On a mission to Mars with Kim Doering
NASA’s Artemis program is centered around space exploration and setting up an infrastructure and ultimately a lunar economy on Mars.
To talk us through human landing systems (HLS) and how the Leidos and Dynetics team is working with NASA to send the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface is 36-year space systems veteran Kim Doering.
Kim is Vice President of Space Systems at Dynetics, a Leidos company. Kim shares her career journey to Dynetics and how she’s excited to see the passion and enthusiasm in the next-generation team that’s coming aboard to work on this new mission in space.
She also talks about the evolution of Dynetics’ space exploration capabilities, from space centers to propulsion systems and satellites to working on NASA’s Artemis program.
She explains what differentiates the Leidos Dynetics human landing system to make it crew-centric, modular, and how they’ve pulled together a vast team of experts to collaborate for a really sustainable solution. And how this technology they’re developing can be applied more broadly to support missions on earth, develop new materials, new diagnostics and new research that all could have implications in the future.
On today’s podcast:
- The evolution of Dynetics and their work with Leidos
- The programs Dynetics is involved in with NASA
- NASA’s Artemis program
- Concept of the lunar economy
- The collaborative approach to Dynetics’ HLS
- Difference between the Apollo and Artemis missions
Kim Doering (00:00): It's just wonderful to know that NASA and the United States haven't stopped exploring. Haven't said, "That was fun." They've got an even more ambitious exploration program ahead of them. And Leidos Dynetics is a big part of that. So to me, that's the best part of it all.
Bridget Bell (00:22): Welcome to MindSET, a Leidos podcast. I'm your host, Bridget Bell.
Meghan Good (00:27): And I'm your host, Meghan Good. Join us as we talk with pioneers in science, engineering, and technology, to understand their creative mindset and share their stories of innovation.
Bridget Bell (00:43): Welcome to MindSET. Today we're speaking with Kim Doering, Vice President of Space Systems at Dynetics, a Leidos company. We're going to be talking about the Human Landing System. And Kim first started by talking through her role at Dynetics and the evolution of their space exploration capabilities.
Meghan Good (01:01): So talking through Dynetics' experience at space centers to really working through propulsion systems and satellites and how all of that expertise has led them to NASA Artemis program, where it's centered around exploration and setting up this infrastructure and the lunar economy on Mars.
Bridget Bell (01:20): She then described what differentiates the Leidos Dynetics Human Landing System to make it crew centric, modular, and using a vast team of experts coming together in collaboration for a really sustainable solution.
Meghan Good (01:33): And as we talked through the HLS, the Human Landing System, we talked about how the technology that they're developing to go into it really applies more broadly, how it could fix things on Earth and develop us new materials, new diagnostics, and new research that all could have implications in the future. It was really incredible.
Bridget Bell (01:53): What was also incredible was when Kim talked about what she's most excited about in this project. After 36 years in the space industry, she loves seeing the passion and enthusiasm of the team now, as they have a new space mission to look forward to.
Meghan Good (02:07): So one of the biggest challenges that the team is facing is an ambitious schedule. And just like their ambitious schedule, we had a limited amount of time to talk to Kim. So we had to keep the questions short, but my goodness, we could ask so many questions.
Bridget Bell (02:22): With that, let's get started with Kim.
Bridget Bell (02:33): Welcome Kim.
Kim Doering (02:34): Thank you. I'm glad to be here today.
Bridget Bell (02:36): Let's start with a little bit about your background. Can you tell us about your role at Dynetics?
Kim Doering (02:41): Sure. I'm the Vice President of Space Systems at Dynetics. And I joined Dynetics about eight years ago. And our space systems division is involved in civil space, commercial space, and DOD space. And we've got about 300 people in the division at this point. We've grown rapidly over the last two years. And we do all things space.
Meghan Good (03:04): So what are Dynetics' space exploration capabilities? What's your history working with NASA?
Kim Doering (03:11): Dynetics was in business for about 40 years doing primarily intelligence work and defense work. And Dave King, who is our President had been the Center Director at the Marshall Space Flight Center. And Dave had developed a relationship with Dynetics. And when he left the government and came to the company, he realized that there were a lot of capabilities and a lot of experience in the DOD world that would be applicable to NASA space. And so Dave struck out to branch into civil space and get some NASA work. And the very first Dynetics contract with NASA was an IT contract.
Kim Doering (03:53): And shortly thereafter, Steve Cook, who is our Vice President, and I joined Dynetics. Steve and I had also both been civil servants for a long time. I, at the Johnson Space Center and Steve at Marshall with Dave King. And Steve and I came over and that's when we really started to look at space hardware.
Kim Doering (04:16): So we competed for a contract to do advanced technology development for rocket boosters. And we primed that contract and won it. And I was the program manager when I first came to Dynetics for what was called the advanced booster engineering development and risk reduction contract. It's a mouthful. We called it ABEDRR. And so that was our first foray into doing NASA work, certainly as a prime contractor.
Kim Doering (04:46): We then became more involved and were asked to support Boeing on their core stage rocket and then their upper stage rocket. And that's for the space launch system for NASA. We also did some propulsion work working with NASA. We had acquired a propulsion company called Orion Propulsion very early in the development of the space division. And Orion propulsion had been a small business developing advanced propulsion technology. And we worked with NASA and Orion to develop some new propulsion capability.
Kim Doering (05:23): We also early on, developed a satellite in conjunction with NASA. It was called the FASTSAT. And it was a fast, affordable satellite. And this was about nine years ago. We partnered with NASA and a nonprofit and developed a satellite. Dynetics led a lot of the engineering design and integration. And we integrated that satellite onto a Miniature launch vehicle in Kodiak, Alaska. And the Dynetics and NASA team oversaw the launch of the satellite. It had six payloads on it. And the satellite operated far beyond its lifetime requirements.
Kim Doering (06:02): So we started out with propulsion and satellite integration. As I mentioned, we got the advanced booster risk reduction contract. We started working with Boeing as a subcontractor on the rocket. And then we bid on what was called the universal stage adapter. And this was our first prime contract for human rated space flight hardware. We competed against Boeing and Lockheed, two very long time primes in the space world. And were fortunate enough to win that. So we have a prime contract on the space launch system rocket. And the universal stage adapter will be used to connect the core stage that Boeing's building and the upper stage that will carry the astronauts in the Orion vehicle.
Kim Doering (06:51): So we continue to grow. We started getting lots of inquiries about helping people with testing of rockets. So we built a new aerospace structures complex in Decatur, Alabama, and we are doing the structural qualification testing for United Launch Alliances, Vulcan rocket. And that's being built in Decatur, Alabama, just down the street from Huntsville.
Kim Doering (07:16): We also have supported a number of commercial space entities. We did some work for Bigelow on a propulsion system sometime back. We work with Virgin Orbit on some of their commercial activities. And then most recently, we competed for and won the base contract it's called for the Human Landing System. And the Human Landing System, which I'm sure we'll talk a little bit more, is a very exciting project where NASA is going to send the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface.
Kim Doering (07:52): So we also have some other unique things that we do in the division. We call them dogs and cats. We've developed a big sled as it's called out at our Iuka, Mississippi facility. And this sled we developed for the military to test various sensors. We'll shoot flares out of a sled that travels about a mile at near hypersonic speed.
Kim Doering (08:21): We also have developed some environmental control and life support equipment to meet the needs of NASA. One is a carbon dioxide scrubber that we'll be testing on the International Space Station to help scrub the atmosphere. And that has a lot of applications for future exploration. And another is the laser air monitoring system. And this system will fly on the Orion space capsule, where we'll be launching people to the moon shortly in the next couple of years. And the laser air monitoring system monitors the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor in the Orion spacecraft.
Kim Doering (09:01): So in a very short space of time, we have really tackled a lot of problems and a lot of great challenges working with NASA. And have a number of programs from the very tiny to the very large.
Bridget Bell (09:16): Yeah, it sounds like just in the last decade, that that relationship has really evolved from those initial contracts to now the diverse programs that you're talking about. And so we definitely want to talk more about the Human Landing System. So I'm wondering, can you first tell us more about NASA Artemis program? And then explain how does the Human Landing System fit into that?
Kim Doering (09:41): Sure. I'd be happy to. So NASA's Artemis program is their exploration program. As just about everybody here should know, but many may not remember, the last time we were on the moon was over 50 years ago. And at that time, as it's called, we put boots on the moon. The goal was to get to the moon to show that we could do it. There was a little bit of scientific exploration, we sent a number of crews there, but as people like to say, we left footprints.
Kim Doering (10:17): And so for many years, NASA has talked about continuing their exploration. They were focused on low earth orbit for a long, long time with the space shuttle and the International Space Station. And those were great accomplishments. NASA has now turned over low earth orbit to commercial companies. They're still operating the space station, but the hope is that industry has now found enough applications, both research and development that could be done on space station, that there will be a commercial market for low earth orbit.
Kim Doering (10:52): And NASA's goal is really to create a commercial environment and economy and then move on to the next step. So Artemis is the next step in NASA's journey. They are looking towards the moon and then eventually Mars. And a lot of people have debated whether we should go directly to Mars because we've never been there or should go back to the moon. And NASA has a really well thought out plan. The moon is the first step. Mars is too far. We have a lot of technology to be developed to be able to safely send a crew to Mars, allow them to stay on the surface long enough to accomplish things, and come safely home. Whereas the moon is relatively close compared to Mars.
Kim Doering (11:38): So the goal is through a number of exploration missions to go back to the moon. But this time we're going to stay on the moon. We're going to help NASA develop a sustainable economy there. The government has to take the first steps to do that because it's expensive to develop an economy on the moon or on Mars. And the infrastructure needed to develop that economy is really what the government's role is.
Kim Doering (12:06): So NASA is going to put a gateway in space. And the gateway will be an outpost where you can stage things before you go to the moon or Mars. They're going to put the lander on the moon. And that's one we're super excited about right now. They will choose one or two companies to take landers to the surface of the moon to establish the capability to do so, to help stimulate advancement in technology. Then NASA will encourage industry to develop things like in situ resource utilization. And that's where you go and mine the things that are on the moon. There is a lot of thought that you could actually develop fuels and you could mine materials to do advanced manufacturing while you're on the moon.
Kim Doering (12:57): And so this time, the Artemis goals are long term. They're not just to have somebody land on the moon and say, "Hey, we did it again," but it's really to lay the groundwork to build a lunar economy where hopefully companies can say, "Hey, there is a lucrative market for either something I could mine on the moon, for things that I could do on the moon." There are a lot of people who feel that you could actually develop power stations on the moon that could beam power back to Earth and be a clean source of power. There are rare earth minerals that could be mined.
Kim Doering (13:34): And so NASA's goal is to lay the groundwork. And then hopefully in the decades to come, industry steps up and builds habitats and rovers and mining operations on the moon. And at that point, NASA can turn its attention to Mars. So the Artemis program is really an integrated exploration program. And the Space Launch System rocket, which is under development, the Orion space capsule, which is under development. Those will be flying their first test flights in a year or so. Those are some of the building blocks. The Gateway, and then the lander. And those form the early building blocks for this lunar economy.
Meghan Good (14:17): What an amazing concept of the lunar economy that you're just describing. I really hadn't heard that before, as we're seeking to explore more. I thought it was much more for scientific curiosity. But that's an amazing resource that NASA is really funding through this Artemis effort. So what sets the Leidos Dynetics Human Landing System apart?
Kim Doering (14:40):
Well, there are a number of things that we feel are really unique about our lander. The first is that Dynetics and our teammates, who I'll be excited to talk about as well, we started with a clean sheet of paper and said, "What would the best lunar lander look like using today's technology capabilities, making sure that we are safe for the astronauts, designing a lander that really enables this future lunar economy?"
