Sharpening its focus on the next generation of human space flight, a
new office at the Johnson Space Center will develop technologies to
lead to the next reusable human spacecraft, work that could mean
hundreds of millions of dollars of research efforts managed from
Houston over the next few years.

JSC’s new Space Launch Initiative Office will manage research and
development of technologies unique to flying humans in space as part
of NASA’s almost $5 billion Space Launch Initiative.

“The Space Launch Initiative will develop technologies during the next
four years that lead to the design of the next generation of
spacecraft, and JSC will lead the portion of that effort focused on
human space flight beyond the Space Shuttle,” said veteran astronaut
Dave Leestma, who will lead the new JSC office. “JSC has the world’s
leading experts on human space flight. The work done here will be
important to the center’s future. It will be important to the local
economy. And it will be critical for the future of human space

Development work managed by JSC already has begun with two contracts
totaling more than $7 million awarded earlier this year, beginning two
innovative projects: designing an inflatable spacecraft airlock and
characterizing materials that could protect astronauts from an
exploding spacecraft. Numerous other development projects are
anticipated to begin next year. The goal of the Space Launch
Initiative, headed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, AL, is to enable a second generation of spacecraft that
will be 100 times safer and 10 times cheaper to fly than the Space

“In the next 12 to 15 months, the level of effort and expenditures at
JSC related to developing new technologies for the Space Launch
Initiative could dramatically increase,” Leestma said. “Our goal at
JSC is to stay in the forefront of human space flight.”

Since it first opened in Houston as the Manned Spacecraft Center in
the early 1960s, engineers at JSC have led the development of every
United States human spacecraft. The center’s engineering expertise
includes life support systems, crew escape systems, power generation,
structures, thermal control systems, and crew equipment such as
clothing and food, among other areas. JSC is also NASA’s repository of
expertise in planning, training and conducting human space flight. The
research and development work to be overseen by JSC in the next few
years is expected to encompass technologies related to these fields,
creating innovative equipment with a goal of dramatically lowering the
cost and increasing the safety of human space travel.

More information about NASA’s Space Launch Initiative is available on
the internet at: