LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A former shuttle astronaut is joining the Las Vegas Spaceport team as more details are released on the project’s plans for a STEM academy.

Jose M. Hernandez, a NASA astronaut from 2004 to 2010 who served as flight engineer on the Space Shuttle Discovery, logged 332 hours and 53 minutes in space, making 217 orbits of Earth and traveling 5.7 million miles. That mission was in 2009.

Since then, Hernandez has continued a distinguished career in engineering. Since 2013, he has served as president and CEO of aerospace consulting firm Tierra Luna Engineering LLC in Stockton, California. He is also a member of the University of California Board of Regents, appointed in 2021.

A Spaceport news release called Hernandez’s decision to join as “a milestone in its journey towards space exploration and innovation.

Astronaut José Hernandez suits up for flight on space shuttle mission STS-128. (NASA photo)

Hernandez will be a senior advisor.

Las Vegas Spaceport is a $310 million project that will be built on 240 acres outside of Las Vegas in the vicinity of Area 51 and the Nevada Test Range. Robert Lauer is the developer and CEO of the project, with a background as a pilot, U.S. Army Military Police officer and commercial real estate developer.

“I am incredibly excited to become a part of the Las Vegas Spaceport team and contribute to the advancement of space exploration and education,” Hernandez said. “It is a privilege to work alongside dedicated professionals and share my experiences to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

Hernandez will contribute to the newly unveiled Las Vegas Spaceport STEM Academy, which is set to launch this year, according to the news release.

Source: Las Vegas Spaceport

“The Las Vegas Spaceport STEM Academy is set to revolutionize education by offering a unique, military-style curriculum in aerospace engineering. Cadets will undergo a rigorous two-year program characterized by high-speed learning and high-stress challenges, preparing them for the demands of the aerospace industry. The program will also provide cadets with the opportunity to engage in summer internships at prominent space companies, granting them firsthand experience in the real-world applications of their studies,” the news release said.

Applications for enrollment in the Las Vegas Spaceport STEM Academy will open later this year, with the inaugural class set to commence their studies in the upcoming fall.

Hernandez received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of the Pacific in 1984 and a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1986, according to NASA’s website.