When Cody Jones graduated with a degree in communication arts from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in 2011, he had no idea what he was supposed to do next.
“I graduated with my degree in a place named the Rocket City, but I never imagined myself as someone who would work with rockets,” Jones said.
However, a professor saw Cody’s potential and suggested he apply for an internship working as a payload communicator in the International Space Station Payload Operations and Integration Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Although the position was intended for someone with a technical background, Jones’ communication skills, persistence, and willingness to learn about the aerospace industry got him the job and helped make him successful in that initial role. It led him to his current one as project manager for the ICPS (interim cryogenic propulsion stage) for NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) Program, which is managed by Marshall, and will help NASA land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis.
The ICPS, produced by Boeing and United Launch Alliance, is the in-space propulsion stage of the SLS rocket for the first three Artemis missions. Its single RL10 engine, made by lead SLS engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, produces more than 24,750 pounds of thrust to help send Orion and its crew on their journey to the Moon. During the successful Artemis I test flight in 2022, the ICPS propelled NASA’s Orion spacecraft toward the Moon after the rocket’s core stage and solid rocket boosters were spent. The stage will help play a critical role during Artemis III, which will land astronauts on the surface of the Moon, by giving Orion the big propulsive boost needed to break free from Earth orbit and venture toward the Moon.
Jones described his position as a complicated game of telephone.
“I deliver messages across the program to different tiers of individuals, but along the way I try to prevent the message from getting watered down. I also work with the contracting partners to ensure that our team at Marshall has the resources and help that they need.”
In addition to delivering crucial information with clarity, Jones is responsible for visiting numerous manufacturing sites. The ICPS is made up of more than 6,500 components that require testing and review before being integrated with the stage.
“I review every last detail to make sure that the hardware we’re adding meets the requirement,” Jones said. He also enjoys the relational aspect of his position: “My goal is to make everyone feel comfortable to ask whatever they want so that they get the answers they need, while also having a memorable experience.”
Jones said his dream job is his current role — helping to return astronauts to the Moon through Artemis.
“I feel like we’ve all worked jobs where we’re not sure if what we do matters. At the end of the day, are we part of the story?” Jones mused. “When I witnessed the launch of Artemis I, I immediately felt like I was part of the story, and everyone around me was too.”
As a father of three, Jones said he looks forward to watching his own children grow up as part of the story of the Artemis Generation.
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.