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About Marshall Space Flight Center

    Propulsion Research Laboratory at Marshall Space Flight Center Propulsion Research Laboratory at the Marshall Center. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC
    The Marshall Center's unique expertise and experience are being used to develop and operate the space systems America needs to journey into low Earth orbit and beyond.

    Located on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., Marshall provides the multidiscipline engineering expertise behind propulsion and transportation systems such as the space shuttle and Ares rockets. Marshall continues to enable scientific discovery through development of hardware and instruments for projects including the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the GLAST Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, and Gravity Probe B. The center develops, integrates, and operates major components and systems on the International Space Station and supports its operations around the clock.

    Since it was established in 1960, Marshall has used its engineering and scientific expertise to build launch vehicles, spacecraft, and scientific instruments that enable the United States to explore and discover.

    Vehicles and Hardware for Exploring Space

    Building on the best propulsion technologies from the space shuttle, the Apollo-era Saturn rockets and several NASA programs Marshall is developing NASA's next-generation launch vehicles, Ares I and Ares V. These vital systems will bring a new crew exploration vehicle, Orion, into service as soon as possible after the space shuttle's retirement. These vehicles will transport crew, supplies, equipment, water, fuel, and hardware initially to the International Space Station and later to the moon in support of a human lunar outpost.

    Leading NASA in rocket propulsion technology, Marshall has been launching spacecraft and explorers into space since the beginning of the U.S. space program. From Apollo to space shuttle, the center has played a critical role in transporting people, supplies, and science experiments into low Earth orbit. Engineers at Marshall designed and developed the shuttle main engines, the external fuel tank, and the solid rocket boosters, and continue to manage these key propulsion technologies to maintain the shuttle’s safe operation until it is retired in 2010.

    Marshall plays a significant role in the International Space Station, developing systems to support life on the station, managing logistic modules for transporting science experiments, and managing the Payload Operations Center, coordinating all experiments on the station. Providing air and water purification systems for the station supports the development of related technologies that will enable extended human lunar missions in the future.

    NASA's new Altair lunar lander will enable humans to explore regions of the moon that astronauts have never visited. Marshall will develop the descent stage, including propulsion elements, and support the development of Altair's ascent propulsion, avionics, life-support systems, and vehicle structures.

    Marshall also manages the Michoud Assembly Facility, a state-of-the-art facility in New Orleans, La., where critical hardware components for the space shuttle and the exploration vehicles are manufactured for Marshall and other NASA field centers.

    Spacecraft, Instruments, and Research to Expand the Science Frontier

    Marshall's expertise opens the door to scientific discoveries, helping NASA achieve a balance between science and exploration. Since the early days of the space program, the center has increased human understanding of the universe through its contributions to planetary, lunar, Earth, and high-energy sciences.

    The moon is an essential first step in the new space journey. Robotic missions will yield important knowledge for surviving extreme conditions and help humans prepare for life in the moon's harsh environment. Marshall manages and integrates NASA's lunar architecture and programs that will provide important information about characteristics of the moon and its resources, such as water and ice. The center's role in lunar science research includes management of the next generation of lunar scientific experiments, orbiters, and landers.

    Scientists at Marshall are studying everything from the birth of planets and the death of stars to the inner workings of hurricanes and other global climate conditions. Their scientific breakthroughs in space will enhance life on Earth by helping farmers improve agricultural methods and enabling governments to manage water resources more effectively. Other benefits for humankind include more accurate worldwide weather forecasting, advanced methods for locating archeological sites, and the development of numerous materials and tools that can be applied to tasks on Earth.

    Marshall Space Flight Center has a critical role in moving the nation forward with its renewed focus on space exploration and scientific discovery. Learn how Marshall's strengths and proven capabilities support NASA's goal of integrating science and exploration in innovative ways for maximum return on the nation's investment.

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