Spaceflight Insider

Opinion: Honeycutt – Next SLS program manager?

Space Launch System SLS booster lifting off from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider - Copy

Will John Honeycutt, SLS Deputy Program Manager, become the next Program Manager? Image Credit: NASA

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Todd May, NASA’s former Space Launch System (SLS) program manager, was recently promoted to deputy director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), leaving the SLS program manager position vacant.

NASA has not yet named a new program manager, or released information regarding a timetable to fill the vacancy. However, the agency has named John Honeycutt, SLS deputy program manager, as acting manager, and he appears to be the leading candidate to fill the position.

John Honeycutt, SLS Deputy Program Manager. Photo Credit: NASA

John Honeycutt, SLS Deputy Program Manager. Photo Credit: NASA

Honeycutt is a native of Huntsville, Ala., and graduated, in 1990, from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

He worked for Rockwell International (Huntsville), from 1990 to 1996, providing main propulsion system and external tank engineering analysis and launch support for the Shuttle program.

From 1997 to 1999, he worked at Boeing North American (Huntsville) as an environmental and structural test engineer, and later as the lead test engineer.

Honeycutt joined NASA in 1999 and was assigned as lead engineer for the relocation of MC-1 (Fastrac) engine testing to Santa Susana Field Laboratories in California. And, in September 2000, he was assigned as Vehicle Propulsion System lead.

Honeycutt also served as NASA lead for the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET) Working Group Interface Team that closed all fault tree blocks associated with ET interfaces during the Columbia accident investigation.

And, in September 2004, he was named NASA lead engineer responsible for testing and certification of Shuttle “Return to Flight” ET redesigns.

In 2006, he became deputy manager of the ET Project, and, in May 2010, he was promoted to manager of the ET Project Office.

Honeycutt first worked on SLS as deputy manager of the SLS Stages Element Office. After that, he served as SLS deputy chief engineer. And, in November 2013, he was named deputy SLS program manager.

Honeycutt has received numerous awards, including a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, a Space Flight Awareness Award, and a Silver Snoopy Award.

NASA is hoping to have SLS, its new super heavy-lift vehicle, flying by 2018 – for Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), an uncrewed test flight around the Moon. If everything goes according to plan, EM-1 will mark the first flight of the vehicle, as well as the first time the Orion spacecraft and SLS are sent aloft as a single unit.

Due to the unconfirmed nature of this article, it has been listed as an editorial / opinion-based feature.


Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.

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