Kim Doering (15:11): As we've seen in the past, sometimes there is a point designed for something and it may serve the purpose that it was point designed for, but that's all it can do. So the Dynetics Lunar Lander, it was designed with a crew centric approach. And what that really means is the astronauts, as well as scientific people who are flying scientific instruments, if you can be close to the surface of the moon when you land there, it makes things much safer, much more economical.
Kim Doering (15:44): And so we have designed a lander where the crew module is very close to the surface of the moon. So the astronauts don't need an elevator or a big lander or dangerous tethers to get from our lander to the surface of the moon. It's just a few steps from the surface.
Kim Doering (16:03): Additionally, we've designed this lander to be modular. So we'll fly the astronauts for NASA in the crew module on the first flight, but we can replace the crew module with a large payload. And a payload could be a habitation module for the surface, it could be scientific instruments, it could be a lunar rover or one of these power plants that I've mentioned. And so ours is a very versatile lander. And so when you look at the designs of the three landers which are out there in the public domain, you can really see that the Dynetics Lander was specifically designed for this application. And we feel that's a real differentiator.
Kim Doering (16:47): Another unique aspect of the Leidos Dynetics team is that we have brought the best from across the country and actually an international teammate, who have the expertise and the experience to design the subsystems that will be the most reliable, that have been tested in space. And so we have 27 teammates across the country who bring the best of the best to this team. Leidos Dynetics specializes in integration of large projects. So as the prime contractor, we will integrate all of these pieces. We also have that propulsion history that we talked about. So we'll be designing the propulsion systems for the landers. And the system's engineering and integration expertise to bring it all together. We have teamed with Sierra Nevada corporation who is developing the Dream Chaser. And Sierra Nevada corporation is bringing the expertise that they've gained on flight control and mission control. We'll use their control center, their commercial control center.
Kim Doering (17:55): Thales Alenia Space, TASI. TASI has designed and built most of the pressurized modules that have flown in space for NASA for the European Space Agency. TASI is on our team to develop the structure for the crew module. Maxar, another important teammate has the prime contract for the power and propulsion element of NASA's gateway. So they're designing the communications and power for the lander. It'll be common with the other pieces that NASA using.
Kim Doering (18:27): United Launch Alliance, who's located here in Decatur, Alabama, they are the launch vehicle that we've chosen as our primary launch vehicle capability. Their Vulcan Centaur, which is a beautiful rocket that'll first fly with the Department of Defense payloads. They are on our team.
Kim Doering (18:47): We also have Oceaneering. Oceaneering has a long history at the NASA Johnson Space Center of developing mockups for crew, a lot of extra vehicular activity equipment. They're on the team. And then a company called Paragon, who's doing environmental control and life support systems for us.
Kim Doering (19:08): So we have a very capable team. And then many, many specialists, small businesses, large businesses spread around the country who are bringing specific capability, which we will integrate. Instead of trying to design or invent everything on our own, we've taken a unique approach to bring experienced people to the table and have them all contribute to this lander.
Bridget Bell (19:33): So it sounds like the team and the fact that you are coming together to create this really versatile crew-centric approach is going to set the Leidos Dynetics Human Landing System apart. So tell me how is Dynetics and NASA planning to work together?
Kim Doering (19:51): Well, that's a great piece of this teamwork story as well. NASA is obviously the customer for the Human Landing System. But NASA has also offered us the ability to collaborate with them. We have a number of government task agreements, whereby NASA experts will be a part of the Dynetics team. They'll be sitting with us, they're members of our product teams. So it's a day to day collaboration because NASA has a lot of expertise as well. The decades that they have spent developing new technology and leading space projects really make them the experts in a lot of arenas. And we have the ability to bring NASA onto the team as part of our lander group. So we really adopt a collaborative approach with NASA and the customer. And we see them as part of the team. So I think that's a unique capability that's really going to make us successful as well.
Meghan Good (20:49): I really liked that collaborative approach. And I think that's something that we see in other domains like agile software development, where you're bringing the customer in sooner so that they know what to expect and what challenges you as a development and engineering team are facing.
Meghan Good (21:04): But I wonder with such a complicated and complex system that you're building that's modular and crew-centric. What are some of those big challenges that you faced with this project and your team to date?
