Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., and Scott Jones, Lockheed Martin director of Supply Chain Management on Civil Space Programs, today executed a new master agreement that enables FAMU students and faculty to work on NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program and other Lockheed Martin space exploration projects. FAMU is the first historically Black college or university to participate in these efforts.
During the five-year collaboration, Lockheed Martin will provide up to $5 million in funding to FAMU through a series of task orders commissioning work related to space exploration. The contract signing ceremony was held at the historic Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center, the assembly and test area for the Orion spacecraft.
“FAMU is excited about the opportunity for our talented faculty and students to work with the Lockheed Martin and NASA team on the journey to Mars,” Robinson said. “The world-class researchers and laboratories at the FAMU- FSU College of Engineering, the FAMU College of Science and Technology, and other STEM disciplines will help make discoveries and develop new technologies needed for deep space exploration.”
Jones added, “The signing of this contract brings together the talents and resources of both Florida A&M University and Lockheed Martin. As NASA continues to push the boundaries of space exploration, partnerships like this will help provide skills and technologies needed to advance us further than ever before.”
According to J. Murray Gibson, Ph.D., dean of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, the partnership brings unique strength in engineering research and education that will benefit the Orion program.
“The partnership of FAMU and FSU embodied in our college combines the strengths of a leading historically Black university with a Carnegie ‘highest’ research activity institution,” Gibson said.
FAMU Professor Okenwa Okoli, Ph.D., is the principal investigator for the project. He serves as the associate director of the High-Performance Materials Institute.
“Deep space exploration introduces a range of new challenges and requirements. This agreement will enable Lockheed Martin and NASA to engage the full spectrum of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering’s talent and resources,” Okoli said.
National and state leaders praised the two organizations for creating such an important partnership that will impact the next phase of aerospace research.
“Space exploration is a key element of America’s leadership agenda for the future,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. “I commend Lockheed Martin and Florida A&M University on this agreement to allow our next generation of engineers and scientists to contribute to the success of Orion and human missions to Mars.”
Congressman Bill Posey underscored the integral role the partnership will play in expanding experiential learning opportunities for students interested in the science behind space exploration.
“This contract award between Lockheed Martin and Florida A&M University provides an outstanding opportunity for students to engage directly with the Orion program and America’s journey to Mars,” Posey said.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep space exploration. Orion will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit, such as asteroids, the Moon and eventually Mars, and return them safely back to Earth.
FAMU is an 1890, land-grant, doctoral research and historically Black university located in Tallahassee, Florida. The University is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, resolution of complex issues, and the empowerment of citizens and communities. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering ranked the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering the No. 1 institution of origin for African Americans earning doctorate degrees in natural science and engineering.