DLA Energy supports NASA New Horizons spacecraft in Pluto mission

The Defense Logistics Agency Energy’s support now extends to the edge of the solar system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto. Propellants used along the spacecraft’s journey, as well as the fuel and other products used in the Atlas V rocket that launched New Horizons were all procured, stored, and transported by DLA Energy.

DLA Energy supports NASA New Horizons spacecraft in Pluto mission
DLA Energy supports NASA New Horizons spacecraft in Pluto mission

By DLA Energy staff

The Defense Logistics Agency Energy’s support now extends to the edge of the solar system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto. Propellants used along the spacecraft’s journey, as well as the fuel and other products used in the Atlas V rocket that launched New Horizons were all procured, stored, and transported by DLA Energy.

DLA Energy supports NASA New Horizons spacecraft in Pluto missionDLA Energy supports NASA New Horizons spacecraft in Pluto mission
The New Horizon’s spacecraft captures an image of Pluto on 13 July 2015. The mission is supported by the Defense Logistics Agency Energy-procured propellant hydrazine. Photo courtesy of NASA.

“We not only helped to launch the satellite via the Atlas V rocket and the products we had on the rocket itself, but we also provided the New Horizons spacecraft with mono-propellant hydrazine for its thrusters,” says DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Supplier Division Chief Doug Smith. “The New Horizons spacecraft has been travelling for more than nine years now, positioning itself on product we provided them.”

Hydrazine is used in the thrusters on the New Horizons for trajectory adjustments or for attitude control.

DLA Energy is the integrated material manager for space and space-related products and services for the Department of Defense, federal agencies, government contractors and academia. As such, it is responsible for the procurement, storage and transportation of those products.

Successful delivery of hydrazine requires negotiating a long term supply contract and all associated contract administration throughout the life of the contract, Smith explained. Delivery orders are put in place to ensure product deliveries, and inventory managers oversee the inventory of five different grades and two different blends of the product. Transporters move the hydrazine, and customer account specialists work with customers to make sure their short and long term needs are met.

“A lot of work goes into ensuring this supply chain runs smoothly,” Smith explains.

DLA Energy’s initial work with the project took place leading up to the 2006 launch of New Horizons.

“Missions such as these show the importance of space exploration, and our logistical support to that mission,” Smith adds. “We support satellite launches regularly, but it really comes home to you when you see something that was done in this office back in 2006 coming to fruition now.”

The team isn’t just negotiating contracts, placing orders, managing inventory or creating transportation movements, it’s impacting historic exploration and scientific discovery.

The New Horizons mission is conducting a five-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons throughout the summer, followed by an extended mission to head farther into the Kuiper Belt.

As a Department of Defense combat support agency, DLA provides the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, other federal agencies, and joint and allied forces with a variety of logistics, acquisition, and technical services. The agency sources and provides nearly 100 percent of the consumable items America’s military forces need to operate, from food, fuel and energy, to uniforms, medical supplies, and construction and barrier equipment. DLA also supplies more than 85 percent of the military’s spare parts.


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