Spaceflight Insider

Mark Kirasich selected as Orion Program Manager

Mark Kirasich NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Mark Kirasich. Photo Credit: NASA

Mark Kirasich has been appointed to be the new manager of NASA’s Orion Program. Kirasich has served as the Deputy Orion Program manager since 2006. In this position, Kirasich will play a strong role in the development of the new spacecraft that is being produced to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit – to destinations far beyond our home world.

NASA Orion spacecraft Lockheed Martin photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

NASA has made steady progress toward having Orion send crews to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

As Orion Program manager, he will now be responsible for oversight of design, development, and testing of the Orion spacecraft, as well as spacecraft manufacturing already underway at locations across the country and in Europe with the European Space Agency (ESA).

“I have seen first-hand Mark’s impact on the Orion Program, and previously in key operations leadership roles at Johnson, and I look forward to having him help us extend the success of Orion’s 2014 flight test forward,” said Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa.

Kirasich has held multiple positions at NASA since he began his career in 1983 as a member of the space shuttle flight operations team, at Johnson Space Center, where he rose quickly to the position of lead space shuttle payload officer in mission control. In 1996, he was selected as a flight director in charge of planning and executing NASA human spaceflight missions, serving in that capacity for multiple space shuttle missions and International Space Station expeditions.


Kirasich succeeds Mark Geyer as head of NASA’s Orion Program. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

Kirasich succeeds Mark Geyer, who was appointed by NASA in August to serve as the deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, located in Houston, Texas. From there, he will manage one of NASA’s largest installations, with nearly 14,000 civil service and contractor employees – including those stationed at White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico – and an annual budget of approximately $5.1 billion. Geyer will also oversee a broad range of human space flight activities. As NASA works to cede responsibility to private firms for the delivery of crew and cargo to the International Space Station, the agency will strive to send crews to locations deep in space – such as to a piece of an asteroid towed into lunar orbit, and possibly to Mars.

“Mark brings a wealth of knowledge about NASA’s human spaceflight efforts to the Orion Program manager position,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. “By overseeing the team and the work needed to send Orion to deep space, and working directly with our international partner ESA to provide the spacecraft’s service module, his leadership will be essential to enabling humans to pioneer farther into the Solar System and continue our journey to Mars.”

Kirasich, a native of Chicago, received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1982 from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1983 from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. His many achievements include NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and Space Flight Awareness Award and a Johnson Space Center Director’s Commendation.

Although Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) has been delayed until 2018, assembly of the Orion spacecraft is coming together across the country and in Europe. At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, welding began in September on the next Orion capsule destined for space. Next month, NASA will see the arrival of a test version of Orion’s service module, provided by ESA, for testing and analysis at the agency’s Plum Brook Station, near Sandusky, Ohio.

Orion has already conducted one, uncrewed, mission. In December of 2014, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida with a test article of Orion on Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1). That spacecraft carried out two orbits and traveled out some 3,600 miles (5,794 km) from Earth – before returning to safely to Earth.



College student and long time space enthusiast, Jose has been a constant visitor to Cape Canaveral since he moved to central Florida. He joined the SFI team in the hopes of becoming more involved in the coverage of spaceflight and space exploration.

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