NASA’s Artemis I Mission Takes Flight Thanks to Red Crew Members

Huntsville, Ala., December 12, 2022 – ERC, a major subcontractor to Jacobs on the Test and Operations Support Contract (TOSC), wants to congratulate NASA on the successful launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission! The ERC team has been intimately involved in every aspect of TOSC, from the beginning phases to the Red Crew saving the day.

The SLS is NASA’s first exploration-class rocket since Saturn V and the most powerful rocket to date, designed to evolve for missions to the moon, mars, and beyond. Artemis I is the first uncrewed test flight in a series of complex missions to build a long-term presence on the Moon. The duration of the Artemis I mission was 25 days, 11 hours, and 36 minutes. Yesterday, December 11th, the module re-entered earth at 24,500 mph and splashed down after having traveled 1.3 million miles.

As NASA’s Kennedy Space Center was preparing for the launch on Nov. 15th, the sensors detected a leak during fueling, similar to what caused mission control to scrub the previous launch attempts. The Artemis I mission managers made the decision to send in the “Red Crew”, a specialized team to deploy to the base of the fueled rocket to try and stop the liquid hydrogen leak at 10:12 p.m. ET. In order for the Red Crew to do their job, the team needed to drain off the liquid hydrogen from the leaking component. This task was extremely dangerous due to the complexity and nature of the elements.

The ERC Red Crew team members, Billy Cairns and Trenton Annis, Cryogenic Engineering Technicians, and Chad Garrett, Safety Engineer, had to tighten several bolts to troubleshoot a valve used to replenish the core stage with liquid hydrogen. These three employees were hailed as “heroes of the day” by NASA for their bravery and hard work to ensure Artemis I took flight.

ERC President of NASA Division, Jane Reutt commented, “I am so proud of the ERC team on the TOSC contract. This launch took the entire team from the folks in the background to the folks in the firing room. What an amazing night as we listened to the count down and realized that we were going to zero and launching. It’s been a long road for many of our employees, but the end result was breathtaking.”

Our ERC Red Crew team members “showed up” and got their job done, and we couldn’t be prouder.

About ERC

ERC is a leading provider of mission-critical engineering, technical and consulting services to the space and defense markets. For over 30 years, ERC has worked closely with such customers as the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and other high-tech government entities on missions of national importance. ERC’s solutions combine precise engineering, innovative, deep subjective-matter expertise, firsthand mission understanding, and long-term customer knowledge to deliver the critical advantage needed to solve critical challenges. ERC’s 2,000 employees share a collaborative culture built on commitment, integrity teamwork, respect, and uncompromising performance, which enables best-in-class service and solutions for the company’s customers. For more information, go to Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Our Founding Story

We recognize ERC’s birthday on March 16, 1988 – the day our founder, Dr. Ying Chu Lin “Susan” Wu, boldly left the security of her professorship at the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) in Tullahoma, TN to go to work full-time as Chairman and CEO of a company without any employees or any business.

An entity known as Engineering Research and Consulting, Inc. was actually established in 1977 by Susan, her husband, Dr. Jimmy Wu, and Dr. Ahmad Vakili. The three UTSI professors formed the company to provide engineering consultation services to large aerospace and defense firms. By 1988, the company was dormant and had no business. Susan took over and renamed the company “ERC, Incorporated.”

Susan was born in Beijing, China in 1932.   China wasn’t a safe place to live as the country was ravaged with civil war and Japanese occupation.  

When Susan was in the 8th grade, her family moved to the eastern coast of China then settled in Taiwan. While in Taiwan, Susan finished high school and earned a BS degree in engineering – keeping the vow she made to herself in the 8th grade to become an engineer and remedy China’s struggles. Unfortunately, China was now under communist control, so Susan and her future husband Jimmy set off for the United States of America in 1957.

Susan won the Amelia Earhart Fellowship from Zonta International to attend The Ohio State University and Jimmy attended the University of Minnesota. In 1959, Susan earned her MS in engineering and married Jimmy.

Susan enrolled in the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), one of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the United States, where Jimmy was already attending. She stayed in school while having two boys, while James stopped school and went to work to support the family. In 1963, Susan became the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering at Caltech.

In 1965, Jimmy and Susan moved to Tullahoma, TN where they served as professors in Aerospace Engineering at UTSI for nearly 25 years. During this time, Susan was awarded many prestigious awards to include: Outstanding Educators in America in 1972 and 1975, and Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award in 1985.

While still teaching at UTSI, Susan, Jimmy, and Dr. Ahmad Vakili established Engineering Research and Consulting, Inc. in 1977. Despite very strong performance, the company’s ability to maintain contracting was unsuccessful. With the company’s three employees tied up either teaching or actually executing project work, there was no time left to develop new business. ERC went dormant until 1988.

On March 15, 1988, Susan retired from UTSI and on March 16, 1988, she became the sole Director of ERC. She expressed the company’s mission of fostering high technology development in a small business sector. From the start, Susan stressed three main values: 1) Have Integrity, 2) Provide Excellent Work, and 3) Treat Employees Like Family.  The University of Tennessee awarded ERC its first contract supporting their Energy Conversion Program. 

ERC’s growth was slow, but steady for the first several years. By 1995, the company’s business base was over $10M with contracts with the Army, NASA, Department of Energy, and the Air Force.

Susan moved the family and the company headquarters to Huntsville, AL in 1996. Just four years later, Susan suffered a stroke. For health reasons, she stepped down as Chairman and CEO. She persuaded her oldest son, Dr. Ernie Wu, to leave his research at Harvard University and take over as President and CEO of ERC. Ernie faithfully led ERC for the next 25 years. Dr. Ying Chu Lin “Susan” Wu died at home in Huntsville, Alabama, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

The ERC Family is extremely proud to be a part of an organization whose founding roots epitomize the American Dream, perseverance, and engineering excellence. As we move forward, we know our company can be anything we want it to be, because we all recognize we are standing on the shoulders of a 5 foot 1 inch giant. Susan is, and will always be, the soul and inspiration of the ERC Family.

Remembering Our Founder

Dr. Y.C.L. Susan Wu

Dr. Ying Chu Lin “Susan” Wu, a pioneer for women in aerospace and energy research died at home in Huntsville, Alabama, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. She did and will continue to inspire many, especially women, who aspire to pursue careers in science and engineering or who choose to challenge the status quo. She overcame numerous challenges in her life and broke ground as a woman in aerospace, making contributions in her field of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), while also teaching and raising a family.

After a long and successful career, Susan decided to honor a childhood vow made watching American bombers fight to free China during World War II. She began a new career in aerospace engineering by starting her own company in 1988.  ERC, Incorporated started in her basement with the same values she held in all aspects of her life:

  • Do your best to excel.
  • Treat others with respect and courtesy.
  • Help the people around you.
  • Share what you have, even if what you have isn’t much.

Of her many accomplishments, Susan may have been most proud of starting a company that lived and breathed her values and continued what she had learned from her mother. She could see and feel people working and living with those values, and she could see that she was again making a positive difference in the world.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either of the following organizations.

The Amelia Earhart Fellowship from Zonta International. Susan was the only three-time winner of this fellowship. Her first award in 1958 enabled her to study mechanical engineering at Ohio State University.

The Alzheimer’s Association. This organization promotes research in finding a cure and support for the families and victims of the disease. Susan was diagnosed in 2014 with Alzheimer’s Disease. She worked hard to continue pushing ahead despite the disease, solving Sudoku and word puzzles endlessly to keep her mind sharp.