Rose-Hulman Alumnus Justin Smith Helping Propel SpaceX’s Lunar

Friday, May 13, 2022
Justin Smith

Engineers, scientists and mathematicians have America’s space exploration sights set on the Moon, with 2003 Rose-Hulman alumnus Justin Smith helping lead the way as a senior manager within SpaceX’s Artemis program with NASA.

Engineers, scientists and mathematicians once again have America’s space exploration sights set on the Moon, with 2003 Rose-Hulman alumnus Justin Smith helping lead the way as a senior manager within SpaceX’s Artemis program with NASA. 

“Going back to the Moon has been a dream of mine throughout my whole career,” says Smith, who augmented his mechanical engineering degree at Rose-Hulman with an aerospace engineering area of concentration. “Taking humans outside of the Earth’s gravitational pull is a landmark in history. Having a piece of responsibility in that goal is where I get great pride and satisfaction.”

Smith is a senior director at SpaceX and recently led the private company’s Guidance, Navigation and Controls (GNC) team to earning human-rating certification for the Dragon spacecraft. He partnered with NASA astronauts on implementing the crew capabilities he designed with his SpaceX team, and in 2020 worked in mission control at SpaceX headquarters during the first crewed spaceflight flown by a commercial provider.

His crewed spaceflight experience is helping lead the SpaceX GNC team on the development of the first commercial human landing system to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface under NASA’s Artemis program. According to Space.com reports, SpaceX is scheduled to land NASA’s Artemis 3 mission on the lunar surface in 2025 or 2026. The company also plans to conduct an uncrewed test flight to the lunar surface with Starship in 2024. 

Watch the below video to learn more about how Justin Smith's experiences at Rose-Hulman helped him reach his dreams of sending a person to the Moon.

 

“Once you see someone flying in a rocket that you helped design and having the responsibility of their lives partially lying in your hands and for them to get safely home to their families is what makes all your efforts worth it,” said Smith, who earned the Rose-Hulman Alumni Association’s Honor Alumni Award earlier this spring. He supplemented his mechanical engineering degree with a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering. 

That technical knowledge has helped Smith have an instrumental role in designing key aspects of the revolutionary booster recovery technology that the company has pioneered for SpaceX’s revolutionary Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.

“That changed the game (in space exploration). At that point [SpaceX] became the most affordable rocket launch service in the world,” he remarked.

Launch Root Quad