The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has named Robert D. Strain to head its Space Department. He will lead APL's second-largest department, with nearly 600 specialists tackling some of NASA's and the military's toughest space science and systems engineering challenges.
Strain, who assumes his new post on Sept. 4, came to APL in 2004 as assistant Space Department head for operations. In 2005 he was named associate department head and this year became the department's managing executive. He has more than 25 years of experience in the aerospace business, including executive positions at Orbital Sciences, where he led its Satellite and Electronic Sensors divisions, and Fairchild Space and Defense Company, for which he served as chief financial officer and various other operational roles.
A resident of Poolesville, Md., Strain has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Michigan University. He succeeds Dr. Larry J. Crawford, who plans to retire from the Lab after nearly four decades of service. Crawford became head of the Space Department after Dr. Michael D. Griffin left APL to become NASA administrator in April 2005.
"Rob has been a key part of the ongoing transformation of the APL Space Department and is a well-respected member of the space development community," says APL Director Dr. Richard T. Roca. "His leadership will be critical during the coming years as we continue our transformation to meet future space challenges."
Among those challenges are forging a role for the Lab by strengthening its National Security Space Business Area. Strain aims to strengthen capability by drawing on the engineering and analytical experience gained through space science missions, using expertise resident in other APL business areas currently tackling military challenges, and selectively teaming with other external organizations.
The department is wrapping up an active year, with the January launch of the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto and completion of the twin STEREO solar study probes, scheduled to lift off this fall. The Mercury-bound, Lab-operated MESSENGER spacecraft will fly past Venus this October and again next June; APL-built science instruments are examining the environs of Mars and Saturn; the TIMED atmospheric study mission was extended for four more years; and the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite celebrated 10 years of operations.
Last spring NASA selected the Lab to build a pair of spacecraft that will study Earth's radiation belts. NASA's broad exploration strategy involves APL in a teaming arrangement with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on a robotic lunar mission. All told, APL has built 64 spacecraft and more than 150 spacecraft instruments since creating its Space Department in 1959.