EDWARDS, Calif. – Kevin L. Petersen, director of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, has announced he plans to retire from NASA, effective April 3. A veteran aerospace engineer and manager with 38 years experience at NASA Dryden, Petersen has served as the center's director for more than 10 years and is the longest-serving field center director currently at NASA.
Dryden's deputy center director, David D. McBride, has been named acting director.
"Kevin's service to NASA exemplifies what's great about the people who make up America's space program - he's served with distinction and helped lead the agency aeronautics efforts into the 21st century," said NASA Acting Administrator Chris Scolese. "I've asked David McBride to serve as acting Dryden director. I'm confident David will help keep Dryden in the forefront of aeronautics research during this period of transition."
During Petersen's tenure as center director, NASA Dryden has been transformed from a field center primarily focused on aeronautics research and support for the space shuttle program to its present state with major projects supporting all four of NASA's mission disciplines – environmental and space science, space exploration, human spaceflight and aeronautics.
During the last decade, Dryden has accomplished many flight-research "firsts," including the flight of the Helios solar-electric aircraft to a world record 96,863 feet altitude, the flight of the X-43A integrated scramjet vehicle to a speed of Mach 10, and the demonstration of fully autonomous in-flight aerial refueling capability.
"It's hard to imagine a career with more excitement and opportunity," said Petersen. "Dryden is a unique place with unmatched talents and capabilities. It has been a privilege and an honor to have played a small role in Dryden's historic accomplishments."
Petersen began his career at NASA Dryden as a university cooperative student in 1971 and was hired as an aerospace engineer upon graduation in 1974. Early in his career at Dryden, Petersen worked as a research engineer on the three-eighths-scale F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicle, the F 8 Digital Fly By Wire and the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology projects.
He later served in multiple supervisory and management positions at Dryden within the Research Engineering Division. He provided multidisciplinary support to a variety of research programs in flight dynamics and controls, structural dynamics, and flight systems. Programs he supported included the F-18 High Angle of Attack Research Vehicle and the X 29 Forward Swept Wing technology demonstrator aircraft, for which he was chief engineer.
Petersen headed the center's National AeroSpace Plane project office from February 1992 through November 1993. He was then selected to be the center's acting deputy director and was appointed Dryden's deputy director January 1996. Upon the retirement of former center director Ken Szalai, Petersen was named the center's director on Feb. 9, 1999.
Petersen was awarded NASA's Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2004 for his contributions to the agency. He also has been the recipient of NASA's Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, NASA's Exceptional Service Medal, NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal and NASA's Equal Employment Opportunity Medal.
Petersen holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
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