Kim Doering (21:18): So there are a couple of big challenges. One is the schedule. There's a very ambitious schedule to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024. That's just a few years away. And we have spent a lot of time looking back at the Apollo program. And some folks have said, "Hey, it took them a lot longer. And they had a lot of money and they had a goal and were being driven. What makes you think you can meet that schedule that's much more aggressive now?"
Kim Doering (21:48): And the answer is, if you think back 55, 60 years ago at the tools that those Apollo engineers had at their disposal, they didn't have the super computers we have today. They didn't have advanced materials. And they had never flown in space. And so while the schedule is very aggressive, we think that we can meet the 2024 required date. But every single day is an important day on that critical path.
Kim Doering (22:19): And so I'm amazed at the progress the team has made to date. Each and every week, I think there's been a new review, a new design analysis cycle kickoff. It seems like every day there's a product being delivered. And that's what's going to have to happen. It's an ambitious schedule. That's one of the biggest challenges is you have to make decisions quickly. You have to, in this collaborative mode, get everybody's thoughts out on the table right away, because you can't have serial decision making where one board reviews that then the next, and finally the customer gets a chance to look at it.
Kim Doering (22:56): The other challenge in any of these space programs is always up-mass. It's very difficult to launch a pound or a kilogram of mass. And for every kilogram you're going to put on the surface of the moon, you need a couple of kilograms in propellant to get it there. And then finally, the challenge of having a lot of teammates. While they all bring experience, it's very important to integrate those people, to make sure that as you move forward, everyone's on the same page. So again, a very collaborative environment. Dynetics leads each of the integrated product teams, but in many cases, our teammate leads a sub-IPT. And those people are tagging up daily or weekly to make sure we're all on the same page. So those are three of the biggest challenges.
Bridget Bell (23:48): I feel like the theme we keep hearing is collaboration because by collaborating with these teammates, you are able to meet that aggressive schedule. You're bringing the expertise needed to handle the mass to get up there. So on the flip side, I'm really curious, what are you most excited about for this project?
Kim Doering (24:07): So I'm going to get a little bit personal with my answer. I've been in the aerospace business for 36 years, and I was honored to have worked on the Space Shuttle Program for a long time, working on the International Space Station Program. When Shuttle retired, I felt like, "Well, I am so lucky I got to be a part of that." And for a number of years, I felt a little bit sorry for people who were entering the workforce, because there just wasn't an exciting project for a while.
Kim Doering (24:40): And so when the Artemis program was announced and the Lunar Lander was announced, all of a sudden the most exciting program that I've ever seen was in front of us, not behind us. And so we have about 300 people working on the project at Leidos Dynetics, and some of them are veteran space flight people that we brought back in who had retired from NASA, or who were in senior leadership positions at other companies who have that experience.
Kim Doering (25:12): But most of the people working on this project are brilliant early and mid-career people. And they're so excited about being a part of something so challenging that I'm just thrilled that the nation and the agency and our workforce has the opportunity to do something even better than all of us old folks did over the last 50 years. So it's thrilling.
Kim Doering (25:37): People are working hard, they're working long hours, but we have to make them go home because they're so excited about the project. So to me, it's just wonderful to know that NASA and the United States haven't stopped exploring, haven't said, "That was fun." They've got an even more ambitious exploration program ahead of them. And Leidos Dynetics is a big part of that. So to me, that's the best part of it all.
Bridget Bell (26:03): That must be so fun to see all of the passion and enthusiasm as people are working towards this major goal and this very exciting milestone and project.
Kim Doering (26:14): It is, it's thrilling.
Meghan Good (26:15): And what a great litmus test of how exciting your project is. If you have to kick people out. I think that's incredible.
Kim Doering (26:23): That's right.
Meghan Good (26:25): But I wonder beyond Artemis, are there other uses for a human landing system like what you're designing and developing?
