Dr. Michael D. Griffin is the new head of the Space Department at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
Griffin oversees the second-largest department at the Laboratory, with more than 600 specialists tackling some of NASA's and the military's toughest space science and engineering challenges. His tenure begins as the Lab embarks on several ambitious projects, including a "fire and ice" tandem of robotic spacecraft to explore Mercury and Pluto — the planets closest to and farthest from the sun — and unprecedented studies of solar activity and the sun-Earth relationship.
Griffin succeeds Dr. Stamatios M. (Tom) Krimigis, head of the Space Department since 1991. His experience includes a previous stop at APL in the 1980s, when he helped design the successful Delta 180 series of missile-defense technology satellites for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. After leaving APL in 1986, he served as the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's deputy for technology, and as both the chief engineer and associate administrator for exploration at NASA Headquarters.
Before rejoining APL this month, he was president and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel, a private, non-profit enterprise funded by the Central Intelligence Agency to identify and invest in companies developing cutting-edge technologies that serve national security interests. Griffin's resume also includes several leadership roles at Orbital Sciences Corporation and key technical positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Computer Sciences Corporation.
"Mike Griffin is an accomplished leader, well known and well respected in the aerospace community," says APL Director Dr. Richard T. Roca. "He is a dedicated professional whose enthusiasm for our critical work remained strong even while he was distinguishing himself as a senior government executive and a leader in private industry. We are very happy to have him back to provide leadership for our civilian and military space initiatives."
A resident of Reston, Va., Griffin is president-elect of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and a member of the American Astronautical Society and International Academy of Astronautics. In addition to a doctorate in aerospace engineering, he holds master's degrees in aerospace science, electrical engineering, applied physics, civil engineering and business administration, and a bachelor's degree in physics.
Griffin joins a laboratory about to mark 45 years in space exploration; APL's distinguished record includes building and launching 60 spacecraft and more than 150 instruments over those four-plus decades. The Lab's 61st spacecraft, named MESSENGER (for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), is set to launch this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and begin orbiting Mercury in 2011.