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As we celebrate the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, our Aerospace team is helping the future of spaceflight take off. We spoke with some of our visionary engineers working on Artemis, a mission to go back to the Moon—the first step in creating a lunar outpost for a flight to Mars.
In 2005, NASA started the Constellation program to take human space exploration farther. Expanding on the aerospace engineering practice we had created for the International Space Station (ISS), we brought on experienced engineers who had worked on the space shuttle and other programs.
The team performed major technical services for the program, including transforming mission command and control systems and training simulators. “Booz Allen had provided systems integration work in the 1990s for the ISS, and now we were doing architecture design and requirements for those systems for the Constellation program,” says Chief Technologist Gary Dockall. The Constellation program was cancelled in 2009—but not before concepting the main elements of what would become Artemis a decade later.
Modernizing Mission Control
As with every engagement, Booz Allen merged talent with technology. For example, we were tasked with building requirements to update Johnson Space Center’s mission planning system, which still used Apollo-era components. Tony Zertuche, who was our engineering lead for the project, had worked at NASA, so he brought on Specialist Hal Beck, who had led a missions planning team for the Apollo program and so could ensure strategic continuity for the upgrade.
A decade after Constellation’s cancellation, a new program is now capturing the public’s imagination: Artemis, the 2024 Moon mission. “We’re working on all the major elements,” says Rob Puckett, engineering lead for Booz Allen’s NASA work. “We help integrate the work of contractors at Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, and Kennedy Space Flight Center. The centers have different cultures and slightly different processes, and we help bridge that gap.”
Here are some highlights of our work:
Space Launch System
For the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, we provide systems engineering integration to manage the vehicle’s interfaces with those of Exploration Ground Systems (EGS), the Kennedy Space Center launch complex. Our engineers handle all requirements for electrical, mechanical, and fluid “umbilicals.” For the EGS, we also perform configuration management, managing the baseline of subsystems and ground support equipment.
The team also provides systems engineering and integration for the commercial crew program, which is developing vehicles like the SpaceX Dragon II, projected to fly astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2019. “Kennedy Space Center is now a multi-user spaceport,” says Kevin Ingoldsby, a senior lead engineer who has supported space programs there for decades and is now leading our EGS support. “What we envisioned years ago is finally coming true.”
Our support for the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV) includes hardware-software integration and testing between Orion, the SLS, and the EGS. The exploration program is based on the architecture and lessons learned from the Apollo mission. The basic vehicle configurations, capsule sitting on top of the rocket, and interfaces are very similar, just using the latest technology.
We also provide data visualization—working on trajectories for a flight to the Moon, as we did more than 50 years ago, but this time with leading-edge analytics. “We speed up analysis of complex data sets and use an automated data pipeline to quickly visualize the best day to launch,” says Senior Lead Engineer Tony Garza. “The Artemis-1 trajectory is more complicated than Apollo’s, which leads to more data output. And on the first crewed mission, Artemis-2, we’ll probably go the farthest from Earth a manned spacecraft has ever gone. Data science and visualization will help ensure we use trajectories that get our crew home safely.”
Gateway Lunar Space Station
For Gateway, the station that will orbit the Moon, we’re supporting a new lunar exploration architecture that’s sustainable—usable for multiple missions. In addition to systems engineering and integration, we’re working on digital modernization. Our engineers are helping NASA transition its documentation to a digital model that captures every element from requirements to the physical structure and shows how changes to one affects the other.
Support Across Programs
Why has NASA turned to Booz Allen, decade after decade? “We bring strategic thinking across programs,” says Karen Fields, a program analyst and senior program manager for space exploration. “We help with everything from assessing rocket engines to developing requirements for the lunar lander.”
Rob says, “A customer recently told me, ‘We hire you guys because you get things done.’ That’s been our history: We partner with the client to solve their problems, and we innovate with our solutions.”