Press Release

Todd May Head of Space Launch System Program, to Talk About NASA’s ‘Next Great Ship’ at USS Alabama

By SpaceRef Editor
August 29, 2013
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From the deck of the battleship USS Alabama, Todd May, head of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program, will talk to the public about the new heavy-lift launch vehicle — NASA’s “Next Great Ship” — at 5 p.m. Sept. 4 at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile.

SLS 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. The first flight test of the SLS is scheduled for 2017, featuring a configuration for a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity and carrying an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit to test the performance of the integrated system. As the SLS evolves, it will provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system to places like Mars.

May, who grew up in Fairhope, Ala., near Mobile where the retired battleship is berthed, manages the Space Launch System Program, located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He leads the nationwide team developing America’s next heavy-lift vehicle for deep-space science and exploration. Named to the position in August 2011, he is responsible for a multi-billion-dollar budget and leads over a thousand civil servant and contractor employees.

“I grew up on the Gulf Coast,” May said. “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. 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 also will speak at his alma mater, Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Ala., at 10 a.m. Sept. 5.

More about SLS Program Manager Todd May

May earned a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., in 1990. He has completed all coursework at Auburn University for a doctorate in materials science and has completed executive coursework at MIT’s Sloan School of Business and Harvard University.

Throughout his NASA career, May has held numerous high-level leadership positions, including associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. 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. He managed NASA’s Lunar Robotic Program, overseeing a dual spacecraft mission to the moon.  

May has received many awards, including NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, the Senior Executive Presidential Rank Award and, most recently, NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.

May and his wife, Kelly, and their four children live in Huntsville.

 For information about NASA’s SLS Program, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.