical orbit allows continuous observations up 85 percent of the 65-hours in its orbital period
Orbital period
The orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

. With its ability to make X-ray images of star clusters, supernova remnants, galactic eruptions, and collisions between clusters of galaxies, in its first decade of operation it has transformed astronomer's view of the high-energy universe.

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, initially called the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), is an international and multi-agency space observatory used to study the cosmos It was launched June 11, 2008, with a design life of 5 years and the goal of 10 years. The primary instrument is the Large Area Telescope (LAT), that is sensitive in the photon energy range of 8 keV to greater than 300 GeV, and can view about 20% of the sky at any given moment.

The LAT is complemented by the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM); this can detect burst of X-rays and gamma rays in the 8-keV to 3-MeV energy range, overlapping with the LAT. The GBM is a collaborative effort between the National Space Science and Technology Center
National Space Science and Technology Center
The National Space Science and Technology Center is a joint research venture between NASA and the seven research universities of the state of Alabama, represented by the Space Science and Technology Alliance. The aim of the NSSTC is to foster collaboration in research between government,...

 in the U.S. and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
The Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics is a Max Planck Institute, located in Garching, near Munich, Germany.In 1991 the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics split up into the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, the Max Planck Institute for Physics and the...

 in Germany. MSFC manages the GBM, and Charles A. Meegan of MSFC is the Principal Investigator. Many new discoveries have been made in the initial period of operation. For example, on May 10, 2009, a burst was detected that, by its propagation characteristics, is believed to negate some approaches to a new theory of gravity.

The Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE), with Gerald J. Fishman
Gerald J. Fishman
Gerald Jay Fishman is a research astrophysicist, specializing in gamma-ray astronomy. His research interests also include space and nuclear instrumentation and radiation in space. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Fishman obtained a B.S. with Honors degree in Physics from the University of...

 of MSFC serving as Principal Investigator, is an ongoing examination of the many years of data from gamma-ray bursts, pulsars, and other transient gamma-ray phenomena. The 2011 Shaw Prize
Shaw Prize
The Shaw Prize is an annual award first presented by the Shaw Prize Foundation in 2004. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong, it honours living "individuals, regardless of race, nationality and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or...

, often called "Asia's Nobel Prize," was sharred by Fishman and Italian astronomer Enrico Costa
Enrico Costa
Enrico Costa is an Italian bobsledder who competed from 1994 to the early 2000s. He won a gold medal in the two-man event at the 1999 FIBT World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo....

 for their gamma-ray research.
Research in the ISS

For 10 years, MSFC has suppored activities in the U.S. Laboratory (Destiny) and elsewhere on the International Space Station through the Payload Operations Center
Payload Operations and Integration Center
Also known as Huntsville Operations Support Center or Payload Operations Center, it is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility that works in conjunction with the Space Station and Space Shuttle Control Centers in Houston, TX...

 (POC). The research activities include experiments on topics ranging from human physiology to physical science. Operating around the clock, scientists, engineers, and flight controllers in the POC link Earth-bound researchers throughout the world with their experiments and astronauts aboard the ISS. , this has included the coordination of more than 1,100 experiments conducted by 41 space-station crew members involved in over 6,000 hours of science research.
Solar system research

Teams at Marshall manage NASA's programs for exploring the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and other bodies throughout our solar system. These have included Gravity Probe B
Gravity Probe B
Gravity Probe B is a satellite-based mission which launched on 20 April 2004 on a Delta II rocket. The spaceflight phase lasted until 2005; its aim was to measure spacetime curvature near Earth, and thereby the stress–energy tensor in and near Earth...

, an experiment to test two predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and Solar-B
Hinode
Hinode , formerly Solar-B, is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Solar mission with United States and United Kingdom collaboration. It is the follow-up to the Yohkoh mission and it was launched on the final flight of the M-V-7 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center, Japan on 22 September 2006 at...

, an international mission to study the solar magnetic field and origins of the solar wind, a phenomenon that affects radio transmission on the Earth. The MSFC Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program Office manages projects and directs studies on lunar robotic activities across NASA.
Climate and weather research

MSFC also develops systems for monitoring the Earth's climate and weather patterns. At the Global Hydrology and Climate Center, researchers combine data from Earth systems with satellite data to monitor biodiversity conservation and climate change, providing information that improves agriculture, urban planning, and water-resource management.
Microsatellites

On November 19, 2010, MSFC entered the new field of microsatellites with the successful launch of FASTSAT  (Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite). Part of a joint DoD/NASA payload, it was launched by a Minotaur IV
Minotaur IV
Minotaur IV, also known as Peacekeeper SLV and OSP-2 PK is an active expendable launch system derived from the Peacekeeper missile. It is operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, and made its maiden flight on 22 April 2010, carrying the HTV-2a Hypersonic Test Vehicle...

 rocket from the Kodiak Launch Complex
Kodiak Launch Complex
The Kodiak Launch Complex is a commercial rocket launch facility for sub-orbital and orbital space launch vehiclesowned and operated by the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, a public corporation of the State of Alaska....

 on Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island is a large island on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, separated from the Alaska mainland by the Shelikof Strait. The largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago, Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States and the 80th largest island in the world, with an...

, Alaska. FASTSAT is a platform carrying multiple small payloads to low-Earth orbit, creating opportunities to conduct low-cost scientific and technology research on an autonomous satellite in space. FASTSAT, weighing just under 400 pounds (180 kg), serves as a full scientific laboratory containing all the resources needed to carry out scientific and technology research operations. It was developed at the MSFC in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation and Dynetics, Inc., both of Huntsville, Alabama. Mark Boudreaux is the project manager for MSFC.

There are six experiments on the FASTSAT bus, including NanoSail-D2
NanoSail-D2
NanoSail-D2 is a small satellite built by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Ames Research Center to study the deployment of a solar sail in space. It is a three-unit CubeSat measuring 30 by 10 by 10 centimeters , with a mass of...

, which is itself a nanosatellite – the first satellite launched from another satellite. It was deployed satisfactorily on January 21, 2011.

Spinoffs


In addition to supporting NASA's key missions, the spinoffs from these activities at MSFC have contributed broadly to technologies that improve the Nation and the World. In the last decade alone, Marshall generated more than 60 technologies featured as NASA spinoffs. MSFC research has benefited firefighters, farmers, plumbers, healthcare providers, soldiers, teachers, pilots, divers, welders, architects, photographers, city planners, disaster relief workers, criminal investigators, and even video-gamers and golfers.

1980s and 1990s – the Shuttle era


The Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 is likely the most complex spacecraft ever built. Although MSFC was not responsible for developing the centerpiece – the Orbiter Vehicle
Space Shuttle Orbiter
The Space Shuttle orbiter was the orbital spacecraft of the Space Shuttle program operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. The orbiter was a reusable winged "space-plane", a mixture of rockets, spacecraft, and aircraft...

 (OV) – it was responsible for all of the rocket propulsion elements: the OV's three main engines, the External Tank
Space Shuttle external tank
A Space Shuttle External Tank is the component of the Space Shuttle launch vehicle that contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. During lift-off and ascent it supplies the fuel and oxidizer under pressure to the three Space Shuttle Main Engines in the orbiter...

 (ET), and the Solid-Rocket Boosters
Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster
The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters were the pair of large solid rockets used by the United States' NASA Space Shuttle during the first two minutes of powered flight. Together they provided about 83% of liftoff thrust for the Space Shuttle. They were located on either side of the rusty or...

 (SRBs). MSFC was also responsible for Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

, the research facility carried in the Shuttle's cargo bay on certain flights. From the start of the program in 1972, the management and development of Space Shuttle propulsion was a major activity at MSFC. Alex A. McCool, Jr.
Alex McCool
Alex A. McCool Jr. is manager of the Space Shuttle Projects Office at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. During his career, McCool contributed to several space developments including Skylab and the Space Shuttle program....

 was manager of MSFC's Space Shuttle Projects Office.

