Judith (Charlie) Blackwell-Thompson
Artemis Launch Director
Charlie Blackwell-Thompson serves as the Artemis Launch Director for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program, based at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She oversees the countdown and liftoff of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft during the Artemis missions in NASA’s return to the moon. Named to the position in January 2016, Blackwell-Thompson is NASA’s first female launch director. Her role includes leading and managing the launch operations planning and execution for the Artemis program. In her role as launch director, she manages the development of all launch countdown plans, philosophy, and launch/scrub turnaround procedures and schedules, as well as training approaches. She is responsible for making time-critical decisions in the most hazardous of operations.
Blackwell-Thompson previously served as the program’s Test Management Branch chief. The branch manages test, launch, and recovery operations for the Artemis enterprise. She also served as the chief of Launch and Landing through the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP). During the SSP, Blackwell-Thompson held numerous launch countdown leadership positions. She served as one of three certified NASA test directors for launch of the space shuttles. In addition, she served as the Chief NASA test director from STS-130 until program completion. She was the first woman to obtain a launch NASA Test Director or a Chief NASA Test Director certification during the thirty-year program. She also served as the assistant launch director for STS-133 and through numerous tanking tests.
Blackwell-Thompson graduated from Clemson University in 1988 with a degree in computer engineering. She came to Kennedy after graduation in 1988 as a payload flight software engineer for The Boeing Company. She was responsible for the test and checkout of the avionics systems for many payloads, including research satellites, observatories and multiple Spacelab and International Space Station assembly elements. She served as the lead electrical engineer for multiple Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, as well as the research double module that flew on STS-107.
Blackwell-Thompson is the holder of multiple patents related to launch vehicle interface standardization, and command and control methods and systems.