Bill Gerstenmaier, a former space engineer and widely respected space engineer and administrator at NASA’s headquarters, has taken up an advisory role at SpaceX. Charles Bolden, a former NASA director and veteran space shuttle commander, posted a message on Twitter congratulating him on the appointment, calling the appointment “a great help to the SpaceX team.”
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Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, wrote in another tweet: “Congratulations to SpaceX for the successful invitation to a distinguished engineer, former NASA director William Gerstenmeier. “
Gerstenmeier joined NASA in 1977 and played a key role in the construction of the International Space Station. He also worked with NASA and the Russian Space Agency on the Space Shuttle-Mir project, and was responsible for the entire space station program until he was promoted to deputy director of space at NASA headquarters in 2005.
Meanwhile, SpaceX recently won an $80.4 million NASA contract. According to the contract, SpaceX will use a “second-hand” Falcon 9 rocket to put a 1,700-kilogram plankton, aerosol, cloud and marine ecosystem satellite (PACE) into orbit sometime in December 2022. This satellite will help us to understand the earth better.
SpaceX has carried out several scientific satellite launches so far since it was approved for launch in 2016, including the Jason-3 satellite in 2016 and the GRACE-FO mission in 2018, as well as the Sentinel 6A mission in November 2020.
However, the future of the satellite launch is uncertain as the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cancel ocean observation missions to cut funding for Earth science research. In the recently released 2021 budget plan, President Trump still intends to cancel PACE and another Earth research mission. PACE’s fate, SpaceX’s contract, remains fraught with uncertainty.