Draper’s roots in the space industry, going back to the Apollo missions, make us a uniquely experienced player in the modern space field. As a partner with NASA and a number of commercial companies working toward upcoming space flights and moon landings, our Space Systems team is continuing Draper’s legacy of solving some of the most challenging programs within the space economy.
We sat down with two leaders of Draper’s Space Systems team – Seamus Tuohy, Principal Director, and Alan Campbell, Program Manager – to talk about their experience at Draper, their current work and their outlook on the space industry.
Alan joined Draper in 2011 as an engineer, fresh from completing his M.S. degree in orbital mechanics and controls, and made the transition to program manager a couple of years ago. Like many people working in the space industry, Alan has been fascinated by space since childhood, and steered his career very intentionally in this direction. But not everyone follows such a direct path into this field. Seamus came to Draper in 1996 with B.S. and M.S. degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering, plus a PhD in ocean engineering, planning to be an engineer for ships and underwater vehicles. His transition into the space industry happened gradually over the course of several assignments in his early days at Draper.
“That’s one of the nice things about being at Draper. It doesn’t matter what you come in with. You’re able to make the work whatever you want to do, and I was able to go into space.” – Seamus Tuohy
Seamus and Alan both say that the most dramatic change in the space industry in recent years has been the volume and pace of work. New NASA initiatives to return to the moon and new commercial interest in space flight have driven an industry boom, which they expect to continue as commercial opportunities in space grow.
One of Draper’s current space initiatives includes NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project, in which Draper is working to deliver scientific or commercial payloads to the moon as a service. Draper is the prime contractor for this program, and is working alongside eight other companies that were selected to bid for CLPS missions going forward. We are partnered with ispace, a Japanese company working on the design of Draper’s lunar lander and a rover that may fly onboard too; General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, who will handle the manufacturing, integration and testing of the vehicle here in the U.S., plus integration and testing of the payloads into the vehicle; and Spaceflight, a startup based in Seattle, WA, that will coordinate grouping the payloads into bundles to make flights more cost-effective.
Click and drag to spin the lander.
“Now we have the next phase of human exploration. We’re going back to land humans on the moon in 2024, so that’s very exciting to see that government is interested in doing this again and providing actual funding to go along with it.” – Alan Campbell
This is a team motivated by solving the very toughest challenges in space flight. At the top of their list these days is making navigation so precise and reliable that space travel can become routine, to make it possible for new government and commercial missions to go back to the moon to stay and build a sustainable presence there.
Commerce opportunities in space are an essential driver of the technology development that will make sustainable life in space possible. And while companies are working toward that goal, many of the greatest innovations will be directly transferrable to life on Earth. As we break down barriers to living in space, and the technology it will take to support human life so far from home, we’ll be working our way toward solving some of the greatest challenges we have here on Earth too, like improving global resource distribution and rural medical care.
“The work we’re doing at Draper and the work we’re doing for NASA – why I think it’s critical – is that we’re trying to establish technologies that make reliable, safe, consistent travel to the moon possible.” – Seamus Tuohy
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