Kim Doering (26:34): So the Human Landing System itself is really geared towards taking either government astronauts or private citizens to the moon, and then eventually to Mars. But the technology we're developing for the Lunar Landers and the Artemis systems has a lot of application on Earth. We are often asked by folks who aren't so close to the space program, why would we want to spend so much money sending people into space? Why wouldn't we fix problems here on Earth?
Kim Doering (27:07): And there have been many publications and books written about the technology that was generated to be able to fly the space shuttle, to fly the space station that has been translated into applications here on Earth. A lot of advanced medicine capability diagnostics, a lot of new materials, new lightweight materials. A lot of the research that's been done on astronauts in terms of bone density and things, all has application to problems right here on Earth.
Kim Doering (27:38): And similarly, to be able to go to the moon and to have astronauts live in our lander for an extended period of time and be safe, we are required to develop a lot of new technology. For instance, we're working on a carbon dioxide scrubbing system that will be small. It will have the capability to scrub the atmosphere of the astronauts' cabin without a lot of consumables necessary, without a lot of maintenance. It will be reliable. It'll be lightweight. Well something like a carbon dioxide scrubbing system has many applications back here on Earth in things like submarines, even in terms of scrubbing carbon dioxide from factories.
Kim Doering (28:27): So an example like that, it's very hard to say, "Oh, here's what we'll be doing with that technology in 20 years." But I can say with high confidence that a lot of the capabilities that we're developing to be able to send people to the moon, will come back here and make life on Earth a much better place.
Meghan Good (28:47): So, Kim, you just mentioned a little bit about the lander and some of the missions and the use cases for it. Can you go into a little detail and tell me about what is it meant to do? What's NASA's vision for these different human landing systems?
Kim Doering (29:03): Sure. NASA actually has three different types of landers that they have contracted with companies for. And we're fortunate to be a part of all three. They are first going to have several commercial companies build small landers. And it's a program called the Commercial Lunar Payload System or CLPS. And a company called Astrobotic won the first of these CLPS contracts. And Dynetics is on the Astrobotic team and developing the propulsion system for this small unmanned lander. And so the CLPS landers will deliver scientific instruments to the surface of the moon. They can pre-position tools for the astronauts. Because whenever you have a lander or a vehicle that's got astronauts, the safety measures and rigor are far higher than if you're taking an unmanned mission with some payloads to the surface of the moon.
Kim Doering (30:06):
So these CLPS landers can be developed more economically. They can be ready sooner. You can fly a number of them. So NASA has thought about this and they have the small commercial landers that will fly up to the surface of the moon. Then they will have some medium unmanned landers. Astrobotic was also selected to develop the first medium lander. Dynetics is on that team. These medium landers will be able to carry heavier things up, obviously, that the astronauts can use on the surface. And then you need a big lander. And that's where the Dynetics Human Landing System comes in. You need a lander that's big enough to carry the crew module as I've mentioned, but it's also capable of carrying what will become the outpost.
Kim Doering (30:53):
If you imagine going camping, you need a place to sleep that protects you. You need to be protected from rain and wind here. On the surface of the moon, you need to be protected from lunar dust and from the environment, which is a near vacuum there on the moon. So you need a protective place. And that's what the crew module is. But when you want to stay there, you want a habitation module. So there will be little hotel-like habitation modules on the surface of the moon.
Kim Doering (31:23):
And then you need a way to get around. So lunar rovers will be developed both by some of the other countries, as well as the United States. And the rovers will be pressurized cars that the astronauts can drive around, sort of like you saw on Apollo. But these ones will have the capability for the astronauts to reach distant places on the moon that we haven't explored before. And actually this first human landing system mission, we'll go to one of the poles on the moon where we have not explored. And there are a lot of geographic features there that are of the utmost interest. And we're very anxious to see what sort of minerals and natural resources may be located there that can be used.
Kim Doering (32:07):
So then once you have a place to stay and a way of being transported around the surface of the moon, then you can really start to develop capabilities to stay there for longer periods of time. As I said, you may be able to the mine resources, which would be an important thing. You may be able to develop little power stations or communication stations. Because ideally if you can put those things on the moon, then you have the ability to support all sorts of commercial ventures. If everyone doesn't need to their own power system or their own communication system, then many companies will have the ability to develop new capabilities that they want to put on the moon. And they'll be able to use this infrastructure that's been developed.
