Former Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) staff member Max Peterson was among a small group presented with the Missile Defense Agency's Technology Pioneer Award for his contributions to the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) program.
The group award, presented March 19 during the fifth annual U.S. Missile Defense Conference in Washington, D.C., recognized the principal MSX managers for their "outstanding leadership and technical skills that resulted in the first-time demonstration of a space-based sensor for ballistic missile defense midcourse surveillance, tracking and discrimination." Peterson, who retired from APL in 2003, was the Lab's original MSX project manager. Other recipients included Lt. Col. Bruce Guilmain, U.S. Air Force (ret.), Col. John Mill, U.S. Air Force (ret.), Harry Ames, Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory, Dr. Joseph Chow, MIT/Lincoln Labs, and Daniel Talbert, Sandia National Laboratory (ret.).
The largest spacecraft ever built by APL, MSX was launched in 1996 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to gather vital data for the future design of space-based and ground-based missile defense systems. Built for the (then) Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, MSX was the first space-based demonstration of technology to characterize ballistic missile signatures during the "midcourse" flight phase between booster burnout and missile reentry, and to collect data on the backgrounds against which targets are seen.
Since 2000 the spacecraft has served as the Air Force Space Command's (AFSPC) only space-based surveillance asset, providing full metric and space-object identification coverage of the geosynchronous belt, regardless of weather, day/night or moonlight limitations. APL continues to operate the spacecraft for the AFSPC-managed program.
MSX will begin its 12th year of operations on April 24. "MSX has contributed significantly to national security and science, and is a vital part of the Air Force's space situational awareness mission," said Duane Deal, director of National Security Space Programs for APL. "Through the dedication of the mission's APL-based operations center team, we're keeping the spacecraft operational for as long as possible. Regardless, I'd say it's done pretty well for a test mission that was supposed to last only three years."
MDA created the Technology Pioneer Award to recognize significant contributions in missile-defense science and technology, engineering or program management. When the first Pioneer Award was presented last year, a team from APL was recognized for its contributions to the Delta 180 program, part of President Ronald Reagan's mid-1980s Strategic Defense Initiative to defend the U.S. against ballistic missiles (http://www.jhuapl.edu/newscenter/pressreleases/2006/060405.asp).
For more information on MDA's Pioneer Awards, visit http://www.mda.mil/mdalink/html/pioneers.html.
Peterson is a resident of Swanton, Md.