News Releases

Janet L. Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

RELEASE : 11-145
Samuel A. Ortega Selected to Manage Centennial Challenges Program at Marshall
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Sam Ortega has been named as manager of the Centennial Challenges Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He was named to the post in September 2011, Mr. Ortega leads day-to-day oversight and management of the Centennial Challenges, NASA's series of technology prize competitions founded in 2005 to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest to NASA and the nation. Centennial Challenges engage independent inventors -- small businesses, student groups and individuals -- to develop and demonstrate prize-winning solutions that may have a dramatic impact on industry, exploration and everyday life. NASA's Centennial Challenges are managed for the agency by the Marshall Center.

From 2001 to 2011, Mr. Ortega held a series of increasingly vital management and leadership positions in the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Project Office, part of the Marshall Center's Space Shuttle Propulsion Office. From 2008-2011, he led the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Motor Business Office, where he managed the operations budget for the project. He also led the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster and Ares Ballistics and Motor Performance Teams from 2005-2011, ensuring the solid rocket motors performed safely and as predicted by Marshall engineers. He also led teams tasked with designing, testing and analyzing the shuttle's twin solid rocket boosters -- used during the first two minutes of shuttle launch to deliver more than 70 percent of the vehicle's liftoff thrust.

Mr. Ortega was a microgravity systems test engineer in Marshall's Engineering Directorate from 1996 to 2001, where he tested, integrated, provided flight support for and refurbished experiments and test facilities used aboard the space shuttle and the International Space Station. These included NASA's Microgravity Science Glovebox, which in September 2011 passed 10,000 hours of operation since it was delivered to the space station in 2002.

He joined NASA in 1987 as a structural stress analyst, completing stress and fracture analysis reports to flight certify experiments, hardware, satellites and other payloads scheduled to fly to space aboard the shuttle.

A native of Edinburg, Texas, Mr. Ortega earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1989 from Texas A&M University in College Station. He has received numerous honors for his contributions and dedication to the nation’s space program, including a Silver Snoopy award, presented by NASA's Astronaut Corps in 2010 for his leadership of the Ballistics and Motor Performance Team; and a Space Flight Honoree Award in 2009 for his exceptional service to and support of the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Project.

Mr. Ortega is married to the former Cyndi Cooper of Warrior, Ala., and has two children. He and his wife live in Madison, Ala.

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