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Biography of Debra L. Kral

Debra L. Kral
Manager, Launch Vehicle Branch
Ground Systems Development and Operations Program

Debra L. Kral provides launch vehicle flight systems, operations and technical integration expertise to the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Kral began her career with NASA in June of 1983 at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia. At Wallops, she spent seven years as a project engineer and test director, leading the planning and execution of literally hundreds of scientific sounding rocket launches, including a two-month campaign in Norway. She was also the manager of Wallops space shuttle support. While at Wallops, she was recognized by Glamour Magazine as one of Ten Outstanding Career Women of 1988, and was interviewed by newscaster Harry Smith on "CBS This Morning."

Kral transferred to Kennedy in 1990. She currently serves as manager of the Launch Vehicle Branch, Flight Systems and Operations Integration Division, where she and her team are the primary liaisons with the Space Launch System Program at Marshall Space Flight Center, as well as the element operations managers in GSDO. Together, this team ensures the flight system designs and the ground system designs are fully integrated, requirements are met, operability is maximized, and that programmatic issues and concerns are resolved for the overall benefit of the agency and the Exploration Systems Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Prior to the formulation of GSDO, she played a similar role in the Constellation Project Office at Kennedy, serving as chief of the Launch Vehicle Division, also supporting NASA Headquarters' Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. She was involved with planning, requirements and operational concepts for the Ares I and Ares V Launch Vehicles and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and supporting systems.

Prior to this assignment, Kral spent five years on the management team of the External Relations Directorate, which included NASA Public Affairs, as chief of the Guest Services and Special Events Division. In this capacity, she was responsible for all of NASA's launch guests and viewing sites, VIP and official tours, and major special events, such as Kennedy's Open House and Community Leaders Breakfast. She also served as the alternate contracting officer's technical representative (COTR) for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex concessionaire, Delaware North Companies. Although she had a full-time staff of only seven to ten people, she was responsible for several hundred volunteers that supported her office for space shuttle launches and landings, ELV launches and VIP tours.

Before this assignment, she spent a year and a half as acting chief of the Implementation Office, in the Shuttle Processing Directorate, which is essentially a program/project office with responsibilities that included integrating a variety of Shuttle Processing Directorate functions, both technical and administrative. One of her primary functions was to serve as co-chair of the Transition Working Group. This group was responsible for planning, coordinating and carrying out the transition of daily shuttle operations from NASA to the prime shuttle contractor, United Space Alliance. In addition, she was responsible for managing the integration of Shuttle Construction of Facilities projects, contractor performance metrics, Shuttle Automated Requirements System, ISO compliance, and Continuous Improvement activities.

During her time in Shuttle Processing, she also spent eight years in the thick of shuttle operations as a NASA test director (NTD), leading the shuttle launch team and conducting over 60 shuttle launch countdowns, as well as overseeing daily shuttle operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is worthy of note that Kral was the first woman in NASA history ever to be certified as an NTD. In other words, she was the first woman to ever lead the team that launches people into space. In 1997, she also had the opportunity to serve as the management intern to the Shuttle Processing director for seven months, gaining a great deal of insight into the priorities and workings of senior management at Kennedy and throughout the shuttle program.

Kral received her bachelor's degree in physics from Taylor University in Indiana and her Master of Science in management from the Florida Institute of Technology. She is originally from the Chicago suburbs, but now lives in Orlando with her husband and three children, where they enjoy friends, family, sports, music, movies, traveling and school activities.

April 2013

Biographies - Current Employees