Feature

Up and Coming
01.08.09
 
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Kendall D. Mauldin Kendall D. Mauldin
NASA Photo
Kendall D. Mauldin

Kendall D. Mauldin is a Dryden electrical engineer specializing in flight systems and avionics engineering work for the Flight Systems branch.

He integrates electrical systems into testbed aircraft and research vehicles. Included in that work is electrical circuit design, verification and integration testing, computer programming, research-requirements definition, procedure development, flight operations, test operations support and embedded systems design.

Mauldin's nominators had much to say about this "extremely sharp and personable" up-and-coming technical leader who is "reliable, smart and honest" and has demonstrated "outstanding leadership in [Crew Exploration Vehicle] avionics." "A bright, smart rising star," was one nominator's comment, while another said Mauldin is a "talented, innovative thinker." Described as a motivated engineer, nominators said he "leads with high expectations of himself and his team." He's also a team player, "collaborative and brings out the best in others."

He is known for his F-18 aircraft integration work on the Autonomous Airborne Refueling Demonstration project. Mauldin and the AARD team integrated a system that would autonomously refuel the F-18 while it is airborne, and successfully tested the system in flight in less than 14 months. The project required significant modifications to the F-18 flight control system. The project team developed data with which additional autonomous refueling work for uninhabited aerial vehicles could be completed to support U.S. Department of Defense UAV fleet upgrades, or future NASA autonomous UAV work.

He also has worked on the X-37; the F-15B Lifting Insulating Foam Trajectory flight test series; an ER-2 hurricane mission; and the Orion Flight Test crew module. Abort flight test with the latter is set for spring 2009 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and will evaluate the Orion's launch abort, landing and recovery systems.




Robert R. Meyer Jr. Robert R. Meyer Jr.
NASA Photo
Robert R. Meyer Jr.

Robert R. Meyer Jr. is described by his nominators as "a visionary," as "hard-working and fair" and "a gifted pilot" and is one of Dryden's most important present-day leaders.

He was appointed as program manager of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program in 2006. Nominators called him "a savior of the SOFIA" for his orchestration of the program in its overall development and for his work preparing the aircraft for operational service. The observatory features a German-built 17-metric-ton telescope integrated in the body of a specially modified NASA 747SP.

Prior to his appointment as SOFIA program manager, Meyer was Dryden associate director for programs from 2004 to 2006. In that role he was responsible for implementing program activity and planning and advocacy for future research activity at the center.

He previously had served as acting deputy center director, director of Aerospace Projects, director of Research Engineering, assistant director of new program development and assistant for plans and programs.

Earlier in his Dryden career, Meyer served as chief of the Research Engineering Aerodynamics Branch and chief engineer on the F-18 High-Angle-of-Attack Vehicle research project. The HARV produced technical data to validate computer codes and wind tunnel research, to help improve the maneuverability of future aircraft.

He also was involved with aerodynamic loads tests on the space shuttle thermal protective tile system, development of a real-time cockpit trajectory guidance system and studies of laminar (smooth) airflow involving the F-111, F-14 and F-15 aircraft.

He has authored or co-authored some 25 papers on these topics. Meyer was one of two flight engineers who flew in the SR-71 flight research program.




Leslie M. Molzahn Leslie M. Molzahn
NASA Photo
Leslie M. Molzahn

Leslie M. Molzahn is deputy chief of the Operations Engineering branch.

Molzahn was called "sharp" and "driven" by her nominators, who consider her a "great mentor and leader." In addition, nominators also said she "has an understanding of operations requirements," is "an excellent motivator," "has technical and leadership expertise," "is enthusiastic and skilled," "has operational integrity," is "open-minded and caring," "high energy" and is a "pragmatic and future thinker."

She started at Dryden as a Spiral Technology contract employee in 2001. She supported the Active Aeroelastic Wing, Autonomous Formation Flight and Autonomous Aerial Refueling projects as a mission planner until the summer of 2003. During this time, she supported over 100 research missions from the control room. In 2003, Molzahn took a position as a civil servant in the Operations Engineering branch.

As an operations engineer, Leslie has supported research projects on the Gulfstream III/C-20, the DC-8 Flying Laboratory, the ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, and the F-15B and F-18 research aircraft.

She also fills the roles of mission controller, flight test engineer and senior operations representative. In 2008, she was part of the Quiet Spike Flight Test NASA/Gulfstream team that won an Aviation Week Laureate Award. The Quiet Spike researched suppression of sonic booms.

Molzahn currently represents Dryden as a member on the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Flight Test Technical Committee.

Having learned the importance of mentoring at Dryden, Molzahn focuses on mentoring cooperative education students and new employees. She enthusiastically supports outreach activities for the general public and local schoolchildren. She believes that NASA is an exciting place to work for the current generation and that ongoing research activities are key to inspiring future generations.




James E. Murray James E. Murray
NASA Photo
James E. Murray

James E. Murray is an engineer working on with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy and an aerodynamic researcher on the Blended Wing Body aircraft.

His work with the SOFIA involves looking at the approximately 1,000 tufts on the aircraft visible with one of three cameras (one on each wing looking inward and one on the tail looking downward) that can be used to gather analytical information. Data to be gathered includes measurements such as flow direction and flow state that can be compared with computational fluid dynamics results that together can be used to refine analytical models. On the BWB, he is studying how the aircraft reacts to wind shear and turbulence.

