NASA Mission Directorate
Research Participation Program

About NASA

Ames Research Center | Glenn Research Center | Goddard Space Flight Center | Jet Propulsion Laboratory | Johnson Space Center | Kennedy Space Center | Langley Research Center | Marshall Space Flight Center

Ames Research Center

Ames Research Center is located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, where we enable exploration through development of innovative technologies and interdisciplinary scientific discoveries. Since NASA’s founding, Ames has played a vital role in virtually all NASA space and aeronautics missions, while providing leadership in space and earth science, space biosciences, astrobiology, small satellites, robotic lunar exploration, the search for habitable planets, high speed computing, intelligent/adaptive systems, thermal protection, airborne astronomy, aeronautics, and air traffic management. Our scientific research environment is enriched by the NASA Astrobiology and Lunar Science Institutes, and NASA Research Park partnerships with the University of California at Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara University, Singularity University, Airship Earth, Mars Institute, Purdue Research Foundation, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, Advanced Maglev, Airship Ventures, Bloom Energy, Science Applications International Corporation, Changene, Tesla Motors, Google, and at least a dozen more.

Glenn Research Center

At the NASA Glenn Research Center, in partnership with U.S. industry, universities, and other Government institutions, we develop critical systems technologies and capabilities that address national priorities. Our world-class research, technology, and capability development efforts are keys to advancing space exploration of our solar system and beyond while maintaining global leadership in aeronautics. Glenn is distinguished by its unique blend of aeronautics and space flight expertise and experience. As we move toward a greater focus on space flight hardware development, we are benefiting from our diverse accomplishments and expertise in aeronautics. Our work is focused on technological advancements in space flight systems development, aeropropulsion, space propulsion, power systems, nuclear systems, communications, and human-related systems.

Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA looks to Goddard to provide compelling scientific knowledge advancing the Agency’s mission in conducting a balanced program of science and exploration. We are proud to be NASA's first space center and to play a leading role in the Agency's endeavors to understand our changing planet, the Sun, our solar system and the universe. Our scientists and engineers work together in developing ideas of how to explore, using satellites that return data building upon foundational questions of the origin of our universe. We design, build and test spacecraft and instruments that will bring us these valuable data. Our research environment is enriched by its location near the nation’s capital and the many neighboring universities. Goddard is the largest combined organization of scientists and engineers in the U.S. The Center has been involved in designing, building and operating spacecraft since the nation's first artificial satellite, Explorer 1, and has sent instruments to every planet in the solar system. These days, we are responsible for a host of missions in Earth and planetary sciences, heliophysics and astrophysics, including:

  • the Gravity and Recovery Climate Experiment (GRACE), which monitors changes in Earth’s gravity field to determine how they affect our planet's landmass, oceans and atmosphere
  • the upcoming Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, which will provide the next generation of global rain and snow observations that will improve forecasts for water resources, weather and natural habitats
  • the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which is studying the sun's magnetic field to understand variations that influence life on Earth and humanity's technological systems
  • the James Webb Space Telescope, currently being built at Goddard. Webb is designed to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy and the Milky Way to our own solar system.
  • the upcoming OSIRIS-REx mission (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer), which will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, study it in detail and bring a sample back to Earth, to investigate planet formation, the origin of life and to aid our understanding of asteroids that can impact Earth.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

In a dry riverbed wash at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains—just far enough away from Pasadena’s residential areas for the “Suicide Squad” to test their occasionally explosive fuel mixtures and rocket motor designs—the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was born.

JPL’s complex history began in the 1930s with the liquid rocket experiments conducted in association with Caltech's Guggenheim Graduate School of Aeronautics. The “Suicide Squad” consisted of graduate students and non-students alike: Theodore von Karman, Frank Malina, John Whiteside Parsons, Edward Forman and others. They established the modest beginnings from which the JPL would eventually take form.

Interestingly, despite its name, air breathing jet engines have never been the focus at JPL. According to von Karman, rockets at that time were considered science fiction, so they started referring to their work as "jets”—alluding to the jet-assisted booster rockets designed to assist heavily laden aircraft on short runways. The allusion stuck.

