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David Christensen Collection

Identifier: MC-111
Documents and artifacts pertaining to space travel and exploration, different types of energy, NASA history, rocket development, Space Station documents, Marshall Space Flight Center documents, tape interviews with notable scientists, etc.


  • 1976 - 2012

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.


160 Linear Feet (160 boxes.)

Biographical / Historical

David Christensen was born on April 7, 1932, in Birmingham, Alabama, to Susan Matilda Harvey and Arne Skov Christensen. David served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He began his career in rocketry in 1953 at Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico supporting the field testing of the Corporal Ballistic Missile. He joined the Von Braun rocket team at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in February 1956, working on Liquid Rocket Propulsion Systems for the Redstone, Jupiter, and Saturn rockets; he was Project Engineer for the Saturn H-1 rocket engine.

Mr. Christensen started his own consulting firm in June 1960, providing technical and management support for major aerospace firms. He also provided contractual support services for the Saturn-Apollo Program under several prime contracts with his company. In 1967, he joined the Research Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and initiated the Saturn History Program under a NASA contractual activity. This program required extensive documentation research and interviews and resulted in the official NASA history book (NASA SP-4206 “Stages to Saturn”). These and many other of his space history materials now reside in the UAH Library archives.

Mr. Christensen was a Senior Research Associate and Director of Alternate Energy Research at UAH during the 1970s and led many research studies, conferences and workshops investigating the use of solar energy for both Earth-based and space-based power systems. In 1974, he led a special research effort, under a NASA contract, to investigate the use of the planned Space Shuttle for educational purposes. He also supported research efforts and performed extensive interviews for the book “The Rocket Team,” the definitive story of the Von Braun rocket team and wrote the scripts for several educational filmstrips, which were narrated by Wernher von Braun, including “Stations in Space” and “Dividends From Space.”

Starting in 1980, Mr. Christensen worked for several major aerospace firms including United Technologies, Wyle Laboratories, and Lockheed Martin on a variety of space programs. He gave testimony before a Congressional Sub Committee regarding research and development for all aspects of Renewable Energy. In 1990, he organized and chaired “The Space Summit--an International Conference on Manned Space Exploration” in support of the NASA Space Exploration Initiative. He was a founding member and was Chairman of the National Space Club in Huntsville (1991-1992), was an Associate Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and was a long time member (40 years) of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). During 2001-2002, he was Chairman of the Space Propulsion Synergy Team (SPST), a national organization of volunteers that supports space transportation programs with emphasis on propulsion system technologies.

Until his retirement, Mr. Christensen was Senior Staff Engineer and Manager of Business Development for Lockheed Martin Astronautics Division in Huntsville (1996-2004). He was the Project Lead for liquid rocket engines and propulsion system integration on the Liquid Fly Back Booster considered by NASA for replacement of the Solid Rocket Boosters on the Space Shuttle, and Program Manager (the team included members of the Lockheed “Skunk Works”) for a D-21 Drone modification study, funded by NASA to develop a reusable Mach 6 flight test-bed using combined cycle rocket/ramjet engines needed for our future transportation systems. He was also the Lockheed Martin Team Lead on a NASA funded task to design a “clean sheet” reusable space vehicle.

After retirement, Mr. Christensen supported the UAH space program archives development and propulsion research activities. As an Aerospace Consultant, he performed peer reviews of internal space exploration proposals for NASA Headquarters and also performed research studies for Bigelow Aerospace to assess design concepts for inflatable structures used as habitats in orbit and on the surface of the Moon and Mars. He supported NASA under contracts for the development of "Lessons Learned" and risk reduction data bases derived from numerous sources. During November 2008, Mr. Christensen co-chaired the Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger Recognition Symposium held at UAH. In October 2010, he accepted the Wernher von Braun Award for Community Service presented by the National Space Club of Huntsville. He was also a continuous member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and one of its precursor technical societies (Institute for Aerospace Sciences) for over 50 years. Mr. Christensen provided consulting services to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Command/Army Forces Strategic Command on a new small space launch system dedicated to launch-on-demand capability for nano satellites.

David Christensen passed away on September 1, 2017.

Existence and Location of Copies

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
Maranda Boles
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America