Ninth Center Director, September 1998 - May 2003
Stephenson was director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville, Ala. He headed one of NASA’s largest
field installations, with more than 6,500 civil service and contract
employees and an annual budget of $2.3 billion. Stephenson managed
a broad range of research and development activities for the U.S.
space program at the Marshall Center.
Born in New London, Conn., Stephenson graduated from Narbonne
High School in Harbor City, Calif. He earned a bachelor’s
degree in electrical engineering from the University of Redlands,
Calif., and completed the executive program in management at the
John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University
of California at Los Angeles.
After joining Marshall in 1998, Stephenson had overseen the Center’s work on critical NASA initiatives such as development of new reusable
launch vehicles, Space Shuttle propulsion, advanced space transportation systems, research in microgravity, and science payload operations
aboard the International Space Station, as well as the launch
and continuing successful operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory
– the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope.
He also initiated the 2nd and 3rd generation propulsion technology
development programs at NASA and supported the establishment of
a viable in-space propulsion technology development program. Under
his guidance, the National Space Science Technology Center --
a partnership with universities and federal agencies to conduct
cutting-edge research -- was established and ground was broken
for the Propulsion Research Laboratory – a world-class laboratory
for research into future space transportation technology. He led
the Center in numerous successful Space Shuttle launches in which
Marshall is responsible for all propulsion elements.
Under Stephenson’s direction, the Marshall Center completed
testing of the Truss and Pressurized Modules for the International
Space Station. In addition, the Marshall Center provides support
to the construction and operation of the International Space Station,
including Marshall’s Payload Operations Center that controls
all the science experiments aboard the Space Station.
Stephenson arrived at NASA with more than 35 years of experience
in the space industry. His career started with TRW in 1964, working
on the design of test equipment for the Lunar Module Abort Guidance
System in the Apollo program. Over the next 27 years, he took
on even greater roles in the nation’s space program. He
led the development of the Pioneer Jupiter Spacecraft Receiver,
the first spacecraft to exit our solar system, as well as the
development of the Space Shuttle Orbiter S-band Network Transponder
that is still in use today. He managed several spacecraft programs
and space transportation programs before leaving TRW in 1992 to
become vice president of Oceaneering Space Systems in Houston.
He led the expansion of the Space Systems organization from 30
to 220 people, and oversaw the design and manufacture of hardware
that included thermal protection subsystems for several launch
vehicles, advanced life support systems, extravehicular activity
astronaut equipment, advanced robotics and robotic test beds and
space refrigerators. In 1997, he became president of Oceaneering
Technologies, which includes divisions working with the U.S. Navy,
NASA, Department of Energy and the entertainment industries.
For his exceptional contributions to the space program and the
nation, he was recognized with the NASA Outstanding Leadership
Medal, the NASA Group Achievement Award, and the NASA Exceptional
Achievement Medal. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate
by The University of Alabama System and was selected by the American
Society for Engineering Management as the 2001 Engineering Manager
of the Year. In 2002, he received the Career Achievement Award
from the University of Redlands, California. Most recently, he
was selected as the 2003 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Award recipient
by the Huntsville, Alabama, chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Inc. He also received the 2003 Community Service Award from Oakwood
College in Huntsville, Alabama.
Stephenson retired as Marshall's Center Director in May 2003.