Search Marshall


News Releases

Text Size

STS-114: Space Shuttle Return to Flight
NASA's David Martin Ready to 'Bring The Noise' of Shuttle Liftoff
June Malone/Martin Jensen
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)
News Release: 05-064

David Martin As Space Shuttle Discovery gets closer to launch, the din of preparations among engineers and Shuttle technicians across the country is music to veteran engineer David Martin's ears.

"There's been a hush over our work for two years," says Martin, manager of the Solid Rocket Booster Project Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "The excitement has been rising for some time, but now it's like someone is turning up the volume, everywhere you go."

Martin expects that rising swell of excitement to culminate this summer in the roar of Discovery's big engines -- the noise that will mark the start of STS-114: Space Shuttle Return to Flight and launch the next phase of America's exploration of the cosmos.

"There's a real purpose to what we do, a real debt to the American people," Martin says. "We're committed to flying safely again, and you can feel that energy starting to build."

Martin is well-versed in building energy. His organization at Marshall oversees the Shuttle's powerful, reusable Solid Rocket Boosters. During the first two minutes of launch, the 149-foot-tall, 12-foot-diameter boosters generate 85 percent of the thrust needed to lift the Shuttle to orbit. Once their task is finished, the boosters separate from the Orbiter and drop into the sea for recovery. Apart from the solid propellant within the integrated Reusable Solid Rocket Motor segments that power the boosters, Martin's team handles every element of the boosters -- from design, certification and testing of all components to post-flight recovery and refurbishment.

The team oversaw some important modifications to the Shuttle in the last two years. One upgrade worth noting is the safety modifications to the "bolt-catcher." This protective mechanism captures half of the forward-attach-point connecting bolt during booster separation from the External Tank -- the massive propulsion element that holds the Shuttle's primary propellant supply. Martin's team also conducted testing and recertification of the boosters' External Tank attachment rings and aft struts, which fasten the rear of the boosters to the tank until separation.

Born in Omaha, Neb., Martin is the son of a former U.S. Air Force radar engineer who met his wife while stationed in Japan during the Korean conflict. Martin's two older brothers were born in Japan; he and his younger sister were born after the family moved back to the States. His father left the service to become an Apollo-era NASA contract engineer. Martin suspects that's where he picked up his early awareness of America's space program.

In 1981, during his second year of engineering studies at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Martin enrolled in NASA's Cooperative Education Program, which provides valuable NASA internships for college undergraduates, and became an engineering trainee at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. He went to Florida just in time to be a firsthand witness for STS-2, the second Space Shuttle flight.

"That's when I fell in love with NASA," he says.

Martin received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1983 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. After graduation, he joined the Science and Engineering Directorate at the Marshall Center as an electronics hardware design engineer. In 1985, he was appointed as a chief engineer for key Marshall-managed microgravity experiments -- tests conducted in the near-vacuum of the Space Shuttle environment. He went back to Kennedy Space Center in 1987 and spent the next decade there as a project engineer and Shuttle element team lead, providing on-site management of hardware for the External Tank and the Solid Rocket Boosters. He coordinated the transfer of booster components from the prime contractor to Kennedy, while also providing oversight to the design, manufacturing, processing, integration, test and post-flight recovery of the boosters at the Cape.

In 1997, Martin returned to Marshall as technical assistant for the Solid Rocket Booster project, leading efforts to merge the project into NASA's consolidated Space Flight Operations Contract. Managed at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the contract handles all Shuttle hardware processing and integration prior to flight. Martin was appointed technical management representative on the Space Flight Operations Contract in 1999. He accepted his current position in 2002.

Martin has received numerous NASA awards. In 1998, he received the Silver Snoopy -- a special honor bestowed by NASA's Astronaut Corps on men and women who provide key support for the Space Shuttle and human spaceflight missions. In 1995, he received the Manned Flight Awareness Award -- one of the highest service honors awarded by NASA.

His wife, Jolene, is deputy manager of the Shuttle Propulsion Systems Engineering and Integration Office at Marshall. They live in Huntsville with their children, Adam and Alicia.

For more information about STS-114: Space Shuttle Return to Flight, visit:

For more information about NASA's mission and the Vision for Space Exploration, visit:

+ Photo