Kim Doering (32:54):
And so the idea is that as people learn more about what's available on the moon, what you can do in reduce gravity, things like new pharmaceuticals. We learned on the space station that near zero gravity allowed drug companies to test new pharmaceuticals that they couldn't test here on Earth because of gravity. So we may find that in the moon's reduce gravity environment, you may be able to develop new materials that you can't develop here on Earth that would be useful in the communications and computing arena or new pharmaceuticals.
Kim Doering (33:33):
The hard thing about space is until you get up there and explore, it's hard to put your finger on where the real exciting discoveries are going to be and how those discoveries can translate into business cases for companies.
Meghan Good (33:48):
That's such an expansive vision that going back to how you were describing how your team started to design this landing system, you really are having to think about this future economy that's going to be on the moon and all of these different applications and use cases with this core infrastructure that you're building. That's absolutely fascinating.
Kim Doering (34:09):
You're exactly right.
Bridget Bell (34:11):
So I know Dynetics was just acquired by Leidos earlier in 2020. Can you tell us more about how the Leidos and Dynetics are working?
Kim Doering (34:20):
I sure can. And first of all, Dynetics was thrilled to have been acquired by Leidos. And the timing couldn't have been better because as we bid on this Lunar Lander project, it's an audacious project. It's a lot of money, a lot of resources needed. And Dynetics had demonstrated its capability to solve tough problems for NASA and to design and develop spaceflight hardware. But one of the things about having a government contract is you are subject to the budgetary process. This contract is in the billions of dollars over the next few years. And there was a real concern on our part and on the customer's part that a company the size of Dynetics might not be able to weather the storms of a continuing resolution. If the government had to shut down, as we've seen happen in the past, companies still need to make payroll. And a company Dynetics' size, it was going to be very difficult for us to be able to absorb the financial challenges of taking on a big program like this.
Kim Doering (35:38):
We're very excited to be able to have a large company like Leidos that has such a deep bench strength available to us. We have called upon a number of lighthouse experts at the Johnson Space Center who have experience working with the crew and NASA there. We have called upon people with communications and IT experience and software experience in Leidos. It is a real help to have a large company like Leidos that's got so much expertise, so much bench strength. And because they're bigger, they're more financially able to weather the brief NASA storms of the budgetary process. So we believe the acquisition by Leidos was a real discriminator in us being selected for this human lander contract.
Bridget Bell (36:29):
Well, as you talk through that, it's apparent that a lot of the topics that we've covered in MindSET and the technical areas of expertise that Leidos has, they're applicable to this very complicated mission-centric project. So it sounds like it's a really good fit.
Kim Doering (36:47):
Meghan Good (36:48):
And we're excited to learn more about all the cool things that you guys are doing out of Huntsville, Alabama and beyond.
Kim Doering (36:55):
That's right. That's right. I should also have mentioned that our customer, Marshall Space Flight Center, who's leading the Human Landing System project, I can almost see their building from my office. They're just a couple of miles down the street. And that's also been very helpful. Of course, in COVID days, we don't get to see anybody face to face nearly as much. But NASA is able to hop in their car and drive over and see our simulator, see some of our testing as it's in progress. And having the customer just down the street really aids in that collaboration.
Meghan Good (37:29):
So with that, Kim, any final words for our audience?
Kim Doering (37:33):
Only that I hope all of you can be as excited as we are about this project. The good news is it's going to be moving fast. And so you will get to see a lot of progress and it will be an exciting day when we see that first woman and the next man on the moon. And I'm glad I got to talk with you a little bit about it today.
Meghan Good (37:55):
Well, thanks, Kim. I have goosebumps thinking about that.
Kim Doering (37:59):
Well, if you have any spare time, we could use some help. We'll put you to work, just come on down.
Meghan Good (38:05):
Well, thanks. I'm happy to help. And thanks to our audience for listening to MindSET. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your colleagues and visit leidos.com/MindSET.