HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Michael Kynard, manager of the Ares I Upper Stage Engine in the Exploration Launch Projects Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been appointed to the federal government’s Senior Executive Service.

The Senior Executive Service is the personnel system covering top managerial positions in approximately 75 federal agencies.

“I am excited and humbled to be named to the Senior Executive Service,” said Kynard. “To serve NASA, alongside senior leaders who shape the government, is a tremendous honor.”

Kynard has served in his current position since January 2007. He leads the team of engineers and scientists responsible for developing a new engine, the J-2X, that will be used to boost the upper stages of the Ares launch vehicles into space. This includes the design, development, test and evaluation of the engine system before its ready for flight.

The J-2X will power the upper stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle, which will carry the Orion spacecraft and its crew of up to six astronauts to space. The J-2X also will power the Earth departure stage of the Ares V cargo launch vehicle that will deliver large-scale hardware and resources to space for extending a human presence beyond Earth orbit. The Ares launch vehicles will replace the space shuttle when it is retired in the 2010 timeframe. Based on the original J-2 engine that powered the Apollo-Saturn moon rockets in the 1960s and 1970s, the J-2X is an example of how NASA is using legacy knowledge and heritage hardware to make space travel safer and more reliable to allow astronauts to concentrate on exploration and discovery.

“This is an exciting time for our team,” said Kynard. To be given the opportunity to develop a new engine, the J-2X, that will help power NASA’s next generation launch vehicles into Earth orbit and, in the case of Ares V, on to lunar orbit – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Prior to his current position, Kynard was manager of the Ares V Core Stage and Core Stage Engine in Marshall’s Exploration Launch Projects Office. He led development of the core stage for Ares V, including the design, development and upgrade of the RS-68 engine, and the design and development of the core stage tanks and structure.

Before the Ares vehicles, Kynard’s career was focused on the space shuttle’s main engines. From 2003 to 2005, he was deputy manager of Marshall’s Space Shuttle Main Engine Project, where he assisted in overall project management of the shuttle main engines and oversaw operations to ensure the safety of the engines for flight. From 2001 to 2003, he was systems and requirements team lead for the same project, overseeing all technical issues related to shuttle main engine systems. He was an engine systems engineer for the project from 1999 to 2001.

Kynard was an engineer from 1992 to 1999 in the Propulsion Laboratory in the engine systems branch of the Science and Engineering Directorate at the Marshall Center. He was the lead point-of-contact for all shuttle main engine development activities and performed systems analysis on the design and testing of the engines. From 1989 to 1992, Kynard was the Marshall Center representative at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., where he oversaw the testing of the shuttle main engines – an experience he admits left an impression on his career path.

“The shuttle main engine is very powerful. One engine alone has nearly a half million pounds of thrust; just imagine three on the shuttle,” said Kynard. “Even though variations of the shuttle main engines have flown over twenty years, it is still one of the most complex and amazing pieces of machinery and technology of our day.”

Kynard says that shuttle engine technology is an inspiration to his Ares J-2X engine team. “The shuttle has set an impressive record of success, and our team accepts that as a challenge to live up to – and surpass,” said Kynard. “Our goal is to build on that record – take lessons learned and advance the engine technology needed to support NASA’s exploration mission and develop the next generation of rockets that will take us back to the moon.”

So what about the young student, looking to the stars? For Kynard, a Moundville, Ala., native who graduated in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the keys to success are plenty of math and science, a lot of hard work and the tenacity to never give up.

“To advance society, we must understand and build on what we already know, and work hard to get it right,” said Kynard. “Here at NASA, we get to do things and work on projects that no one has ever done before. It’s not only an honor but a dream come true.”