WASHINGTON — Dan Dumbacher, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, will leave the agency effective July 1, a NASA spokesman confirmed April 21.

Dumbacher is returning to his alma mater Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., to take a faculty position in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has been with NASA since 1979, but for a two-and-a-half-year detour to industry that ended in 1987. Dumbacher became the top Washington-based official for NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion programs in 2010 and will be succeeded in that capacity on an interim basis by his deputy, William Hill, Dumbacher told SpaceNews April 22.

Dumbacher’s departure was first reported by NASAWatch.com.

Asked why he chose to leave the agency only months before Orion is slated to make its first flight to space aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 — the launch window opens Dec. 5 — Dumbacher said the Purdue opportunity was too good to pass up. “Chances only come around in life rather sporadically, and that really was the decision,” Dumbacher told SpaceNews in an April 23 interview at the Humans to Mars summit in Washington. 

Dumbacher said he is leaving the SLS and Orion programs in good shape. “We got to the point where things are working and things are working well. We’re getting budget support on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said.

Dan Leone is a SpaceNews staff writer, covering NASA, NOAA and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public communications from the American University in Washington.