Spaceflight Insider

Astronaut Stephen Frick retires from NASA

Following many other space flight veterans, shuttle astronaut Stephen Frick has opted to leave NASA for a position within the private sector. His last day was July 13. He is just the latest among a number of departures from the Space Agency’s Astronaut Office as it transitions between the Space Shuttle Program to the Commercial Crew and Space Launch System programs, which likely will not see their first flights until 2018 at the earliest.

TS-122 launches from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Atlantis with the crew carrying out the STS-122 mission lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 7, 2008. Photo Credit: NASA

“Steve has been a great asset to the astronaut office and NASA, and we are sad to see him leave,” said Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We wish him continued success as he transitions to a new career.”

Frick earned degrees from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Frick had a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy where he retired as a Captain in 2010, where he acquired more than 4,300 hours flight time, flying 38 different types of aircraft, including 370 landings on aircraft carriers.

Frick became an astronaut candidate in 1996. He would go on to fly two mission on board Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first, STS-110, took place in April of 2002 and saw the orbiting lab’s integrated truss sent up to the station.

He flew again, this time as the commander of Atlantis, on STS-122, which delivered the European Space Agency’s Columbus Module to the ISS.

Since Atlantis carried out the final mission of the Shuttle Program, STS-135, in the summer of 2011, NASA has seen a number of its astronauts leave the agency. The stated reasons given whenever one of these astronauts leave the agency is that they want to work in academia, private industry, and for other pursuits. It is also likely, however, that the lack of opportunity to do what they have trained for is also playing a critical role in at least some of these departures.

At present, the Space Launch System is slated to conduct its first flight in 2018, with Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft likely flying that same year. At present, the only means of access to orbit for NASA crews is the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. These launches take place about once every quarter – limiting the amount of flights available.



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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