Shuttle propulsion


Throughout 1980, engineers at MSFC participated in tests related to plans to launch the first Space Shuttle. During these early tests and prior to each later Shuttle launch, personnel in the Huntsville Operations Support Center monitored consoles to evaluate and help solve any problems at the Florida launch that might involve Shuttle propulsion

On April 12, 1981, the Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA's orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew...

 made the first orbital test flight of a full Space Shuttle with two astronauts. This was designated STS-1 (Space Transportation System-1), and verified the combined performance of the entire system. This was followed by STS-2 on November 12, also using Columbia, primarily to demonstrate safe re-launch of a Shuttle. During 1982, two more test flights (STS-3 & 4) were made. STS-5, launched November 11, was the first operational mission; carrying four astronauts, two commercial satellite were deployed. In all three of these flights, on-board experiments were carried and conducted on pallets in the Shuttle's cargo bay.

Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger was NASA's second Space Shuttle orbiter to be put into service, Columbia having been the first. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California...

 was launched on mission STS-51L on January 28, 1986. (The sequential numbering changed after 1983, but otherwise this would have been STS-25). One-minute, 13-seconds into flight, the entire Challenger was enveloped in a fireball and broke into several large segments, killing the seven astronauts. Subsequent analysis of the high-speed tracking films and telemetry signals indicated that a leak occurred in a joint on one of the SRBs, the escaping flame impinged on the surface of the ET; there followed a complex series of very rapid structural failures, and in milliseconds the hydrogen and oxygen streaming from the ruptured tank exploded.

The basic cause of the disaster was determined to be an O-ring
O-ring
An O-ring, also known as a packing, or a toric joint, is a mechanical gasket in the shape of a torus; it is a loop of elastomer with a disc-shaped cross-section, designed to be seated in a groove and compressed during assembly between two or more parts, creating a seal at the interface.The O-ring...

 failure in the right SRB; cold weather was a contributing factor. The redesign effort, directed by MSFC, involved an extensive test program to verify that the SRBs were safe. There were no Space Shuttle missions in the remainder of 1986 or in 1987. Flights resumed in September 1988, with sequential numbering starting with STS-26.

Shuttle missions and payloads


As a reusable space-launch vehicle, the space shuttles carried a wide variety of payloads – from scientific research equipment to highly classified military satellites. The flights were assigned a Space Transportation System (STS) number, in general sequenced by the planned launch date. The Wikipedia list of space shuttle missions shows all flights, their missions, and other information.

The first orbital flight (STS-1) by Shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, did not have a payload, but all flights that followed generally had multiple payloads. Through 1989, there were 32 flights; this includes the one on January 28, 1986, when Challenger was lost, and the delay until September 29, 1988, when flights resumed. During the 1990s, there were 58 flights, giving a total of 95 successful flights through 1999.

For the Magellan planetary spacecreft, MSFC managed the adaptation of the Inertial Upper Stage
Inertial Upper Stage
The Inertial Upper Stage , originally known as the Interim Upper Stage, is a two-stage solid-fueled booster rocket developed by the U.S...

. This solid-rocket was used in May 1989 to propel the spacacraft from Orbiter Atlantis on a 15-month loop around the Sun and eventually into orbit around Venus for four years of radar surface-mapping.

Many Shuttle flights carried equipment for performing on-board research. Such equipment was accommodated in two forms: on pallets or other arrangements in the Shuttle's cargo bay (most often in addition to hardware for the primary mission), or within a reusable laboratory called Skylab. All such experimental payloads were under the general responsibility of MSFC.
Pallet experiments

Pallet experiments covered a very wide spread of types and complexity, but many of them were in fluid physics, materials science, biotechnology, combustion science, and commercial space processing. For some missions, an aluminum bridge fitting across the cargo bay was used. This could carry 12 standard canisters holding isolated experiments, particularly those under the Getaway Special
Getaway Special
Getaway Special was a NASA program that offered interested individuals, or groups, opportunities to fly small experiments aboard the Space Shuttle...

 (GAS) program. GAS flights were made available at low cost to colleges and universities, American industries, individuals, foreign governments, and others.

On some flights, a variety of pallet experiments constituted the full payload; examples of these include the following:
  • Astronomy Laboratory-1
    STS-35
    -Crew notes:Prior to the Challenger disaster, this mission was slated to launch in March 1986 as STS-61-E. Jon McBride was originally assigned to command this mission, which would have been his second spaceflight. He chose to retire from NASA in May 1989 and was replaced as mission commander by...

     (ASTRO-1) was developed by Goddard Space Flight Center and flown on STS-35 in December 1990. The $150-million payload included an X-ray telescope and three ultraviolet (UV) telescopes. The displays to be used by the on-board scientist-astronaut to aim the UV telescopes failed. An astronomer in the MSFC Payload Control Center then did the telescope pointing.

  • Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science
    STS-45
    STS-45 was a 1992 spaceflight using Space Shuttle Atlantis.-Crew:-Mission parameters:*Mass:**Orbiter landing with payload: **Payload: *Perigee: *Apogee: *Inclination: 57.0°*Period: 90.3 min...

     (ATLAS 1) was carried on STS-45 launched in March 1992. This had l2 instruments from the U.S., France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Japan. Experiments were conducted in atmospheric chemistry, solar radiation, space plasma physics, and ultraviolet astronomy.

Spacelab

In addition to the pallet experiments, many other experiments were flown and performed using Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

. This was a reusable laboratory consisting of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier, and other related hardware. Under a program managed by MSFC, ten Europeans nations jointly designed, built, and financed the first Spacelab through the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO
ESRO
The European Space Research Organization was an international organisation founded by 10 European nations with the intention of jointly pursuing scientific research in space. It was founded in 1964...

. In addition, Japan funded a Spacelab for STS-47, a dedicated mission.

Over a 15-year period, Spacelab components flew on 22 shuttle missions, the last in April 1998. Examples of Spacelab missions follow:
  • Spacelab 1
    STS-9
    STS-9 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission which carried the first Spacelab module into orbit to conduct space-based scientific experiments. It was the sixth mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and was Columbia's last flight until STS-61-C in January 1986...

     was flown on STS-9, launched November 28, 1983. A Shuttle Columbia flight, this was the first with six astronauts, including two Payload Specialisis from the ESRO. There were 73 experiments carried out in astronomy and physics, atmospheric physics, Earth observations, life sciences, materials sciences, and space plasma physics

  • U.S. Microgravity Laboratory 1
    STS-50
    -Backup crew:-Mission parameters:*Mass:**Orbiter landing with payload: **Payload: *Perigee: *Apogee: *Inclination: 28.5°*Period: 90.6 min- Mission highlights:...

     (USML-1) was launched in June 1992 on STS-50, the first Extended Duration Orbiter
    Extended Duration Orbiter
    The Extended Duration Orbiter program was a project by NASA to prepare for long-term microgravity research aboard Space Station Freedom, which later evolved into the International Space Station. Scientists and NASA needed practical experience in managing progressively longer times for their...

    . During 14 days, 31 microgravity experiments were completed in round-the-clock operations. USML-2
    STS-73
    STS-73 was a Space Shuttle program mission, during October–November 1995. The mission was the second mission for the United States Microgravity Laboratory. The crew, who spent 16 days in space, were broken up into 2 teams, the red team and the blue team...

     was launched in October 1995 on STS-73 with an MSFC scientist, Frederick W. Leslie
    Frederick W. Leslie
    Fred Weldon Leslie is an American scientist who flew on the NASA STS-73 Space Shuttle mission as a payload specialist.-Background:Leslie was born December 19, 1951, in Ancón, Panama. He is an instrument rated commercial pilot with more than 900 hours in various aircraft...

