The People of Artemis: Jose Perez Morales
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — At the first rollout of NASA’s Artemis 1 Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket in March, Spaceflight Insider had the opportunity to speak with a number of people involved in its design, construction, assembly and flight — The People of Artemis.
Morales was born in Puerto Rico, and attended the University of Puerto Rico (Mayaguez), where he graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and in 1978 with a master’s degree in structural design / civil engineering.
He started with NASA in 1985 and worked as lead designer for several projects in Kennedy’s Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF).
In 1991, he became a project manager, and in 2004 he moved on to branch position chief in the project management office.
From 2006 to 2015, Morales served as a project manager in the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program, which is now EGS.
EGS is based at Kennedy and “was established to develop and operate the systems and facilities necessary to process and launch rockets and spacecraft.” It has approximately 3,000 workers — including both NASA employees and contractors.
The prime contractor for EGS is Jacobs, and the majority of EGS workers are Jacobs’ employees. However, Morales is employed by NASA.
We first asked how NASA and Jacobs work together.
“Jacobs is the operational contractor. They are responsible to process the whole vehicle — all the systems. They have the responsibility of all the infrastructure — to maintain the infrastructure, to make sure the infrastructure works,” Morales said. “My work is to develop infrastructure. For example, the platforms that are inside the VAB, once I put those platforms in, I work hand in hand with Jacobs, because they are the ones that I have to turn over those platforms. They are the ones who are going to operate the platforms.”
“The same thing goes for every system on the pad,” he added. “I’m building that 1.4-million-gallon tank of hydrogen [at Launch Pad 39B]. Once I finish that, and we go through all the testing, they will be with us. Once I’m finished, I turn over the system to them. They’re responsible then to operate the whole system. There has to be a very close relationship between EGS and Jacobs, because they are the ones that we give this whole thing.”
And what are some of your ongoing projects?
“I’ve got three or four projects back at [Pad 39B] that I am responsible for,” Morales said. “One of them is the 1.4-million-gallon [hydrogen] tank.”
“And then I [have] . . . the Emergency Egress System (EES). I’m building a big terminus area . . . where [the slidewire’s] going to end,” Morales said. “When the mobile launcher gets to the pad, they will string cables to the terminus area, which is going to be a huge . . . concrete structure.”
“It looks like . . . an entrance to, if you take a roller coaster, and you enter into the area where they park,” he added. “It’s different levels, because the baskets are going to come, the cars have to be parked right behind, so if the astronauts get out, they, immediately, jump into a car and then roll out of the area. So, it’s a very, very, different system.”
Anything else you’re working on?
“I also [have] a project that is modifying all the environmental control systems. These are the systems that provide air to the cabin, and to the vehicle.” Morales said. “Then, I [have] a project here adding an environmental control system, a full blast environmental control system, to the VAB.”
“And we just signed a contract to develop new platforms that are going to be used for Artemis 4 — the new platforms that are going to be for the Block 1B rocket,” he continued. “And, at some point, I’ll be putting those platforms in High Bay 3, on top of the ones that we have. That’s going to be for the new mobile launcher.”
Lastly, we asked how it felt to finally get to the first rollout.
“I would doubt that there’s somebody out there that is not excited about this, because, again, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a vehicle roll out of the VAB,” Morales said. “I mean, we took the mobile launcher, that’s very exciting, but it’s not as [exciting as] you seeing the whole vehicle moving out like back in the Apollo days, when you saw the first Apollo coming out of that Bay. That’s how it’s going to feel . . . . This is a vehicle almost as big as Apollo, and it’s going to be even more powerful than Apollo.”
Stay tuned to Spaceflight Insider for more on The People of Artemis.
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.