HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Dec. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Steve Creech spends his days working in Huntsville, Alabama, on NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, but he points to his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, as the place his 26-year engineering career first took root.
"It was the guidance and advice of my counselor at Tupelo High School that led me to go to Mississippi State University (in Starkville) and pursue engineering," Creech said. "I admire the people who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to do. I didn't really know, and appreciated the help I got along the way from that counselor, teachers and college professors. I give them a lot of credit for my professional success. They really cared about the students and connected with us."
While attending MSU, Creech applied for a spot in NASA's Cooperative Education Program at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, he joined NASA in 1990 as a junior cost engineer. He has taken on a broad range of technical leadership roles since that first position, from senior cost engineer to overseeing the business and administrative functions for a broad range of advanced space transportation programs and projects.
He recently was named manager of the Spacecraft Payload Integration and Evolution (SPIE) Office for the SLS Program, managed at Marshall. SLS, with the Orion spacecraft atop, will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep-space missions, including NASA's Journey to Mars. The SLS is organizationally divided into four main parts, and Creech oversees the work force designing, developing, testing and building the hardware that makes up the top portion of the rocket.
That hardware includes the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), which is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion the in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before it returns to Earth on the first flight of SLS in 2018. The launch vehicle stage adapter connects the SLS core stage and the ICPS, and the Orion stage adapter will connect the Orion spacecraft to the ICPS. The Orion stage adapter also will house 13 secondary payloads, or CubeSats, on the first flight of SLS. The mission provides the rare opportunity for these small science and technology experiments to reach deep-space destinations, as most launch opportunities for CubeSats are limited to low-Earth orbit.
"Next year is huge for the SPIE team, as structural loads testing begins to ensure the hardware is ready for flight," Creech said. "There's a lot of analysis and verification in making sure the rocket does what it is designed to do. Flight units for the hardware also are being built now ahead of our first flight."
"It's a great time to be at NASA and Marshall," he added. "This is a really exciting point in time for the SLS Program, as we have that first flight in front of us and are seeing the results of the work done so far by our teams. NASA's mission is to explore the unknown and reach new heights, and the journey to Mars with SLS and Orion is the next chapter on that incredible mission. I'm really proud to be a part of it."
Creech's service to NASA has garnered numerous honors and awards, including the Medal for Exceptional Service and a Silver Snoopy Award. The award, presented by the NASA astronaut corps, is given for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success.
He and his wife, Amy, have two daughters and live in Huntsville. Creech's parents, brother and mother's extended family reside in Turbeville, South Carolina.
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