    , as an on-board Payload Specialist.


In early 1990, MSFC's new Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center took over the responsibility for controlling all Spacelab missions. This replaced the Payload Operations Control Center formerly situated at the JSC from which previous Spacelab missions were operated.

Other major programs


The advent of the Space Shuttle made possible several major space programs in which MSFC had significant responsibilities. These were the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. The latter three are part of NASA's series of Great Observatories
Great Observatories program
NASA's series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based telescopes. Each of the Great Observatories has had a similar size and cost at program outset, and each has made a substantial contribution to astronomy...

; this series also includes the Spitzer Space Telescope
Spitzer Space Telescope
The Spitzer Space Telescope , formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003...

, but this was not launched by a Space Shuttle and MSFC had no significant role in its development.
International Space Station

A manned space station had long been in the plans of visionaries. Wernhar von Braun, in his widely read Collier's Magazine 1953 article, envisioned this to be a huge wheel, rotating to produce gravity-like forces on the occupants. In Project Horizon
Project Horizon
Project Horizon was a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a scientific / military base on the Moon. On June 8, 1959, a group at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency produced for the U.S. Department of the Army a report entitled Project Horizon, A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment...

, prepared by the U.S. Army in 1959, a space station would be built by assembling spent booster rockets. Following this same basic concept, in 1973 MSFC used a modified stage of Saturn V to put into orbit Skylab
Skylab
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a mass of...

, but this was preceded by the Soviet Union's Salyut
Salyut
The Salyut program was the first space station program undertaken by the Soviet Union, which consisted of a series of nine space stations launched over a period of eleven years from 1971 to 1982...

in 1971, then followed by their Mir
Mir
Mir was a space station operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, at first by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. Assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996, Mir was the first modular space station and had a greater mass than that of any previous spacecraft, holding the record for the...

in 1986. Even during Skylab, MSFC began plans for a much more complete space station. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 announced plans to build Space Station Freedom
Space Station Freedom
Space Station Freedom was a NASA project to construct a permanently manned Earth-orbiting space station in the 1980s. Although approved by then-president Ronald Reagan and announced in the 1984 State of the Union Address, Freedom was never constructed or completed as originally designed, and after...

 in 1984. Luther B. Powell was MSFC's space station program manager.

By the late 1990s, planning for four different stations were underway: the American Freedom, the Soviet/Russian Mir-2
Mir-2
Mir-2 was a space station project begun in February 1976. Some of the modules built for Mir-2 have been incorporated into the International Space Station . The project underwent many changes, but was always based on the DOS-8 base block space station core module, built as a back-up to the DOS-7...

, the European Columbus, and the Japanese Kibō. In June 1992, with the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 over, American President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 and Russian President Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 agreed to cooperate on space exploration. Then in September 1993, American Vice-President Al Gore, Jr., and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
Viktor Chernomyrdin
Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin was the founder and the first chairman of the Gazprom energy company, the longest serving Prime Minister of Russia and Acting President of Russia for a day in 1996. He was a key figure in Russian politics in the 1990s, and a great contributor to the Russian...

 announced plans for a new space station. In November, plans for Freedom, Mir-2, and the European and Japanese modules were incorporated into a single International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

. Boeing began as NASA's prime contractor for U.S. hardware in January 1995.

The ISS is composed of a number of modules, sharing primary power from large arrays of solar power cells. The first module, Zarya
Zarya
Zarya , also known as the Functional Cargo Block or FGB , was the first module of the International Space Station to be launched. The FGB provided electrical power, storage, propulsion, and guidance to the ISS during the initial stage of assembly...

from Russia, was delivered to orbit by a Proton rocket
Proton rocket
Proton is an expendable launch system used for both commercial and Russian government space launches. The first Proton rocket was launched in 1965 and the launch system is still in use as of 2011, which makes it one of the most successful heavy boosters in the history of spaceflight...

 on November 20, 1998. On December 4, the first Anmerican component, Unity, a connecting module, was carried up by Space Shuttle Endeavour on flight STS-88; it was then joined with Zarya to form an embrionic ISS. Unity was built by Boeing in MSFC facilities. Additional building supplies were carried to the ISS in May 1999, aboard STS-96.

The ISS continued to be assembled throughout the next decade, and has been continuously occupied since February 7, 2001. In March 2010, Boeing completed its contract and officially turned over to NASA the U.S. on-orbit segment of the ISS.
Hubble Space Telescope

Shortly after NASA was formed, the Orbiting Solar Observatory
Orbiting Solar Observatory
The Orbiting Solar Observatory Program was the name of a series of nine American science satellites primarily intended to study the Sun, though they also included important non-solar experiments. Eight were launched successfully by NASA between 1962 and 1975 using Delta rockets...

 was launched, and was followed by the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory
Orbiting Astronomical Observatory
The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory satellites were a series of four American space observatories launched by NASA between 1966 and 1972, which provided the first high-quality observations of many objects in ultraviolet light...

 (OAO) that carried out ultraviolet observations of stars between 1968 and 1972. These showed the value of space-based astronomy, and led to the planning of the Large Space Telescope (LST) that would be launched and maintained from the forthcoming space shuttle. Budget limitations almost killed the LST, but the astronomy community – especially Lyman Spitzer
Lyman Spitzer
Lyman Strong Spitzer, Jr. was an American theoretical physicist and astronomer best known for his research in star formation, plasma physics, and in 1946, for conceiving the idea of telescopes operating in outer space...

 – and the National Science Foundation pressed for a major program in this area. Congress finally finded LST in 1978, with an intended launch date of 1983.

MSFC was given responsibility for the design, development, and construction of the telescope, while Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center
The Goddard Space Flight Center is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC,...

 (GFC) was to control the scientific instrument and the ground-control center. As the Project Scientist, MSFC brought on board C. Robert O’Dell, then chairman of the Astronomy Department at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. Several different people, at various times, served as the project manager. The telescope assembly was designed as a Cassegrain reflector
Cassegrain reflector
The Cassegrain reflector is a combination of a primary concave mirror and a secondary convex mirror, often used in optical telescopes and radio antennas....

 with hyperbolic mirror polished to be diffraction limited; the primary mirror had a diameter of 2.4 m (95 in). The mirrors were developed by the optics firm, Perkin-Elmer. MSFC did not have a facility to check the ‘end-to-end’ performance of the mirror assembly, so the telescope could not be totally checked until launched and placed in service.

The LST was named the Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

 in 1983, the original launch date. There were many problems, delays, and cost increases in the program, and the Challenger disaster delayed the availability of the launch vehicle. Finally, on April 24, 1990, on Mission STS-31, Shuttle Discovery launched the Hubble telescope successfully into its planned orbit. Almost immediately it was realized that the optical performance was not as expected; analysis of the flawed images showed that the primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape, resulting in spherical aberration
Spherical aberration
thumb|right|Spherical aberration. A perfect lens focuses all incoming rays to a point on the [[Optical axis|optic axis]]. A real lens with spherical surfaces suffers from spherical aberration: it focuses rays more tightly if they enter it far from the optic axis than if they enter closer to the...

.

Fortunately, the Hubble telescope had been designed to allow in-space maintenance, and in December 1993, mission STS-61 carried astronauts to the Hubble to make corrections and change some components. A second repair mission, STS-82, was made in February 1997, and a third, STS-103, in December 1999. For these repair missions, the astronauts practiced the work in MSFC's Neutral Buoyancy Facility, simulating the weightless environment of space.

Through the 1990s, the Hubble did provide astronony images that had never before been seen. During the next decade, two additional repair missions were made (March 2002 and in May 2009), eventually bringing the telescope to even better that its initially intended performance.
Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Even before HEAO-2 (the Einstein Observatory
Einstein Observatory
Einstein Observatory was the first fully imaging X-ray telescope put into space and the second of NASA's three High Energy Astrophysical Observatories...

