Six current and/or former staff members, of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., were recently presented the first-ever Technology Pioneer Award by the Missile Defense Agency.
The first of three group awards went to an APL team who, in the mid-1980s, developed the Delta 180 mission concept and, along with members of the (then) Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, led an industry, government and academia team that successfully implemented the mission. The primary purpose of the Delta 180 mission was to demonstrate the feasibility of tracking and destroying an accelerating booster rocket in space. The program was part of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative to defend against potential incoming ballistic missiles threatening the U.S.
APL team members recognized for their efforts during 1984-1986 include: current Space Department employees, Larry Crawford, department head and former Delta 180 aircraft instrumentation manager; Courtney Ray, a former lead analyst for Delta 180; and Thomas Coughlin, then Delta 180 APL science module program manager; and former employees, John Dassoulas (retired), former APL Delta 180 program manager; Michael Griffin, current NASA administrator and former head of APL's Space Department, and then APL's Delta 180 systems engineer; and Thomas Roche (retired), then Delta 180 payload integration and testing lead.
As stated in an MDA press release, the Technology Pioneer Award was created to "recognize individuals or small groups who have made outstanding contributions to technology and the advancement of missile defense in the past 24 years. This unsung hero award recognizes those whom have made significant contributions in science and technology, engineering, or program management."
Government or industry employees (living or deceased) who have made a unique contribution directly affecting the United States' missile defense capability can be nominated for the award. According to MDA, candidates for this year's awards were selected based on their initiative, creative thinking and innovation.
The award was presented March 24 during the 4th Annual U.S. Missile Defense Conference in Washington, D.C.
PIONEERING EFFORTS IN MISSILE DEFENSE
The teamwork between APL and the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (now the Missile Defense Agency) began in the mid-1980s with the Delta 180 program — the first in the Delta program series that set new standards for accomplishing orbital ballistic missile defense missions in extremely short periods of time. The Delta 180 program's primary mission was to understand the challenges associated with the tracking, and guidance and control of a space-based, accelerating missile target, and to demonstrate the concept through a flight test. APL served as technical advisor for the Delta 180 experiment, and also designed and built a science module containing instrumentation mounted on the target vehicle to observe the incoming interceptor during the final phases of the successful intercept in space.
As stated in the award nomination, "the core team that led this effort from 1984 to 1986 provided key technical guidance … and constituted a major element in the assessment of sensor technology, … and ultimately enabled the program's success. Their efforts, and the resulting success of the [Delta 180] experiment, proved some of the basic concepts of boost phase intercept [defeating missiles while they're boosting through the atmosphere] — one of the foundational principles of the Missile Defense Agency."
Mr. Dassoulas is a resident of Silver Spring, Md.; Mr. Coughlin and Dr. Ray, Ellicott City, Md.; Dr. Crawford, Laurel, Md.; and Mr. Roche, South Bethany, DE.