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The nickname for the city is "The Rocket City" because of its close connection to U.S. space missions. ABMA launched America's first satellite Explorer 1 into orbit on January 31, 1958, using a Jupiter C launch vehicle. This was a descendant from Redstone. Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville were both made aware of the fact that this was a major hub for high-tech research.
On July 1, 1960, 4,670 civilian workers, as well as associated buildings and equipment, along with 1,840 acres of land were transferred from ABMA to become NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Wernher von Braun was MSFC's initial director. The MSFC was officially dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on September 8.
MSFC's main mission in the 1960s was to develop the Saturn boosters that NASA used in its Apollo Lunar Landing Program. MSFC was able to increase its workforce significantly, and Huntsville saw many new businesses join the industrial community. To partially support this industrial growth, the Cummings Research Park was built just north of Redstone Arsenal. It is now America's second-largest such park.
Huntsville's economy almost collapsed after the Apollo program ended. The emergence of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station as well as a variety of advanced research in space sciences resulted in a revival in NASA-related activities, which has been sustained into the 21st Century. Redstone Arsenal has seen the rise of new Army units, especially in the rapidly-growing field of missile defense.
Huntsville is now the second-largest national technology and research park. It also ranks among the 25 most educated cities in America. It is a top-ranked high-tech hotspot in the country and a great place to find defense jobs. With a high average salary and a low median gross rental, it is the top-ranked US location for engineers who are most satisfied with their recognition.