In addition to their work on jet-assisted takeoff, the Caltech group also worked with the U.S. Army Air Corps to develop short range ballistic missiles for WWII. This resulted in a series of progressively sophisticated rockets, which the group respectively named Private, Corporal, and Sergeant. Today, JPL is staffed and managed for the U.S. government by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). This makes JPL employees unique among NASA Centers in that they are not government employees but are instead employed by Caltech.

In addition to telescopic facilities at Table Mountain, JPL also manages the Goldstone Communications Complex as part of the NASA Deep Space Network.

Johnson Space Center

NASA’s Johnson Space Center has served as a hub of human spaceflight activity for more than half a century. As the nucleus of the nation’s astronaut corps and home to International Space Station mission operations and a host of future space developments, the center plays a pivotal role in surpassing the physical boundaries of Earth and enhancing technological and scientific knowledge to benefit all of humankind.

Established in 1961 on nearly 1,700 acres southeast of downtown Houston as the Manned Spacecraft Center, the bustling core of space activity was renamed in 1973 to honor the late president and Texas native, Lyndon B. Johnson. From the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs to the International Space Station and Orion, Johnson’s nearly 14,000 person workforce helps bolster NASA’s standing as an institution where creative and talented problem solvers push the boundaries of explorations innovation.

Kennedy Space Center

On July 1, 1962, NASA officially activated the Launch Operations Center at the seaside spaceport, granting the center equal status to Marshall and offering the center's new director, Dr. Kurt H. Debus, a direct report to the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The following year the center was renamed to honor the president who put America on the path to the moon.

NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center has helped set the stage for America's adventure in space for five decades. The spaceport has served as the departure gate for every American manned mission and hundreds of advanced scientific spacecraft. From the early days of Project Mercury to the Space Shuttle Program and International Space Station, from the Hubble Space Telescope to the Mars rovers, the center enjoys a rich heritage in its vital role as NASA's processing and launch center.

As the nation prepares to embark on a new chapter in space exploration, Kennedy will continue to make history as America's spaceport.

Langley Research Center

NASA Langley has been on the leading edge of scientific research since 1917.  That year—just fourteen years after the Wright Brothers made their first historic powered flight—the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics established Langley as the first civilian laboratory dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of flight.

Langley research soon created many of the basic building blocks of aeronautics that formed modern air travel and allowed experimental aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds.  The nation took notice of those achievements; the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the newly named Langley Research Center added space exploration to its repertoire.  

Today, Langley researchers carry on the legacy of their pioneering predecessors. Whether testing airbags for space capsule landings, developing technologies to allow aircraft to fly at now-hypersonic speeds, or studying Earth's atmosphere to better understand global climate change . . . NASA Langley retains its position on the leading edge of American science, just as it has since 1917.

Marshall Space Flight Center

The unique resources, facilities and expertise at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are critical to advancing NASA’s mission of exploration and discovery. The Marshall Center’s engineering capabilities, extensive experience in human spaceflight system development and ability to perform cutting-edge research in Earth and space sciences are vital to the work of the U.S. space program, the long-term economic success of the nation and the quality of life across the planet.

The Marshall Center manages a broad and diverse portfolio of programs and projects. The center leads NASA’s development of advanced spacecraft and launch vehicles designed to take human and robotic explorers deeper into the solar system than ever before. The center also manages the Chandra X-ray Observatory; the Discovery, New Frontiers and Lunar Quest programs; the Technology Demonstration Missions program; the Centennial Challenges program; the SERVIR environmental imaging network; and numerous other Earth and space science activities. Marshall also is responsible for science operations aboard the International Space Station. All these endeavors contribute to and sustain Marshall’s long history of accomplishment, which includes creating the Saturn V rocket that launched America’s astronauts to the moon; Skylab, the world’s first space station; Spacelab; the space shuttle’s propulsion elements; and development of the Hubble Space Telescope. One of NASA’s largest field centers, Marshall employs approximately 6,000 people, including roughly 2,400 civil service and 3,600 contractor employees, and has an annual budget of approximately $2.5 billion.