From the Moon to Mars

By Irene Smith DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Fifty years ago liquid oxygen and rocket propellant propelled the three-stage Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 spacecraft and three astronauts to the moon.

Defense Supply Agency in Cameron Station – the predecessor agency of Defense Logistics Agency Energy – supplied the rocket fuel and other space-related items including liquid hydrogen, cryogenic valves and helium storage tanks to launch the first manned mission to land on the Moon. 

“1969 will be remembered in history as the year in which this nation fulfilled its initial commitment to land men on the moon and return them safely to the earth,” said Thomas Stafford, chief of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, Texas, in a congratulatory letter to DSA. “This achievement could not have been accomplished without the skill, sacrifice and personal dedication of everyone in the Defense Supply Agency. No one can appreciate your good work more than we who fly the Apollo vehicles.”

In addition to the highly specialized support for the Apollo 11 program, DSA and its depots played a vital role in furnishing a number of items which went into (at the time) mankind’s most complex scientific venture.

Working in conjunction with its Defense Contract Administration Services Office in Houston, Texas, DSA played an important role not just for the Apollo 11 flight but also Apollo 8 and other Apollo missions through the procurement of liquid oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

Today, DLA Energy Aerospace Energy continues to supply propellants, liquid oxygen and other chemicals, gases and cryogenic liquids needed to support an average of 15 space launches a year. As the Department of Defense Integrated Materiel Manager for space and space-related products since 2001, DLA Energy has provided fuel sources for a variety of space missions.

“We’re actively engaged in supporting today’s space program as well as providing the propellants for the launch vehicles for Delta IV, Atlas V, Antares and the Parker Solar Probe,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Director Doug Smith. “Of the 92 products DLA Energy Aerospace provides, 11 are specific to space missions.”

In recent years, the agency supported the NASA New Horizons mission that traveled past Pluto and the NASA Discovery mission and providing the fuel for the Atlas V rocket that launched the InSight spacecraft, which landed on Mars in Nov. 2018.

“DLA Energy is helping support NASA technology demonstrations, which one day could help the agency send astronauts to Mars and other future space missions,” Smith said.  “We are working closely with NASA on future projects including the Orion crewed space flight, the Mars Ascent Vehicle and the Air Force Research Lab on hypersonics.”

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, the high standards and quality assurance established by DSA that sent Apollo 11 to the moon are in still practiced today by DLA Energy Aerospace Energy.