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Marshall Space Flight Center gets new Safety and Mission Assurance Director

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA announced on Thursday, July 21, that it has named Rick Burt as the new director of its Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Burt, a veteran NASA employee, who has served with the space agency for 26 years, will take its new position July 31.

Burt succeeds Steve Cash, who is retiring after a 34-year career with NASA. The newly appointed director will be responsible for planning and directing safety, reliability and quality engineering and assurance operations for the Huntsville-based center.

Rick Burt

Rick Burt. Photo Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our crews and of the men and women developing the knowledge and technology for living and working in space,” said Todd May, Marshall Space Flight Center Director. “Rick’s experience will help us ensure that safety remains paramount as we build and fly the spacecraft that will take human explorers on missions deeper into space than ever before, including on our journey to Mars.”

A native of Columbia, Tennessee, Burt joined NASA in 1990 and started his long-lasting career at the agency as an enhancement manager for the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project.

His career path with this project led through various positions of increasing responsibility. In 1996, he was named the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project’s business manager and in 1999 he was appointed deputy manager of the program. From 2002 to 2005, Burt served as the chief engineer of the project and was responsible for evaluating the technical aspects and leading technical reviews in preparation for the Space Shuttle Program’s Return to Flight following the Columbia accident.

In 2006, Burt was named manager of the Ares 1 First Stage program. One year later, he took the position of manager of the Marshall Engineering Directorate’s Test Laboratory. Finally, in 2011, he became chief safety officer within Marshall’s Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate.

During his career at NASA, Burt has received numerous awards and honors. He was a NASA Space Flight Awareness honoree in 1996 and in 1997 he received the Silver Snoopy Award for his support of the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project. He was also awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2005 and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2013.

NASA’s Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate is responsible for overall management and implementation of the agency and center policy in the areas of occupational safety and health, systems safety, reliability and risk assessment, mission software and ground systems assurance, quality engineering, systems review, management systems, and mission assurance.

Marshall, NASA’s largest center, has nearly 6,000 employees, including roughly 2,400 civil service and 3,600 contractor employees. It has been used to design and build the engines, vehicles, space systems, instruments, and science payloads for space missions in Earth’s orbit and well beyond our planet.

Currently, the center is home to the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever designed. It will carry humans, their equipment, and science payloads deeper into space than ever before—to an asteroid and even to Mars. Marshall also manages the Michoud Assembly Facility where the core stage of SLS is under construction.


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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