) was launched in 1978, MSFC began preliminary studies for a larger X-ray telescope. To support this effort, in 1976 an X-Ray Test Facility, the only one of its size, was constructed at Marshall for verification testing and calibration of X-ray mirrors, telescope systems, and instruments. With the success of HEAO-2, MSFC was given responsibility for the design, development, and construction of what was then known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF). The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is a research institute of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it is joined with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics .-History:The SAO was founded in 1890 by...

 (SAO) parttners with MSFC, providing the science and operational management..

Work on the AXAF continued through the 1980s. A major review was held in 1992, resulting in many changes; four of the twelve planned mirrors were eliminated, as were two of the six scientific instruments. The planned circular orbit was changed to an elliptical one, reaching one-third of the way to the Moon at its farthest point; this eliminated the possibility of improvement or repair using the Space Shuttle, but it placed the spacecraft obove the Earth's radiation belts for most of its orbit.

AXAF was renamed Chandra X-ray Observatory
Chandra X-ray Observatory
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a satellite launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. It was named in honor of Indian-American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is known for determining the maximum mass for white dwarfs. "Chandra" also means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit.Chandra...

 in 1998. It was launched July 23, 1999, by the Shuttle Columbia (STS-93). An Inertial Upper Stage
Inertial Upper Stage
The Inertial Upper Stage , originally known as the Interim Upper Stage, is a two-stage solid-fueled booster rocket developed by the U.S...

 booster adapted by MSFC was used to transport Chandra to its high orbit Weighing about 22,700 kg (50,000 lb), this was the heaviest payload ever launched by a Shuttle. Operationally managed by the SAO, ‘’Chandra’’ has been returning excellent date since being activated. It initially had an expected life of five years, but this has now been extended to 15 years or longer.
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory

The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) is another of NASA's Great Observatories; it was launched April 5, 1991, on Shuttle flight STS-37. At 37,000 lb (17,000 kg), it was the heaviest astrophysical payload ever flown at that time. CGRO was14 years in development by NASA; TRW was the builder. Gamma radiation (rays) is the highest energy-level of electromagnetic radiation, having energies above 100 keV
Electronvolt
In physics, the electron volt is a unit of energy equal to approximately joule . By definition, it is equal to the amount of kinetic energy gained by a single unbound electron when it accelerates through an electric potential difference of one volt...

 and thus frequencies above 10 exahertz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 (10e19 Hz). This is produced by sub-atomic
Atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

 particle interactions, including those in certain astrophysical processes. The continuous flow of cosmic rays bombarding space objects, such as the Moon, generate this radiation Gamma rays also result in bursts from nuclear reactions. The CGRO was designed to image continuous radiation and to detecte bursts.

MSFC was responsible for the Burst and Transient Source Experiment, (BATSE). This triggered on sudden changes in gamma count-rates lasting 0.1 to 100 s; it was also capable of detecting less impulsive sources by measuring their modulation using the Earth occultation
Occultation
An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer. The word is used in astronomy . It can also refer to any situation wherein an object in the foreground blocks from view an object in the background...

 technique. In nine years of operation, BATSE triggered about 8000 events, of which some 2700 were strong bursts that were analyzed to have come from distant galaxies.

Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, the CGRO was not designed for on-orbit repair and refurbishment. Thus, after one of its gyroscopes failed, NASA decided that a controlled crash was preferable to letting the craft come down on its own at random. On June 4, 2000, it was intentionally de-orbited, with the debris that did not burn up falling harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean. At MSFC, Gerald J. Fishman
Gerald J. Fishman
Gerald Jay Fishman is a research astrophysicist, specializing in gamma-ray astronomy. His research interests also include space and nuclear instrumentation and radiation in space. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Fishman obtained a B.S. with Honors degree in Physics from the University of...

 is presently the principal investigator of a project to continue examination of data from BATSE and other gamma-ray projects. The 2011 Shaw Prize
Shaw Prize
The Shaw Prize is an annual award first presented by the Shaw Prize Foundation in 2004. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong, it honours living "individuals, regardless of race, nationality and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or...

 was sharred by Fishman and Italian Enrico Costa
Enrico Costa
Enrico Costa is an Italian bobsledder who competed from 1994 to the early 2000s. He won a gold medal in the two-man event at the 1999 FIBT World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo....

 for their gamma-ray research

1960s and 1970s – the initial decades


Shortly before activating its new Field Center in July 1960, NASA described the MSFC as the only self-contained organization in the nation that was capable of conducting the development of a space vehicle from the conception of the idea, through production of hardware, testing, and launching operations.

Initially, engineers from Huntsville traveled to Florida to conduct launch activities at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

. The first NASA launch facility there (Launch Complex 39
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
Launch Complex 39 is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, USA. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. NASA began modifying LC-39 in 2007 to...

) was designed and operated by MSFC, then in on July 1, 1962, the overall site achieving equal status with other NASA centers and was named the Launch Operations Center, later renamed the Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

 (KSC).

Another major NASA facility, the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) located near Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

, was officially opened in September 1963. Designated the primary center for U.S. space missions and systems involving astronauts, it coordinates and monitors crewed missions through the Mission Control Center. MSC was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight training, research and flight control. The center consists of a complex of 100 buildings constructed on 1,620 acres in Houston, Texas, USA...

 (JSC) in February 1973. Through the years, there have been a number of ‘turf’ battles between MSFC and MSC/JSC concerning mission responsibilities.

When the Marshall Space Flight Center began official operations in July 1960, Wernher von Braun was the Director and Eberhard Rees was his Deputy for Research and Development. The administrative activities in MSFC were led by persons with backgrounds in traditional U.S. Government functions, but all of the technical heads were individuals who had assisted von Braun in his success at ABMA. The initial technical activities and leaders at MSFC were as follows:
Director – Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and in the United States after that.A former member of the Nazi party,...

Deputy Director for R&D – Eberhard F. M. Rees
Eberhard Rees
Dr Eberhard Friedrich Michael Rees was a German-American rocketry pioneer and the second Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center...

Reliability Office – H. August Schulze
Future Projects Office – Heinz-Hermann Koelle
Heinz-Hermann Koelle
Heinz-Hermann Koelle was an aeronautical engineer who made the preliminary designs on the rocket that would emerge as the Saturn I...

Light & Medium Vehicles Office – Hans Hueter
Saturn Systems Office – O. Hermann Lange
Technical Program Coordination Office – George N. Constan
Weapons Systems Office – Werner G. Tiller
Launch Operations Directorate – Kurt H. Debus
Kurt H. Debus
Kurt Heinrich Debus was a German V-2 rocket scientist during World War II who, after being brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip, became the first director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in 1962. Debus' U.S...

Aeroballistics Division – Ernst G. Geissler
Ernst Geissler
Ernst Geissler was a German-American aerospace engineer. After World War II, he came to the United States in 16 November 1945 as part of the Argentina group, Operation Paperclip....

Computation Division – Helmut Hölzer
Helmut Hölzer
Helmut Hoelzer was a Nazi Germany V-2 rocket engineer who was brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip.- Life :In October 1939, while working for the Telefunken electronics firm in Berlin, Hoelzer met with Ernst Steinhoff, Hermann Steuding, and Wernher von Braun regarding guide beams...

Fabrication & Assembly Engineering Division – Hans H. Maus
Guidance & Control Division – Walter Häussermann
Walter Haeussermann
Walter Haeussermann was a German-American aerospace engineer and member of the "von Braun rocket group", both at Peenemünde and later at Marshall Space Flight Center, where he was the director of the guidance and control laboratory...

