Northrop Grumman women are at forefront of space exploration

Northrop Grumman women are at forefront of space exploration

 June 24, 2023

 Read time

Image credit: NASA

To mark International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), prime STEM employer Northrop Grumman celebrated some of its women engineers like Sally Richardson, Jill Eskew and Erica Sandoval who are Defining Possible for the next generation, and helping put the first woman on the Moon. 

Putting women at the forefront of space exploration 

Named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, NASA’s Artemis puts the work of women at the forefront. The program is focused on establishing a sustainable human presence in deep space, including ultimately landing the first woman on the Moon. At Northrop Grumman, women are leading the way to help achieve this history-making first.

The inaugural mission, Artemis I, completed a successful 25-day mission in fall 2022 after the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launched the uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon, farther than any human-rated spacecraft has gone before. In 2024, Artemis II will take a crew on a similar route to Artemis I, and Artemis III will land astronauts on the Moon for the first time since 1972 - not only the first female astronaut, but also the first person of color.

Elevating women into leadership roles

While women have played pivotal roles in space exploration efforts here in the U.S. for more than 60 years, barriers remained that kept many out of leadership positions until recent decades.

“I’ve seen the industry change over time,” said Northrop Grumman Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) Program Director, Sally Richardson. “Women have a seat at the table now, in senior positions here and at NASA, and when we get the first woman to the Moon, it is women in these leadership roles who will make it happen.” 

Launching women into history

With a background in physics, Sally leads the development of humanity’s first space station in lunar orbit.

“I remember watching the first lunar landing and seeing Buzz and Neil walk on the Moon, and that’s what motivated me to join aerospace,” said Sally. “And later, astronaut Sally Ride became a great inspiration to me.”

Sally said she encourages young women to open their minds to the possibilities that a STEM education brings, as the space industry needs diverse ideas. Reports by the American Society for Engineering Education show women continue to make up less than 25% of the total fall enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs.

Inspiring a new generation through bold missions

“The graduating classes in engineering and the sciences are not 50% female or persons of color,” commented Northrop Grumman Program Manager for the SLS boosters, Jill Eskew. “With Artemis, our nation’s youth can begin to see themselves in the astronauts and workforce supporting these incredible missions that benefit all of humankind.”

Jill plays an essential role in the Northrop Grumman SLS booster program, co-located with NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Northrop Grumman provides the twin solid rocket boosters for the SLS rocket, which each produce 3.6 million pounds of thrust at launch and are vital to getting the massive SLS rocket out of earth’s atmosphere.

“I love the excitement I see when speaking to young people,” said Jill. “Artemis’ astronaut crews are going to be a true representation of our population. The missions are bold and are inspiring a new generation.”

Applying fashion skills to STEM fields

Erica Sandoval, Abort Motor Program Manager at Northrop Grumman, discovered engineering through fashion. Enjoying putting clothes together, Erica was looking for similar ways to think critically and found her skills to be applicable to STEM-related fields. Starting at Northrop Grumman as a quality engineer, Erica now leads a major system crucial to Artemis astronaut safety.

“It’s ironic,” said Erica. “We don’t want our product [the abort motor] to be used, but it’s an incredible system that is necessary as we look to make human exploration of the Moon and Mars a reality.”

The abort motor is one of three solid rocket motors that compose the Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System, an escape system that safely removes the crew capsule from the SLS rocket in the event of an emergency on pad or during ascent. 

“There weren’t many women in engineering school; we all had male role models that inspired and encouraged us,” said Erica. “It is incredibly humbling to lead a team that’s a small part of something that changes what’s possible for humanity.”

Work for a company that champions women

Northrop Grumman is committed to solving the toughest problems in space, while putting women at the forefront.

Check out Northrop Grumman's latest job vacancies and forge an exciting career with this top employer.


Search jobs

Stay connected by subscribing to our monthly newsletter and following us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

Share this page:

  Linkedin     X     Instagram     Facebook     Press release 

Join our women's careers community