Students at West Virginia University will help ensure space travel is safe for future explorers thanks to the continuation of a long-standing partnership with NASA announced this week.
NASA approved a contract of up to $24.9 million for support services at the agency’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification & Validation facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.
The program was launched in 1993 to provide the highest levels of safety and cost-effectiveness for mission-critical software, according to Fred King, vice president for research at WVU.
The partnership has included internship and career opportunities for university students, developing flight software products, and research and development on testing methods and simulations of space environments.
“NASA has served as an important partner with our university for several years,” King said.
“That partnership has elevated the profile of our University and has, most importantly, inspired our youth to consider careers in the science and engineering underlying our exploration of space. The partnership with the Katherine Johnson IV & V Facility is one example of this great partnership."
In February, the facility was renamed the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in honor of Katherine Johnson, a West Virginia native who worked as a mathematician at NASA for 35 years and was portrayed in the film “Hidden Figures.”
Members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation have confirmed their support for the continued partnership.
“The path to outer space goes through West Virginia,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
"The work done by the men and women at the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation facility ensures that the software that supports spaceflight, whether human or robotic, is safe and operational to meet mission objectives. I’m thrilled that this work will continue.”
The partnership is a cost-no-fee contract that began Oct. 1 with a six-month base period followed by four one-year options and one six-month option.
It includes such services as administration and project management, institutional services, information technology, facilities maintenance, grounds keeping, and janitorial services.
Additional services may be required at NASA’s discretion for work relating to the operations, maintenance, and repair or upgrade of the covered facilities.
“West Virginians have played a major role in NASA’s developments and achievements, dating back to the contributions of Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson and Rocket Boys’ Homer Hickam,” said Sen. Joe Manchin.
“IV&V and West Virginia University have helped place numerous students at NASA facilities over the years. I am proud that West Virginia University has been awarded this contract and look forward to continuing the positive relationship between West Virginia and NASA.”
“NASA’s IV&V program is vitally important to its overall mission and will play a major role in making the Moon to Mars project successful,” said Rep. David McKinley.
“We appreciate NASA’s commitment to the North Central West Virginia region. Their partnership with West Virginia University is mutually beneficial, and we look forward to strengthening that relationship in the years to come.”