May 9, 2020.
“We are providing the most exciting possible answer to the age-old question of whether life, as we know it on Earth, can exist on the Moon and the planets. The answer is yes. Men working together with modern science and technology can extend the domain of terrestrial life throughout the solar system.”
-Thomas 0. Paine, NASA Administrator
It is a truly exciting moment in one of the greatest adventures in the history of civilization: human spaceflight. After celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing last year, we are now poised to set even greater milestones for humans in space. NASA recently announced that the agency’s Commercial Crew Program partner SpaceX will launch astronauts to the International Space Station at the end of this month, the first liftoff of crew from the United States since 2011. Over the past several years, industry partners in the U.S. have been diligently designing, testing, and refining new launch systems to protect and deliver crews and materials across new horizons.
Since its earliest days, the space program has been the benchmark for innovation, technology development, and national prestige—fueling countless business sectors along the way. This is one of the reasons why human space exploration has become part of the DNA of Stellar Solutions. Founder and Board Chair Celeste Ford worked for many years supporting the Space Shuttle Program and applied those compelling experiences and lessons to the groundwork of this company. Our cadre of expert engineers and extended pool of advisors learned their craft through support of programs and contracts across the gamut of spaceflight, even going back to the Service and Command Modules for Apollo.
Right now, we are part of a new space community that is leveraging more than forty years of unique experience gained from learning to fly, breaking the bond of our planet, journeying into space, orbiting and landing on the Moon, and living and working in orbit around Earth. Beginning in 2004, the national focus transitioned from flying space shuttles and sustaining the space station to the development of the next generation of vehicles for crew exploration and launch—and Stellar Solutions has played a key part of this evolution at every stage through our civil programs.
A recent and important example is Artemis, the new NASA program to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024. This multifaceted effort includes NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System that will take astronauts into space aboard the Orion crew spacecraft, where they will dock at the Gateway outpost in lunar orbit and journey to the surface of the Moon using a human landing system. The Stellar Solutions team has provided ongoing systems engineering, project management, acquisition support, and outreach support directly to NASA and prime contractor partners like Lockheed Martin on nearly all components of Artemis. In March, the Orion Artemis I Crew and Service Module completed four months of extensive and successful thermal vacuum and electromagnetic testing at the Plum Brook Station in Ohio that were planned and supported by our team.
True innovation and lasting implementation are dependent on determining impactful and achievable advancements, getting the right experts and organizations involved (which can be a broad spectrum), and then pursuing a rigorous, stepwise course of development, testing, evaluation and analysis. The gap in operational capability in the U.S. enabled a laser focus on the development of these new technologies and has been a driver to an unprecedented engagement of commercial stakeholders. We are seeing the fruits of this long-term strategy across the board, and I am inspired by the progress being made every day.
As the final flight test, this month’s Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission will validate the SpaceX crew transportation system and help usher in the next era of exploration. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 27 in Florida, for an extended visit to the space station. We wish the best of luck to the crew, and send our congratulations and thanks to both NASA and SpaceX for this tremendous step on the path to flying again, toward the ultimate goal of extending humanity’s presence to the Moon and eventually on to Mars.
About the Author: Michael S. Lencioni is the Chief Executive Officer of Stellar Solutions, Inc.