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For more than 50 years, the unique capabilities and expertise at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has been used to design and build the engines, vehicles, space systems, instruments and science payloads that make possible unprecedented missions of science and discovery throughout our solar system.
Marshall minds designed, built, tested and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the moon. Marshall developed new rocket engines and tanks for the fleet of space shuttles, built sections of the International Space Station and now manages all the science work of the astronauts aboard the ISS from a 24/7 Payload Operations and Integration Center.
Today, Marshall is home to development of the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever designed to carry human explorers, their equipment and science payloads deeper into space than ever before, to an asteroid and to Mars. Marshall also manages the Michoud Assembly Facility, where the core stage of SLS is under construction with a unique set of leading-edge tools, including the largest spacecraft welding tool in the world, the 170-foot-tall, 78-foot-wide Vertical Assembly Center.
Marshall enables scientific discovery through development and testing of hardware and instruments for projects including the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Japanese-led mission Hinode studying the sun.
Engineers and technologists at the Marshall Center consistently deliver highly skilled, crosscutting engineering services — the backbone to mission success and the center’s powerful capabilities — in support of Marshall programs and projects and throughout NASA. Their work serves both the current and near-term planned agency missions as well as efforts still on the drawing board, awaiting the necessary development and maturation to support NASA’s future exploration goals.
Marshall’s history reaches back to the 1950s, before NASA was created in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, the previous year. A group of Army employees working then on rocket and missile programs at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, included the team of German scientists led by Dr. Wernher von Braun, who was largely responsible for the successful launch of the United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. In 1960, NASA established the Marshall Center with the transfer from the Army of more than 4,500 civil service employees and nearly 2,000 acres of Redstone Arsenal property. Von Braun became the Marshall Center’s first director.
Marshall’s location makes it a key player in a “community of capabilities,” located among dozens of federal agencies on Redstone Arsenal, including the Army Materiel Command; Army Aviation and Missile Command; Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; the Missile Defense Agency; and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missiles and Space Intelligence Center. Marshall and Redstone are adjacent to Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park, the second-largest research and development park in the nation. The Marshall Center has a critical role in moving the nation forward, offering unique expertise in science and engineering, forging partnerships with industry, academia and other government organizations, and continuing to help the United States lead the world in space exploration and discovery. Marshall’s strengths and proven capabilities support NASA’s goal of integrating science and exploration in innovative ways for maximum return on the nation’s investment.