Aerospace engineering alumnus named director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Published: Feb 5, 2024 12:30 PM

By Dustin Duncan

Auburn University alumnus Joseph Pelfrey has been named the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Pelfrey, who earned his bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering in 2000, will manage one of NASA's largest field installations in this role. NASA Marshall manages NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the agency manufactures some of the largest elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for NASA's Artemis campaign. The center is also responsible for the oversight and execution of an approximately $5 billion portfolio comprised of human spaceflight, science, and technology development efforts. Its workforce consists of nearly 7,000 employees, both civil servants and contractors.

"Marshall is renowned for its expertise in exploration and scientific discovery, and I am honored and humbled to be chosen to lead the center into the future," Pelfrey said. "We will continue to shape the future of human space exploration by leading SLS and human landing system development for Artemis and leveraging our capabilities to make critical advancements in human landing and cargo systems, habitation and transportation systems, advanced manufacturing, mission operations, and cutting-edge science and technology missions."

Pelfrey served as the flight center's acting director since July 2023, following the retirement announcement of then-director Jody Singer. Pelfrey was appointed deputy director in April 2022.

Before his current role, Pelfrey was the manager of Marshall's Human Exploration Development and Operations Office from 2020-22, overseeing the management and implementation of the center's work portfolio in human exploration and transportation projects. He also held the deputy manager position for that organization from 2018-20.

Pelfrey joined NASA Marshall in 2004 as an aerospace engineer in the Science and Mission Systems Office, later taking on various leadership roles within the International Space Station Program. Pelfrey led the development, integration and operations of multiple payload facilities and science experiments.

In 2008, Pelfrey joined Marshall's Engineering Directorate to serve as the design integration lead for the Ares I Upper Stage — the rocket that would inform the development of NASA's SLS. In 2011, he was named engineering task manager for the SLS's Spacecraft/Payload Integration and Evolution Office and manager of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project at Marshall.

In 2012, Pelfrey was appointed deputy manager and then manager of the Exploration and Space Transportation Development Office in Marshall's Flight Programs and Partnerships Office. In 2016, he was appointed to the senior executive service post of associate director for operations in Marshall's Engineering Directorate. The senior executive service is the personnel system covering most top managerial, supervisory and policy positions in the federal government's executive branch.

"Auburn's history with NASA is among the richest in the nation, and we are extremely proud to see another Auburn engineer leading the Marshall Space Flight Center," said Mario Eden, dean of Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. "Joseph Pelfrey is a dedicated leader and, as the Auburn Creed says, he believes in work, hard work. As NASA charts its path to put people back on the Moon, and to Mars, it's nice to see that our path to the red planet will be charted with some orange and blue."

Pelfrey isn't the first Auburn graduate to lead NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Todd May, ’90 materials engineering, previously served as the center's director from 2016-18.

Media Contact: Dustin Duncan ,, 334-844-2326
man stands outside with NASA vest

Auburn University alumnus Joseph Pelfrey has been named the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

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