Quality Division – Dieter E. Grau
Dieter Grau
Dieter Grau is a retired rocket scientist and member of the "von Braun rocket group", at Peenemünde working on the V-2 rockets in World War II. He was among the scientists to surrender and travel to the United States to provide rocketry expertise via Operation Paperclip which took them first to...

Research Projects Division – Ernst Stuhlinger
Ernst Stuhlinger
Ernst Stuhlinger was a German-born American atomic, electrical and rocket scientist. After being brought to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip, he developed guidance systems with Wernher von Braun's team at the US Army, and later, NASA...

Structures & Mechanics Division – William A. Mrazek
Test Division – Karl L. Heimburg


With the exception of Koelle, all of the technical leaders had come to the United States under Operation Paperclip
Operation Paperclip
Operation Paperclip was the Office of Strategic Services program used to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany for employment by the United States in the aftermath of World War II...

 after working together at Peenemünde
Peenemünde
The Peenemünde Army Research Center was founded in 1937 as one of five military proving grounds under the Army Weapons Office ....

. Von Braun knew well the capabilities of these individuals and had great confidence in them. This confidence was shown to be appropriate; in the following decade of developing hardware and technical operations that established new levels of complexity, there was never a single failure of their designs during manned flight.

The initial projects at MSFC were primarily continuations of work initiated earlier at ABMA. Of immediate importance was the final preparation of a Redstone rocket that, under Project Mercury
Project Mercury
In January 1960 NASA awarded Western Electric Company a contract for the Mercury tracking network. The value of the contract was over $33 million. Also in January, McDonnell delivered the first production-type Mercury spacecraft, less than a year after award of the formal contract. On February 12,...

 would lift a space capsule
Space capsule
A space capsule is an often manned spacecraft which has a simple shape for the main section, without any wings or other features to create lift during atmospheric reentry....

 carrying the first American into space. Originally scheduled to take place in October 1960, this was postponed several time and on May 5, 1961, astronaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

 Alan Shepard
Alan Shepard
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. was an American naval aviator, test pilot, flag officer, and NASA astronaut who in 1961 became the second person, and the first American, in space. This Mercury flight was designed to enter space, but not to achieve orbit...

 made America's first sub-orbital spaceflight
Sub-orbital spaceflight
A sub-orbital space flight is a spaceflight in which the spacecraft reaches space, but its trajectory intersects the atmosphere or surface of the gravitating body from which it was launched, so that it does not complete one orbital revolution....

. The delays led to a circumstance similar to that of the first satellite; on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....

 had become the first person to orbit the Earth.

By 1965, MSFC had about 7,500 government employees. In addition, most of the prime contractors for launch vehicles and related major items (including North American Aviation
North American Aviation
North American Aviation was a major US aerospace manufacturer, responsible for a number of historic aircraft, including the T-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, the F-86 Sabre jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the XB-70, as well as Apollo Command and Service...

, Chrysler
Chrysler
Chrysler Group LLC is a multinational automaker headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA. Chrysler was first organized as the Chrysler Corporation in 1925....

, Boeing
Boeing
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

, Douglas Aircraft, Rocketdyne
Rocketdyne
Rocketdyne was a Rocket engine design and production company headquartered in Canoga Park, California, United States. The company was related to North American Aviation for most of its history. NAA merged with Rockwell International, which was then bought by Boeing in December, 1996...

, and IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

) collectively had approximately a similar number of employees working in MSFC facilities.

Several support contracting firms were also involved in the programs; the largest of these was Brown Engineering Company (BECO, later Teledyne Brown Engineering), the first high-technology firm in Huntsville and by this time having some 3,500 employees. In the Saturn-Apollo activities, BECO/TBE provided about 20-million manhours of support. Milton K. Cummings was the BECO president, Joseph C. Moquin the executive vice president, William A. Girdini led the engineering design and test work, and Raymond C. Watson, Jr., directed the research and advanced systems activities. Cummings Research Park
Cummings Research Park
Cummings Research Park, located primarily in the city of Huntsville, Alabama is the second largest research park in the United States, and the fourth largest in the world. The Research Triangle Park in North Carolina is the only research park in the United States that is larger. Cummings Research...

, the second largest park of this type in the Nation, was named for Cummings in 1973.

Saturn launch vehicles


On May 25, 1961, just 20 days after Shepard's flight, President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 committed the Nation to "achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth". In what would be called the Apollo Program, the primary mission of MSFC was developing the heavy-lift rockets – the Saturn family. This required the development and equalization of three new liquid-fueled rocket engines, the J-2
J-2 (rocket engine)
Rocketdyne's J-2 rocket engine was a major component of the Saturn V rocket used in the Apollo program to send men to the Moon. Five J-2 engines were used on the S-II second stage, and one J-2 was used on the S-IVB third stage. The S-IVB was also used as the second stage of the smaller Saturn IB...

, the F-1
F-1 (rocket engine)
The F-1 is a rocket engine developed by Rocketdyne and used in the Saturn V. Five F-1 engines were used in the S-IC first stage of each Saturn V, which served as the main launch vehicle in the Apollo program. The F-1 is still the most powerful single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine ever...

, and the H-1 (rocket engine)
H-1 (rocket engine)
Rocketdyne's H-1 is a thrust liquid-propellant rocket engine burning LOX and RP-1. The H-1 was developed for use in the S-IB first stage of the Saturn I and Saturn IB rockets, where it was used in clusters of eight engines...

; in addition, an existing engine, the RL10, was improved for use on Saturns. Leland F. Belew managed the Engine Development Office.
The F-1 engine was, and still is the most powerful single-nozzle liquid-fueled rocket engine ever used in service; each produced 1.5-million-pounds thrust. Originally started by the U.S. Air Force, responsibility for the development was taken over by ABMA in 1959, and the first test firings at MSFC were in December 1963.
Saturn I

The original vehicle, designated Saturn I
Saturn I
The Saturn I was the United States' first heavy-lift dedicated space launcher, a rocket designed specifically to launch large payloads into low Earth orbit. Most of the rocket's power came from a clustered lower stage consisting of tanks taken from older rocket designs and strapped together to make...

, consisted of two propulsion stages and an instrument unit; it was first tested in flight on October 27, 1961. The first stage (S-I) had a cluster of eight H-1 engines, giving approximately 1.5-million-pounds thrust total. The four outboard engines were gimbaled to allow vehicle steering. The second stage (SIV) had six gimbaled LR10A-3 engines, producing a combined 90-thousand-pounds thrust. Ten Saturn Is were used in flight-testing of Apollo boilerplate units. Five of the test flights also carried important auxiliary scientific experiments.
Saturn IB

The Saturn IB
Saturn IB
The Saturn IB was an American launch vehicle commissioned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for use in the Apollo program...

 (alternatively known as the Uprated Saturn I) also had two propulsion stages and an instrument unit. The first stage (S-IB) also had eight H-1 engines with four gimballed, but the stage had eight fixed fins of equal size fitted to the sides to provide aerodynamic stability. The second stage (S-IVB) had a single J-2 engine that gave a more powerful 230-thousand-pounds thrust. The J-2 was gimbaled and could also be restarted during flight. The vehicle was first flight-tested on February 26, 1966. Fourteen Saturn 1Bs (or partial vehicles) were built, with five used in unmanned testing and five others used in manned missions, the last on July 15, 1975.
Saturn V

The Saturn V
Saturn V
The Saturn V was an American human-rated expendable rocket used by NASA's Apollo and Skylab programs from 1967 until 1973. A multistage liquid-fueled launch vehicle, NASA launched 13 Saturn Vs from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida with no loss of crew or payload...

 was the pinnacle of developments at MSFC. This was an expendable
Expendable launch system
An expendable launch system is a launch system that uses an expendable launch vehicle to carry a payload into space. The vehicles used in expendable launch systems are designed to be used only once , and their components are not recovered for re-use after launch...

