Florida A&M University Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., and Scott Jones, Lockheed Martin director of supply chain management on civil space programs, have agreed to a five-year collaboration that will engage FAMU scholars and faculty members in work on NASA’s Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle Program, as well as other Lockheed Martin space exploration projects.
FAMU is the first historically black college 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.
I spoke with Interim President Robinson and FAMU Professor Okenwa Okoli, Ph.D. by phone, to learn more.
“This partnership will open doors for students,” Robinson says. “Each task order will require a specific set of deliverables.”
The goal of this extraordinary collaboration? “The primary goal is for Lockheed Martin to develop a capsule that will allow humans to spend a long time in space,” Robinson says.
A Long Time Coming
How did this all come about? Basically, through a professional relationship. FAMU Professor Okenwa Okoli, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the project, met Michelle Butzke of Lockheed Martin.
“She looked at our research portfolio. We have expertise in advanced materials research,” says Okoli, associate director of FAMU’s High-Performance Materials Institute. “Based on that, we struck up a conversation and began working towards an agreement where we could collaborate.”
Okoli says that both graduates and undergrads will work with Lockheed Martin, whose needs will determine what students get selected to work on the project. “Students will most likely major in engineering, but physics majors will also be considered,” Okoli says. They’ll be looking for a “combination of expertise. We’ll find the students that fit best, as well as the faculty,” who will also be working on the project.
In a statement, FAMU describes Lockheed Martin as “the prime contractor building the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long duration, human-rated deep space exploration.”
FAMU is an 1890, land-grant, doctoral research and historically black university in Tallahassee, Florida. 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 doctoral degrees in natural science and engineering.
For more information, visit FAMU.