Marshall Space Flight Center: Human Exploration

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Human Exploration

In order to reach destinations across our solar system, NASA is building on common hardware, shared knowledge and unique experience derived from the Apollo/Saturn, space shuttle and contemporary commercial launch vehicle programs. The imperative to explore space with a combination of astronauts and robots will be the impetus for inventions such as new ways to harness solar power, supply water and recycle waste.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center plays a lead role in engineering, designing, developing, integrating and testing complex rocket, spacecraft and science instruments that enable exploration and scientific discovery. The Center’s cross-cutting capabilities in science and engineering have led to a key role in building the next generation of space exploration systems.

Space Launch System
Next-generation human launch vehicles and spacecraft will carry explorers farther than ever before, and permit extended, high-value discovery missions to destinations across the solar system. Managed by the Marshall Center, NASA's Space Launch System program will design, develop, test and deliver the nation's next flagship space launch vehicle, one capable of lifting up to 130 metric tons of crew, cargo and supplies to low-Earth orbit and beyond.

The vehicle's design will maximize efficiency and minimize cost by leveraging investments in legacy space launch systems to the greatest extent practicable, while using evolutionary advancements in launch vehicle design. Its primary cargo -- the Orion crew vehicle -- will carry up to four crew members, provide emergency abort capability during liftoff and safely return them to Earth after each mission.

Orion Crew Vehicle Launch Abort System
The Orion crew vehicle's launch abort system will enable the astronaut crew to safely escape in the event of an emergency during liftoff. The launch abort system, mounted on top of the crew module, centers around three solid propellant rocket motors: an abort motor; an attitude control motor; and a jettison motor. Marshall is providing solid rocket booster engineering and operations expertise.

Life Support Systems and Space Environments
To survive in outer space, astronauts depend on a multitude of life support systems, including a supply of air, water and food. The Marshall Center supports the design and development of lunar surface systems such as life support, habitat, structures and resource systems.

Marshall also tackles the challenges of ensuring astronaut health and safety and mission success in the challenging space environment -- developing materials, products, tools and technologies to mitigate the deleterious effects of space weather and radiation on human and robotic explorers and the vehicles, science payloads and supplies they carry with them.

Other Resources

Hubble Directly Observes a Planet Orbiting Another StarMarshall Facts
The Marshall Center is a key contributor to significant NASA programs, continuing a legacy of accomplishment.
› Fact Sheet (PDF, 175 KB)

Marshall Prime ContractorsMSFC Prime Contractors
A list of the prime contractors doing business at the Marshall Center.
› View PDF

Page Last Updated: September 30th, 2013
Page Editor: Brooke Boen