, man-rated
Human-rating certification
Human-rated or man-rated are terms used to describe the certification of a spacecraft, launch vehicleor airplaneas worthy of transporting humans. NASA and the U.S. GAO now uses "Human-rating" when describing requirements for these systems...

 heavy-lift vehicle that was the most vital element in the Apollo Program. Designed under the direction of Arthur Rudolph
Arthur Rudolph
Arthur Louis Hugo Rudolph was a German rocket engineer and member of the Nazi party who played a key role in the development of the V-2 rocket. After World War II he was brought to the United States, subsequently becoming a pioneer of the United States space program. He worked for the U.S...

, the Saturn V holds the record as the largest and most powerful launch vehicle ever brought to operational status from a combined height, weight, and payload standpoint.

The Saturn V consisted of three propulsion stages and an instrument unit. The first stage (S-1C), had five F-1 engines, giving a combined total of 7.5-million-pounds thrust. These engines were arranged in a cross pattern, with the center engine fixed and the outer four gimballed. The second stage (S-IC), had five J-2 engines with the same arrangement as the F-1s and giving a total of 1.0-million-pounds thrust. The third stage (S-IVB) had a single ginballed J-2 engine with 200-thousand-pounds thrust. As previously noted, the J-2 engine could be restarted in flight. The basic configuration for this heavy-lift vehicle was selected in early 1963, and the name Saturn V was applied at that time (configurations that might have led to Saturn II, III, and IV were discarded).

The Apollo Spacecraft was atop the launch vehicle, and was composed of the Lunar Module
Apollo Lunar Module
The Apollo Lunar Module was the lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft built for the US Apollo program by Grumman to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface and back...

 (LM) and the Command/Service Module
Apollo Command/Service Module
The Command/Service Module was one of two spacecraft, along with the Lunar Module, used for the United States Apollo program which landed astronauts on the Moon. It was built for NASA by North American Aviation...

 (CSM) inside the Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter, with the Launch Escape System
Launch escape system
A Launch Escape System is a top-mounted rocket connected to the crew module of a crewed spacecraft and used to quickly separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case of emergency. Since the escape rockets are above the crew module, an LES typically uses separate nozzles which are...

 at the very top. The Apollo Spacecraft and its components were developed by other NASA centers, but were flight-tested on Saturn I and IB vehicles from MSFC.

While the three propulsion stages were the "muscle" of the Saturn V, the Instrument Unit
Saturn V Instrument Unit
The Saturn V Instrument Unit is a ring-shaped structure fitted to the top of the Saturn V rocket's third stage and the Saturn IB's second stage . It was immediately below the SLA panels that contained the Lunar Module. The Instrument Unit contains the guidance system for the Saturn V rocket...

 (IU) was the "brains." The IU was on a 260-inch (6.6-m) diameter, 36-inch (91-cm) high, ring that was held between the third propulsion stage and the LM. It contained the basic guidance system components – a stable platform, accelerometers, a digital computer, and control electronics – as well as radar, telemetry, and other units. Basically the same IU configuration was used on the Saturn I and IB. With IBM as the prime contractor, the IU was the only full Saturn component manufactured in Huntsville.

The first Saturn V test flight was made on November 9, 1967. On July 16, 1969, as its crowning achievement in the Apollo space program, a Saturn V vehicle lifted the Apollo 11 spacecraft and three astronauts on their journey to the Moon. Other Apollo launches continued through December 6, 1972. The last Saturn V flight was on May 14, 1973, in the Skylab Program (described later). A total of 15 Saturn Vs were built; 13 functioned flawlessly, and the other two (intended as backup) remain unused.
Fabrication and test facilities

Wernher von Braun believed that the personnel designing the space vehicles should have direct, hands-on participation in the building and testing of the hardware. For this, MSFC had facilities comparable with the best to be found in private industries. Included were precision machine shops, giant metal-forming and welding machines, and all types of inspection equipment. For every type of Saturn vehicle, one or more prototypes were fabricated in MSFC shops. Large, special-purpose computers were used in the checkout procedures.

Static test towers had been constructed at ABMA for the Redstone and Jupiter rockets. In 1961, the Jupiter stand was modified to test Saturn 1 and 1B stages. A number of other test stands followed, the largest being the Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand
Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand
Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand, also known as Dynamic Structural Test Facility, is a structure at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It stands tall and is square. NASA built the test stand in 1964 to conduct mechanical and vibrational tests on the fully assembled...

 completed in 1964. At 475 feet (144.8 m) in height, the entire Saturn V could be accommodated. Also completed in 1964, the S1C Static Test Stand was for live firing of the five F-1 engines of the first stage. Delivering a total of 7.5-million-pounds thrust, the tests produced earthquake-like rumbles throughout the Huntsville area and could be heard as far as 100 miles (160.9 km) away.

As the Saturn activities progressed, external facilities were needed. In 1961, The Michoud Plant near New Orleans, Louisiana, was selected as the Saturn production site. A 13500 acres (54.6 km²) isolated area in Hancock County, Mississippi
Hancock County, Mississippi
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 42,967 people, 16,897 households, and 11,827 families residing in the county. The population density was 90 people per square mile . There were 21,072 housing units at an average density of 44 per square mile...

 was selected to conduct Saturn tests. Known as the Mississippi Test Facility (later renamed the John C. Stennis Space Center
John C. Stennis Space Center
The John C. Stennis Space Center , located in Hancock County, Mississippi, at the Mississippi-Louisiana border, is NASA's largest rocket engine test facility.- History :...

), this was primarily to test the vehicles built at the Michoud Plant.

Space Shuttle


On January 5, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon announced plans to develop the Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

, a reusable Space Transportation System (STS) for routine access to space. The Shuttle was composed of the Orbiter Vehicle
Space Shuttle Orbiter
The Space Shuttle orbiter was the orbital spacecraft of the Space Shuttle program operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. The orbiter was a reusable winged "space-plane", a mixture of rockets, spacecraft, and aircraft...

 (OV) containing the crew and payload, two Solid Rocket Booster
Solid rocket booster
Solid rocket boosters or Solid Rocket Motors, SRM, are used to provide thrust in spacecraft launches from the launchpad up to burnout of the SRBs. Many launch vehicles include SRBs, including the Ariane 5, Atlas V , and the NASA Space Shuttle...

s (SRBs), and the External Tank
Space Shuttle external tank
A Space Shuttle External Tank is the component of the Space Shuttle launch vehicle that contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. During lift-off and ascent it supplies the fuel and oxidizer under pressure to the three Space Shuttle Main Engines in the orbiter...

 (ET) that carried liquid fuel for the OV's main engines. MSFC was responsible for the SRBs, the OV's three main engines, and the ET. The Center also received responsibility for Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

, a versatile laboratory that would be carried on some flights within the Shuttle's cargo bay. Other assignments included the adaptation of the Inertial Upper Stage
Inertial Upper Stage
The Inertial Upper Stage , originally known as the Interim Upper Stage, is a two-stage solid-fueled booster rocket developed by the U.S...

 Booster, a two-stage rocket that would lift Shuttle payloads into higher orbits or interplanetary voyages.

The first test firing of an OV main engine was in 1975. Two years later, the first firing of a SRB took place and tests on the ET began at NSFC. The first Enterpris OV flight, attached to a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA – an extensively modified Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

), was in February 1977; this as followed by a free landings in August and October. In March 1978, the Enterprise OV was flown atop a SCA to MSFC. Maited to an ET, the partial Space Shuttle was hoisted onto the modified Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand
Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand
Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand, also known as Dynamic Structural Test Facility, is a structure at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It stands tall and is square. NASA built the test stand in 1964 to conduct mechanical and vibrational tests on the fully assembled...

 where it was subjected to a full range of vibrations comparable to those in a launch. The second space shuttle, Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA's orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew...

