Mr. John Sumrall is the former manager of Advanced Planning in NASA’s Exploration Launch Projects Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Named to the position in September 2005, Mr. Sumrall was responsible for the near-term planning for development of NASA's follow-on, heavy-lift Ares V cargo launch vehicle and Earth Departure Stage, needed to leave Earth’s orbit to carry large cargo and components into space to support future lunar and Mars exploration missions.
Previously, Mr. Sumrall was manager of the Advanced Concepts Office in the Space Transportation Programs and Projects Office at the Marshall Center. He was responsible for overseeing all research and advanced studies of launch vehicle and lunar and Mars transportation concepts for the next generation of NASA’s exploration transportation systems. During this time, Mr. Sumrall also served on NASA’s Exploration Systems Architecture Study. In late 2003 and 2004, he served in various management positions at Marshall. He was manager of Strategy and Plans for the Advanced Space Transportation Office, where he led research and planning activities for the development of future space transportation systems. In April 2004, the office transitioned into the Next Generation Launch Technology Office, and Mr. Sumrall became assistant manager for strategy and plans in the program management office. The Next Generation Technology Project Office evolved in September. 2004 into the Space Transportation Program and Projects Office, at which time Mr. Sumrall became manager of the Advanced Concepts Office.
From 2001 to 2003, Mr. Sumrall served as chief of the program formulation and integration group in the Space Transportation Directorate. He was responsible for developing new business, promoting space transportation projects at Marshall and facilitating industry partnerships. Mr. Sumrall was manager of partnership integration from 1996 to 2001 in the Office of Aerospace Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He led technology development, flight planning and demonstration for space transportation-related activities including the experimental X-33, X-34 and X-37 flight demonstrators, designed to test advanced technologies and promote lower-cost launch operations. He also served as liaison between NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and other government agencies and their aerospace industry partners, resolving technical issues related to space transportation programs. From 1994 to 1996, Mr. Sumrall served as chief technical advisor to the director of the Space Transportation Division in the Office of Space Systems Development at NASA Headquarters. The division led the formulation of the Reusable Launch Vehicle technology demonstration program, aimed at developing next generation reusable launch systems, such as the X-33 and X-34. From 1992 to 1994, Mr. Sumrall was chief of the Advanced Transportation Branch of the Office of Space Systems Development, responsible for overseeing space transportation concept studies and advanced development activities across the agency. He served from 1988 to 1992 as chief of the Space Exploration Group in the Program Development Directorate at the Marshall Center, leading research, hardware analysis and operations integration of space transportation elements aimed at expanding human exploration of the solar system. From 1976 to 1988, Mr. Sumrall was employed in the private sector, as president of a non-aerospace company in Independence, Missouri.
Mr. Sumrall was part of the Von Braun team at the Marshall Center from 1962 to 1976. He held several positions during that period, including flight dynamics specialist for the design, development and flight planning for the Apollo Program’s Saturn I, Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles. He became branch chief in 1974 of the Missions Operations Branch in the Preliminary Design Office of the Program Development Directorate. There, he led improvement studies for the Saturn launch vehicle and conceptual design studies for large orbiting spacecraft, such as Skylab, the space shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope. A native of Altus, Oklahoma., Mr. Sumrall graduated in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in math and physics from University of Central Missouri. He did post-graduate studies in aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He taught math and science from 1961 to 1962 at Madison Academy in Huntsville before joining NASA.
During his NASA career, Mr. Sumrall has received numerous honors and awards. He received two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, one in 2006 for outstanding efforts as a member of the Exploration Systems Architecture Study and a second in 1997 for his work in the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Program.
Mr. Sumrall has written several American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and International Astronautical Federation papers on human exploration and advanced space transportation and propulsion technologies. He resides near Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Sumrall also maintains a residence in Huntsville, Alabama where he is an aerospace consultant.