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News | July 15, 2015

DLA Energy supports New Horizons spacecraft’s Pluto mission

By Christopher Goulait DLA Energy Public Affairs

The Defense Logistics Agency Energy’s support now extends to the edge of the solar system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto.

Propellants used along the spacecraft’s journey, as well as the fuel and other products used in the Atlas V rocket that launched New Horizons were all procured, stored and transported by DLA Energy.

“We not only helped to launch the satellite via the Atlas V rocket and the products we had on the rocket itself, but we also provided the New Horizons spacecraft with mono-propellant hydrazine for its thrusters,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Supplier Division Chief Doug Smith. “The New Horizons spacecraft has been travelling for more than nine years now, positioning itself on product we provided them.”

Hydrazine is used in the thrusters on the New Horizons for trajectory adjustments or for attitude control.

DLA Energy is the integrated material manager for space and space-related products and services for the Department of Defense, federal agencies, government contractors and academia. As such, it is responsible for the procurement, storage and transportation of those products.

Successful delivery of hydrazine requires negotiating a long term supply contract and all associated contract administration throughout the life of the contract, Smith explained. Delivery orders are put in place to ensure product deliveries, and inventory managers oversee the inventory of five different grades and two different blends of the product. Transporters move the hydrazine, and customer account specialists work with customers to make sure their short and long term needs are met.

DLA Energy Aerospace Energy, located in San Antonio, also has quality assurance and chemist staff members to help with quality or technical issues for the products they manage. Quality assurance representatives in the DLA Energy regions ensure the vendor’s quality meets the military specifications as well.

“A lot of work goes into ensuring this supply chain runs smoothly,” Smith said. “At times like this, you see the payoff of the work of individuals throughout Aerospace Energy.”

DLA Energy’s initial work with the project took place leading up to the 2006 launch of New Horizons.

“It is amazing to see some of the pictures coming back from the New Horizons that was launched so long ago,” Smith said. “Missions such as these show the importance of space exploration, and our logistical support to that mission. We support satellite launches regularly, but it really comes home to you when you see something that was done in this office back in 2006 coming to fruition now.”

“Being a part of such a great accomplishment for this nation is both humbling and exciting,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Customer Division Chief Ken Grams. “I am extremely proud of the contributions by the Aerospace Energy team in this and in all of our endeavors.”

Being a part of this mission as the logistics supplier for the propellants is something that can be looked back on as a special moment, Smith said. The team isn’t just negotiating contracts, placing orders, managing inventory or creating transportation movements, it’s impacting historic exploration and scientific discovery.

“DLA Energy Aerospace Energy will continue to get our customers the products they need, at the right price, so they can go out and provide amazing results like NASA is currently doing with the New Horizons mission,” Smith said. “It’s exciting to see what was done back in 2006 under then-director Sharon Murphy having such a major impact today, and I look forward to seeing what we can do in the future.

The New Horizons mission is conducting a five-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons throughout the summer, followed by an extended mission to head farther into the Kuiper Belt, according to the New Horizons mission page.