, was completed and placed at the KSC for checking and launch preparation. On April 12, 1981, the Columbia made the first orbital test flight.

Scientific and engineering research


From the start, MSFC has had strong research projects in science and engineering. Two of the early activities, Highwater and Pegasus, were performed on a non-interference basis while testing the Saturn I vehicle.
Highwater and Pegasus

In Project Highwater
Project Highwater
Project Highwater was an experiment carried out as part of two of the test flights of NASA's Saturn I launch vehicle , successfully launched into a sub-orbital trajectory from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Highwater experiment sought to determine the effect of a large volume of water suddenly...

, the dummy second stage was filled with 23000 gallons (87.1 m³) of water as ballast, and, after burnout of the first stage, explosive charges released the water into the upper atmosphere. The project answered questions about the diffusion of liquid propellants in the event that a rocket was destroyed at high altitude. Highwater experiments were carried out in April and November,1962.

Under the Pegasus Satellite Program
Pegasus satellite program
The Pegasus satellite program was a series of three American satellites launched in 1965 to study the frequency of micrometeorite impacts on spacecraft...

, the second stgte was instrumented to study the frequency and penetration depth of micrometeroids. Two large panels were folded into the empty stage and, when in orbit, unfolded to present 2,300-square-feet (210-m2) of instrumented surface. Three Pegasus satellites were launched during 1965, and stayed in orbit from 3 to 13 years.
Lunar exploration

The overall Apollo Program was the largest scientific and engineering research activitry in history. The actual landing on the Moon led to investigations that could have only been conducted on location. There were six Apollo missions that landed on the Moon: Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

, 12
Apollo 12
Apollo 12 was the sixth manned flight in the American Apollo program and the second to land on the Moon . It was launched on November 14, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, four months after Apollo 11. Mission commander Charles "Pete" Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan L...

, 14
Apollo 14
Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the American Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon. It was the last of the "H missions", targeted landings with two-day stays on the Moon with two lunar EVAs, or moonwalks....

, 15
Apollo 15
Apollo 15 was the ninth manned mission in the American Apollo space program, the fourth to land on the Moon and the eighth successful manned mission. It was the first of what were termed "J missions", long duration stays on the Moon with a greater focus on science than had been possible on previous...

, 16
Apollo 16
Young and Duke served as the backup crew for Apollo 13; Mattingly was slated to be the Apollo 13 command module pilot until being pulled from the mission due to his exposure to rubella through Duke.-Backup crew:...

, and 17
Apollo 17
Apollo 17 was the eleventh and final manned mission in the American Apollo space program. Launched at 12:33 a.m. EST on December 7, 1972, with a three-member crew consisting of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 remains the...

. Apollo 13
Apollo 13
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST. The landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the service module upon which the Command...

 had been intended as a landing, but only circled the Moon and returned to Earth after an oxygen tank ruptured and crippled power in the CSM.

Except for Apollo 11, all of the missions carried an Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package
Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package
The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package comprised a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site of each of the five Apollo missions to land on the Moon following Apollo 11...

 (ALSEP), composed of equipment for seven scientific experiments plus a central control station (they were controlled from the Earth) with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator
Radioisotope thermoelectric generator
A radioisotope thermoelectric generator is an electrical generator that obtains its power from radioactive decay. In such a device, the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material is converted into electricity by the Seebeck effect using an array of thermocouples.RTGs can be...

 (RTG). Scientists from MSFC were among the co-investigators.

The Luner Roving Vehicle (LRV), popularly known as the "Moon Buggy," was developed by MSFC to provide transportation for exploring a limited amount of the Moon's surface. Not intended in the original planning, by 1969 it became clear that an LRV would be needed to maximize the scientific returns. An LRV was carried on the last three missions, allowing an area similar in size of the Manhattan Island to be explored. Outbound they carried a ALSEP to be set up; on the return trip, they carried more than 200 pounds of lunar rock and soil samples. Saverio E. "Sonny" Morea was the LRV project manager at MSFC.
Skylab and ATM

Even before the first Apollo landing, plans were being made by NASA for an Apollo Applications Program
Apollo Applications program
The Apollo Applications Program was established by NASA headquarters in 1968 to develop science-based manned space missions using surplus material from the Apollo program...

 (AAP). This involved science-based manned space missions using surplus Apollo equipment. The lack of interest by Congress, and subsequent lack of funding, cut out most of the proposed activities – such as Manned Venus Flyby
Manned Venus Flyby
A manned Venus flyby was considered by NASA in the mid 1960s as part of the Apollo Applications Program, using hardware derived from the Apollo program...

 – but an orbital workshop remained of interest. Under Project Horizon
Project Horizon
Project Horizon was a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a scientific / military base on the Moon. On June 8, 1959, a group at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency produced for the U.S. Department of the Army a report entitled Project Horizon, A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment...

 in the late 1950s, use of spent missile stages for building a manned orbital space station had been proposed, and this general concept was picked up under AAP.

In December 1965, MSFC was authorized to have the Orbital Workshop as a formal project. At a meeting at MSFC on August 19, 1966, George E. Mueller
George Mueller (NASA)
George Mueller was Associate Administrator of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight from September 1963 until December 1969...

, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, pinned down the final concept for the major elements. MSFC was assigned responsibility for the development of the orbiting space station hardware as well as overall systems engineering and integration.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force was pursuing the Manned Orbiting Laboratory
Manned Orbiting Laboratory
The Manned Orbiting Laboratory , originally referred to as the Manned Orbital Laboratory, was part of the United States Air Force's manned spaceflight program, a successor to the cancelled Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar military reconnaissance space plane project...

 (MOL), a small space station with a two-man crew, primarily intended for photo reconnaissance. For five years, MOL competed with a NASA station for funding but was finally dropped.

For testing and mission simulation, a 75 feet (22.9 m)-diameter water-filled tank, the Neutral Buoyancy Facility, was opened at MSFC in March 1968. Engineers and astronauts used this underwater facility to simulate the weightlessness
Weightlessness
Weightlessness is the condition that exists for an object or person when they experience little or no acceleration except the acceleration that defines their inertial trajectory, or the trajectory of pure free-fall...

 (or zero-g) environment of space. This was particularly used in training astronauts in activities in zero-g work, especially spacewalks
Extra-vehicular activity
Extra-vehicular activity is work done by an astronaut away from the Earth, and outside of a spacecraft. The term most commonly applies to an EVA made outside a craft orbiting Earth , but also applies to an EVA made on the surface of the Moon...

.

The Orbital Workshop was designed using the hull of a Saturn V third stage, being fully refitted on the ground. It was renamed Skylab
Skylab
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a mass of...

 in February 1970. Two were built – one for flight and the other for testing and mission simulation in the Neutral Buoyancy Facility. Leland F Belew served for eight years as the overall Skylab program director.

Another AAP project that survived was a solar observatory, originally intended to be a deployable attachment to the Apollo spacecraft. Called the Apollo Telescope Mount
Apollo Telescope Mount
The Apollo Telescope Mount, or ATM, is the name of a solar observatory that was attached to Skylab, the first US space station.The ATM was one of a number of projects that came out of the late 1960s Apollo Applications Program, which studied a wide variety of ways to use the infrastructure...

 (ATM), the project was assigned to MSFC in 1966. As the Orbital Workshop matured into the Skylab, the ATM was added as an appendage, but the two activities were kept as independent development projects. Rein Ise was the ATM project manager at MSFC. The ATM included eight major instruments for observations of the Sun at wavelengths from extreme ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 to infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

. The data was mainly collected on special photographic film; during the Skylab missions, the film had to be changed out by astronauts in spacewalks.

