HUNTSVILLE — An Alabama company will play a major role in the first woman landing on the Moon, as well as the first ever crewed mission to Mars in the near future.
Huntsville-based Dynetics on Tuesday held a press conference to announce that it has been selected to join the Maxar-led team in building and demonstrating the power and propulsion element for the Gateway, which is an essential component of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program and future expeditions to Mars.
The two companies at the press conference signed an agreement establishing a framework for them to work together on the historic mission, with substantive work being executed by Dynetics’ facilities in north Alabama.
As recently announced, Colorado-based Maxar was selected by NASA as the primary contractor to build and perform a spaceflight demonstration of the power and propulsion element spacecraft, which is the first element for the lunar Gateway. Due to Dynetics’ world-class capabilities and unparalleled experience in the field, a Maxar representative said there was no better choice to help complete the mission.
“We’re thrilled to add Dynetics to our team and bring power and propulsion element work to Huntsville. Dynetics has decades of expertise in human space exploration, and will play a critical role in executing the Artemis mission, landing the first woman on the surface of the Moon, and establishing the sustainable space infrastructure that is necessary to explore Mars,” Mike Gold, Maxar’s vice president of civil space, said, adding that Dynetics has an “amazing staff.”
Gateway, to be a maneuverable space station orbiting the Moon eventually, will play a critical role in ensuring that NASA astronauts can land on the lunar surface by 2024 while serving as a pivotal platform to support future missions to Mars and beyond.
The power and propulsion element is targeted for launch by the end of 2022 and will provide power, maneuvering, attitude control, communications systems and initial docking capabilities for the Gateway. From there, additional modules can be added to the power and propulsion element.
Dynetics is expected to support Maxar in areas such as propulsion systems; mechanical and propulsion testing; system integration and assembly; and mission operations.
“This is an exciting time for lunar exploration,” Kim Doering, Dynetics’ vice president for space systems, emphasized.
“We look for space partners that share our similar core values and are eager to see America return to the Moon,” she continued. “Maxar fills that role and Dynetics is glad to be on the team. Maxar’s power and propulsion element will be a vital element of the Lunar Gateway and will aid establishment of a sustainable presence on the Moon. We are looking forward to this partnership and to participating in the development of the lunar architecture here in Huntsville on our campus and in Decatur, Alabama, at our Aerospace Structures Complex.”
Agreement has been signed pic.twitter.com/C3AriyqMea
— Sean Ross (@sean_yhn) July 9, 2019
Gold and Dynetics CEO David King signed the agreement for their respective companies on Tuesday.
They were joined by several representatives from NASA, as well as staff members from the offices of several government officials key to the Rocket City, including Harrison Diamond speaking on behalf of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
“[I]t’s a wonderful thing that we can say you can’t get to the Moon without going through Huntsville first,” Diamond said. “Apparently it’s going to be Mars as well.”
He extolled Dynetics, saying the company “represents the best of Huntsville: truly innovative folks who are working on complex problems.”
In a video shown at the press conference, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed private sector partners like Maxar and Dynetics as “advancing the cause of humanity” through their work.
The video also provided a good primer on exactly what Gateway is, as well as the plans for the Artemis lunar mission and, eventually, expeditions to Mars.
Dr. Michele Gates, director of NASA’s power and propulsion element, traveled from NASA headquarters to attend the press conference. She stressed how critical Dynetics’ involvement will be to Artemis and “future missions to Mars.”
Following Gates, Gold wrapped up his remarks by lauding the Yellowhammer State’s past, present and future contributions to the space industry.
“If not for the people of Alabama, there would have been no Moon mission,” he emphasized. “Which is why it’s so appropriate the vehicle which will take us to the Moon, the mighty SLS (Space Launch System), is being built here in Alabama. And now, the first piece of the Gateway, the power and propulsion element, will also be supported here as well.”
“Of course, none of this happens by accident. If not for the unflagging efforts of your congressional delegation, who fight continuously for this community and for human space exploration, we would not be here,” Gold advised. “So, on behalf of all of us who share the dreams of man visiting the stars, thank you so much to Senator Shelby — who is our longtime champion in Washington — and Senator Jones, who recently joined the fight, is a great member of the team; Congressman Aderholt, for all his great work on CJS (House Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations subcommittee)… and for Congressman Brooks, who has always shown strength, leadership and vision for human space flight.”
Gold concluded, “I’m proud that the road to the Moon continues to go through Huntsville.”
This came as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is to be celebrated next week.
Mike Graves, Dynetics’ department manager for space systems and product development, spoke after Gold, underlining that the company is very proud to join the Maxar-led team in this endeavor.
He explained that Dynetics’ space division has become especially “strong and agile” over the last decade or so, with the company building on its longtime work in the defense sector to really grow its space systems work. Graves specifically noted the recent addition of their Aerospace Structures Complex in Decatur as being key to this accelerating growth.
Dynetics has also been separately chosen as the prime contractor on the descent element of the Artemis Human Landing System program. This announcement was made in May.
While Dynetics further being chosen for the Gateway mission is a certain affirmation of their already-world-class space status, Graves stressed, “Our capabilities continue to grow.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn