National Institute of Rocket Propulsion Systems Names Four Teams to Address Key Propulsion Challenges

NASA PR – HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems, or NIRPS, has named four expert teams to tackle a series of key challenges facing the rocket propulsion industrial base.

NIRPS is being established to maintain the nation’s leadership in rocket and missile propulsion that is being threatened by industry downsizing, a shortage of new propulsion programs and the ability to attract and retain fresh talent.

The initial responsibilities of the strategy teams, announced at the Joint Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force (JANNAF) conference in Huntsville, Ala., include developing action plans to address the six critical focus areas, called “grand challenges,” NIRPS previously identified, as well as the long-term vision for the Institute.

“The Institute has formed teams of experienced propulsion experts representing government, industry and academia that will work to address these challenges and position NIRPS as a solutions provider,” said Dr. Dale Thomas, associate director for technical issues and Marshall lead for the National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems. “We are pleased to have such a talented and diverse group of professionals on board.”

Created after a review of more than 40 industrial base studies and assessments performed by various entities over the past decade, together with the National Space Policy, National Security Space Strategy, and an informal survey of NIRPS Planning Team members, the six NIRPS grand challenges are:

  1. Reduce development and sustainment costs for missile and rocket systems
  2. Support the competitiveness and resilience of the industrial base
  3. Foster access to facilities and expertise across government, industry and academia
  4. Develop and implement an integrated science and technology plan for propulsion systems
  5. Invigorate the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) pipeline
  6. Collaborate across agencies for missile and rocket propulsion system development

“These challenges are important to sustaining and advancing our future rocket propulsion capabilities and reviving U.S. global competitiveness in rocket propulsion,” Thomas said. “Now is the time to turn our attention to the development of strategies that will allow NIRPS to make progress against these challenges.”

The Institute created four teams to study and address these challenges, with membership across government, industry and academia. Each of the teams will address the grand challenges from very distinct perspectives from within the rocket propulsion community.

  • Industrial Base – to be led by the Dr. Jamie Neidert of the U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center located in Huntsville, with facilitation by Dr. Rajiv Doreswamy of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. This team will formulate and recommend National Policy options and strategies that promote a healthy rocket propulsion industrial base.
  • Integrated Technology Planning & Roadmapping – to be led by Dr. George Schmidt of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, with facilitation by Bill Ondocsin of the Marshall Center. This team is charged with identifying technology needs and recommending technology insertion strategies.
  • Solutions Provider – to be led by Dr. Tom Brown, with facilitation by Rhonda Childress-Thompson, both of the Marshall Center. This team is responsible for maintaining relationships and awareness across the government, industry and academia to align available capacity with emerging demands.
  • Cross-cutting – to be led by Jim Reuter of the Marshall Center. This team’s membership, comprised of the other three team leads and facilitators, will ensure that the other three strategy teams are coordinated and that their efforts address all of the grand challenges.

These four teams have all begun to function, and over the next three months will be developing a coherent set of strategies that address the grand challenges and the top-level plans to accomplish those strategies.

The National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems, or NIRPS, will maintain a cadre of experienced propulsion experts to maintain and align government and industry propulsion capabilities to meet current and future aerospace needs for civil and federal agencies, industry and academia. NIRPS will also provide insight and recommendations to national decisional authorities.