On May 14, 1973, the 77-ton (70,000-kg) Skylab was launched into a 235-nautical-mile (435-km) orbit by a Saturn V vehicle (the last to be flown) with Skylab replacing the upper stage. Saturn IB vehicles with their CSMs were used to ferry three-man crews to where they docked with the Skylab. Severe damage was sustained during Skylab launch and deployment, resulting in the loss of the station's micrometeroid shield/sun shade and one of its main solar panels. This loss was partially corrected by the first crew, launched May 25; they stayed in orbit with Skylab for 28 days. Two additional missions followed with the launch dates of July 28 and November 16, with mission durations of 59 and 84 days, respectively. Skylab, including the ATM, logged about 2,000 hours on some 300 scientific and medical experiments. The last Skylab crew returned to the Earth on February 8, 1974.
Apollo–Soyuz

The last Saturn IB flight was launched on July 15, 1975, carrying a three-man crew on a six-day mission to dock with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft.. Called the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the primary purpose was to provide engineering experience for future joint space flights, but both spacecraft also had scientific experiments. This was the last manned U.S. space mission until April 1981.
HEAO

The High Energy Astronomy Observatory
HEAO Program
The High Energy Astronomy Observatory Program was a NASA program of the late 1970s and early 1980s that included a series of three large low-Earth-orbiting spacecraft for X-ray and Gamma-Ray astronomy and Cosmic-Ray investigations. After launch, they were denoted HEAO 1, HEAO 2 , and HEAO 3,...

 (HEAO) Program involved three missions of large spacecraft in low-Earth orbit
Low Earth orbit
A low Earth orbit is generally defined as an orbit within the locus extending from the Earth’s surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km...

 Each spacecraft was about 18 feet (5.5 m) in length, weighed between 6000 and 7000 lb (2700 and 3200 kg), and carried some 3000 lb (1400 kg) of experiments for X-ray
X-ray astronomy
X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray observation and detection from astronomical objects. X-radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so instruments to detect X-rays must be taken to high altitude by balloons, sounding rockets, and...

 and gamma-ray
Gamma-ray astronomy
Gamma-ray astronomy is the astronomical study of the cosmos with gamma rays. Gamma-rays are the most energetic form of "light" that travel across the universe, and gamma-rays thus have the smallest wavelength of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum.Gamma-rays are created by celestial events...

 astronomy and cosmic-ray
Cosmic ray
Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles, originating from outer space. They may produce secondary particles that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The term ray is historical as cosmic rays were thought to be electromagnetic radiation...

 investigations.The project provided revolutionary insights into celestial objects by studying their high-energy radiation from space. Scientists from across the Nation served as principal investigator
Principal investigator
A principal investigator is the lead scientist or engineer for a particular well-defined science project, such as a laboratory study or clinical trial....

s.

The HEAO spacecraft was conceived by MSFC in the late 1960s, but, with the Apollo Program, funding did not become available for some time. Using Atlas-Centaur
Atlas-Centaur
The Atlas-Centaur was an American expendable launch system designed and built by General Dynamics Convair Division in San Diego, CA. It was derived from the SM-65 Atlas missile. It was a member of the Atlas family of rockets, and was used for 61 orbital launches between 1962 and 1983. It was...

 launch vehicles, highly successful missions were started in August 1977 (HEAO 1), November 1978 (HEAO 2, also called the Einstein Observatory), and September 1979 (HEAO 3). Fred A. Speer was the HEAO project manager for MSFC.
Other research

Other MSFC-managed space science projects in the 1970s included the Laser Geodynamics Satellite
LAGEOS
LAGEOS, or Laser Geodynamics Satellites, are a series of scientific research satellites designed to provide an orbiting laser ranging benchmark for geodynamical studies of the Earth...

 (LAGEOS) and Gravity Probe A
Gravity Probe A
Gravity Probe A was a space-based experiment to test the theory of general relativity, performed jointly by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration...

. In LAGEOS, laser beams from 35 ground stations are reflected by 422 prismatic mirrors on the satellite to track movements in the Earth's crust. The measurement accuracy is a few centimetrs and it tracks the movement of tectonic plates
Tectonic Plates
Tectonic Plates is a 1992 independent Canadian film directed by Peter Mettler. Mettler also wrote the screenplay based on the play by Robert Lepage. The film stars Marie Gignac, Céline Bonnier and Robert Lepage.-Plot summary:...

 with comparable accuracy. Conceived and built at MSFC, the LAGEOS was launched by a Delta rocket in May 1976.

Gravity Probe A, also called the Redshift Experiment, used an extremely precise hydrogen maser
Hydrogen maser
A Hydrogen maser, also known as hydrogen frequency standard, is a specific type of maser that uses the intrinsic properties of the hydrogen atom to serve as a precision frequency reference....

 clock to confirm part of Einstein's general theory of relativity
General relativity
General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics...

. The probe was launched in June 1976, by a Scout rocket, and remained in space for near two hours, as intended.

Directors

  • Wernher von Braun
    Wernher von Braun
    Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and in the United States after that.A former member of the Nazi party,...

     - July 1, 1960 to January 27, 1970
  • Eberhard Rees
    Eberhard Rees
    Dr Eberhard Friedrich Michael Rees was a German-American rocketry pioneer and the second Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center...

     - March 1, 1970 – January 19, 1973
  • Rocco Petrone
    Rocco Petrone
    Rocco Anthony Petrone was an American engineer who was the third director of the NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, from 1973 to 1974...

     - January 26, 1973 to March 15, 1974
  • William R. Lucas
    William R. Lucas
    William R. Lucas was the fourth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. He served as director from June 15, 1974 to July 3, 1986; when he retired as a result of the Challenger tragedy.-Early career:...

     - June 15, 1974 to July 3, 1986
  • Thomas Jack Lee
    T. Jack Lee
    Thomas Jack Lee was the sixth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, from July 6, 1989 to January 6, 1994....

     - (acting) July 3, 1986 to September 29, 1986
  • James R. Thompson, Jr.
    James R. Thompson, Jr.
    James Robert Thompson, Jr., known as J.R. Thompson, was the fifth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama. He served as Director from September 29, 1986 to July 6, 1989...

     - September 29, 1986 to July 6, 1989
  • Thomas Jack Lee
    T. Jack Lee
    Thomas Jack Lee was the sixth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, from July 6, 1989 to January 6, 1994....

     - July 6, 1989 to January 6, 1994
  • Gene Porter Bridwell - January 6, 1994 to February 3, 1996
  • Jerroll Wayne Littles
    J. Wayne Littles
    Dr. Jerroll Wayne Littles was the eighth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama. He served as Director from February 3, 1996 to January 3, 1998.-Education:...

     - February 3, 1996 to January 3, 1998
  • Carolyn S. Griner
    Carolyn S. Griner
    Carolyn S. Griner was the Acting Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama. She served as Acting Director from January 3, 1998 to September 11, 1998, between the terms of the eighth and ninth Directors. She resumed her duties as deputy director of the...

     - (acting) January 3, 1998 to September 11, 1998
  • Arthur G. Stephenson
    Art Stephenson
    Arthur G. Stephenson was the ninth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama. He served as Director from September 11, 1998 to May 2003.-Early years:...

     - September 11, 1998 to May 2003
  • David A. King
    David A. King
    David A. King was the tenth Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama. He was appointed to the position on June 15, 2003. He announced his retirement from NASA on March 26, 2009...

     - June 15, 2003 to March 26, 2009
  • Robert M. Lightfoot Jr.
    Robert M. Lightfoot Jr.
    Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr. is the eleventh Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama. He was appointed to the position on August 24, 2009, after serving as acting director since the March 26, 2009, retirement of the previous director, David A....

    - August 24, 2009 to present (also acting director from King's departure until named director)

External links