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Joseph Pelfrey named Marshall Space Flight Center director

It was a hometown hire Monday for NASA when Administrator Bill Nelson named Joseph Pelfrey director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Pelfrey has served as acting center director since July 2023 following the retirement of Jody Singer. Pelfrey joined Marshall in 2004.

Marshall Space Flight Center Joseph Pelfrey. (MSFC Facebook)

“Joseph is a respected leader who shares the passion for innovation and exploration at NASA Marshall,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As center director, he will lead the entire Marshall workforce, which includes a world-renowned team of scientists, engineers, and technologists who have a hand in nearly every NASA mission.

“I am confident that under Joseph’s leadership, Marshall will continue to make critical advancements supporting Artemis and Moon to Mars that will benefit all humanity.”

A Huntsville resident, Pelfrey began his career as an industry partner, supporting development of space station payload hardware, and joined Marshall full-time in 2004 as an aerospace engineer in the Science and Mission Systems Office. He went on to serve in various leadership roles within NASA’s International Space Station, Space Launch Systems and Space Transportation programs, overseeing the development, integration, and operations of multiple payload facilities and science experiments.

He was appointed Marshall’s deputy director in April 2022.

“Marshall is renowned for its expertise in exploration and scientific discovery, and I am honored and humbled to be chosen to lead the center into the future,” said Pelfrey. “We will continue to shape the future of human space exploration by leading SLS and human landing system development for Artemis and leveraging our capabilities to make critical advancements in human landing and cargo systems, habitation and transportation systems, advanced manufacturing, mission operations, and cutting-edge science and technology missions.”

In 2008, Pelfrey joined Marshall’s Engineering Directorate as the design integration lead for the Ares I Upper Stage, the rocket that would inform development of NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System). In 2011, he was named engineering task manager for SLS’ Spacecraft/Payload Integration and Evolution Office and, subsequently, manager of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project at Marshall.

In 2012, Pelfrey was named deputy manager and then manager of the Exploration and Space Transportation Development Office in Marshall’s Flight Programs and Partnerships Office. In 2016, he was appointed to the Senior Executive Service post of associate director for operations in Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. The Senior Executive Service is the personnel system covering most top managerial, supervisory, and policy positions in the executive branch of the federal government.

Pelfrey served as deputy manager of Marshall’s Human Exploration Development and Operations Office from 2018-20 and was manager from 2020-22. In this role he oversaw management and implementation of Marshall’s work in the areas of human exploration and transportation projects; habitation systems, payload and mission operations and integration; and International Space Station payload, facility, environmental control and life support systems project development and integration.

“I’m thrilled to learn that Joseph Pelfrey has been named the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. During Pelfrey’s time as acting center director, Marshall hasn’t missed a beat,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “He was a hometown candidate, and I’m grateful he will be staying and leading in the Rocket City for years to come. With Pelfrey at the helm, I know Marshall Space Flight Center will continue to exceed NASA’s needs.

“I wish Pelfrey success as he soars into the future with Marshall.”

A native of Cheraw, South Carolina, Pelfrey received a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn University in 2000. He resides in Huntsville with his family.

“I was excited to hear that Joseph Pelfrey has been appointed as the Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Pelfrey has served as acting center director since July 2023 and has shown outstanding leadership,” said Madison County Commission Chair Mac McCutcheon. “Pelfrey’s dedication and work ethic is unmatched, and I am trilled he will guide Marshall Space Flight Center to new heights in the years to come.4

“I wish him much success and look forward to Madison County’s continued partnership with Marshall Space Flight Center.”

Marshall is one of the agency’s largest field centers, and manages NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where some of the largest elements of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis campaign are manufactured.

The center also is responsible for the oversight and execution of an approximately $5 billion portfolio comprised of human spaceflight, science, and technology development efforts. Its workforce consists of nearly 7,000 employees, both civil servants and contractors.

“With two decades of service, Joseph brings a passion for innovation and exploration into this role as he leads a team of 7,000 employees and oversees a budget of roughly $5 billion,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. ” am eager to work with Director Pelfrey to ensure Marshall remains at the forefront of human spaceflight, science, and technology development efforts.”

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