Leaning on Collaboration: The Impact of NASA's Newfound Private and International Dependence on Modern Spaceflight

Hassett, Noah, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The Artemis program, a NASA-led set of initiatives marrying technological advances with preparatory goals, aims to return humanity to the lunar surface, establishing a permanent lunar base in the process. Much like the Apollo program from the 1960s and 1970s, Artemis requires careful mission planning, vehicle design, and manufacturing to ensure the completion of the mission and the safe return of the crew. However, NASA adopted a specific operational philosophy for Artemis that differs heavily from the way Apollo operated. Where Apollo parts were largely designed and manufactured in-house with help from solely American contractors, Artemis has leaned on several private and international partners, with some even competing for contracts. Ultimately, Artemis represents a new way of transporting humans to the moon, differing significantly from Apollo and hinting at far-reaching implications for how NASA conducts space travel going forward. The STS deliverable attempts to demystify these implications by analyzing the organizational structure of both the Artemis program and the former Apollo program. Particularly, viewing the organizational structure of these programs through the lens of Actor-Network Theory uncovers the relationships that differentiate them. Combining this with the outside political environment of each program allows us to extrapolate how space travel may operate in the future.
The technical deliverable focuses on the design, fabrication, and testing of a medium-sized solid propulsion rocket. This year-long process required use of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs, machine-based manufacturing tools, and extensive drafting of documentation, the latter ensuring that future project teams can benefit from progress made towards this project.
Ultimately, completing both of these projects provided a deeper understanding of how societal factors can influence engineering projects, on all scales.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
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