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NASA Networking Event Giving Fairhope Native Chance to Showcase Space Agency’s ‘Next Great Ship’

MOBILE, Alabama – Folks eager to learn the ins and outs of doing business with NASA will not be the only ones getting an education Wednesday.

The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce will host the national space agency for a business-to-business forum for small- and mid-sized businesses across the region from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center.

But Fairhope native Todd May, manager of NASA’s Space Launch System Program and a key presenter during the forum, will also tell the public about the national space agency’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle from the deck of the USS Alabama at 5 p.m. and is slated to speak at his alma mater, Fairhope High School, at 10 a.m. Sept. 5.

“I grew up on the Gulf Coast,” May said in a prepared statement released by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“And down there, we regularly stand on land and look out at the horizon. It beckons, ‘What’s out there?’ Space exploration beckons the same thing,” May said.

SLS has been dubbed NASA’s “Next Great Ship” and, according to Marshall officials, it will be the “most powerful rocket in the world with the greatest capacity of any launch system ever built to support any destination, any payload and any mission.”

May, who has led the SLS program for two years, manages a multi-billion-dollar budget and oversees more than 1,000 civil servant and contract employees.

“We intend to build the ‘ship’ that will take us to places in the universe we’ve never been before. And like the fleets that set out to sea, we look forward to the journey that awaits us,” May said of the Space Launch System program,” May said.

Prior to his current post, May served as associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, where he oversaw a $5 billion annual portfolio of more than 100 scientific missions. He also managed NASA’s highly successful Discovery and New Frontiers program, which “develops low-cost missions to encounter comets and asteroids, return scientific samples from deep space, and launch the first mission to explore Pluto” and the Lunar Robotic Program, overseeing a dual spacecraft mission to the moon.

In addition to presentations during the business-to-business forum, NASA agency representatives and prime contractors will take part in a trade show, offering attendees face time with potential customers and purchasing agents.

Specifically, NASA’s Shared Services Center in Mississippi, Stennis Space Center, Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and the Mobile district of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will be represented as well as contractors, including Northrop Grumman Corp., ATK Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin Corp., Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc., Dynetics, the United Launch Alliance and Boeing Co.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, the state’s already robust aerospace sector boasts 300 companies employing some 83,000 people, and the sector is one of 11 targeted aggressively for growth by Accelerate Alabama, the state’s official economic development blueprint.

Registration is $75 and includes lunch and a post-conference reception sponsored by Boeing Co. For more information or to attend, call (251) 431-8607.

Kelli Dugan | By Kelli Dugan |
on September 2, 2013 at 8:57 AM


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