Nominators said this "old school inventor" is "smart," "a great thinker, problem solver," and an "innovator." Some nominators called him the "local mad scientist" and said he often works on "unseen, but important research."

Murray has worked on a wide variety of projects including the Autonomous Aerial Refueling project and demonstration, the Eclipse, the Inflatable Wing I-2000, the human-powered Daedalus aircraft, the F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle, Dryden's Aerospike Rocket Test flight research project, Mars airplane concepts at Dryden and Langley Research Center, Va., and the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration flights.

He first came to Dryden in 1981 as a cooperative education student. Space shuttle missions had just begun and researchers were studying stability and control derivatives. Murray assisted Ken Iliff and Richard Maine with that work.

Murray knows Dryden capabilities and people and he offers these tips for succeeding at the center: "Volunteer for good projects before you get assigned to a bad one," and "Use the following selection criteria for choosing a project: Is this project really going to fly?"




Chris Naftel Chris Naftel
NASA Photo
Chris Naftel

Chris Naftel is the Global Hawk project manager, which is fitting since he is known as the guy who convinced the Air Force to transfer two of its early Global Hawk test aircraft to Dryden.

Nominators pointed to his "abilities to organize" and said he "never gives up." In addition, one said, "Chris and his team have been critical in making NASA the first and only civilian agency to have access to these phenomenal vehicles that will revolutionize our scientific understanding of hurricanes, atmospheric rivers, atmospheric diurnal chemistry and radiation effects, storm development, ice melting, interactions and monitoring, (and) ocean current change effects."

Also with the Global Hawk project, Naftel established the project team and cultivated a partnership with Northrop Grumman. That partnership led to an April 30, 2008, agreement with Northrop that includes a five-year commitment to support Dryden's Global Hawk capability development and operations of the system.

Global Hawk is a fully autonomous high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system. More information about the aircraft is available (on page 18) on new Dryden projects.

Dryden Global Hawk missions are expected to begin in spring 2009.

In addition to his Global Hawk work, Naftel is known for his contributions during the initial planning of the Crew Exploration Vehicle project. He has supported test planning and interface with the launch vehicle representatives at Marshall Space Center, Ala., from which he first came to Dryden in 2001 as a liaison on the X-43A program.

In 2004, he transferred to Dryden and supported work with the larger X-43C vehicle, which was designed to go even faster than the Mach 10 X-43A using a similar propulsion system, but that project was later cancelled.




Robert Navarro Robert Navarro
NASA Photo
Robert Navarro

Robert Navarro is project manager for the ER-2 high-altitude, long-range flying laboratories at Dryden. The Earth science aircraft are civil versions of the U.S. Air Force U-2S.

Navarro was nominated for his "knowledge and expertise" and his ability to "encourage the project (staff) to do the best that they can."

Prior to his current position, Navarro served as project manager for the Altair uninhabited aerial system and the Pathfinder Plus high-altitude, long-endurance project. The Altair flew research flights during the 2006 Western States Fire Mission, when it carried an Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.-developed wildfire sensor. The payload and aircraft monitored and provided the U.S. Forest Service with imagery of the Esperanza fire in Southern California.

For the Pathfinder Plus project, the UAS aircraft was instrumented for gathering data to improve existing analytical tools. Flight-test research was analyzed for validating new multidisciplinary models that described the aeroelastic qualities, or structural flexing, of high-altitude, high-aspect-ratio aircraft.

A brief flight series at Dryden in September 2005 was set to investigate the effects of turbulence on lightweight flexible-wing structures. Navarro was project manager for those flights as the aircraft made two low-altitude flights over the northern portion of Rogers Dry Lake.

Previously, Navarro served as chief engineer for the Helios prototype solar-powered aircraft and the F-18 Systems Research Aircraft. The Helios reached a record for its class, marking an altitude of 96,863 feet on Aug. 13, 2001.

New technology experiments for applications in future aircraft were flown on the SRA. Navarro was principal investigator on the SRA electronic actuator tests. Research conducted with the SRA included electric actuation, sensor technology, fiber optics and structural investigations.




Bradford A. Neal Bradford A. Neal
NASA Photo
Bradford A. Neal

Bradford A. Neal is Dryden deputy chief engineer. The Dryden chief engineer's office provides independent technical oversight of flight research and science projects.

Nominators said Neal is "an excellent engineer with management skill," "quietly efficient," "talented," "a people person," someone who "understands needs," is "considerate" and "can make anything fly." Nominators also said he is "professional and experienced" and "a great operations engineer who exhibits technical excellence and dedication to mission."

Neal was lead operations engineer for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy aircraft. He oversaw the return to flight of NASA's integrated Boeing 747SP and the German-built, 17-metric-ton infrared telescope that comprise the flying observatory. Neal also played key roles on the team that helped reorganize the SOFIA program, see it brought to Dryden, and prepare center organizations for participation in the program.

He also was lead operations engineer on the X-43A project and a mission controller on the first two flights. Integrating different organizations to carry out the hypersonic experiment was among his biggest challenges. No vehicle powered by an air-breathing engine had ever flown at hypersonic speeds prior to the successful March 2004 X-43A flight that collected the first data from a scramjet engine in flight.

Operations engineer is a position Neal considers "the best at the center." He served as acting Operations Engineering branch chief from September 2002 to January 2003.

Neal first came to Dryden as a cooperative education student in 1982, serving as an operations engineer. In 1987 he was hired into the Operations Engineering branch. He also was an operations engineer for the SR-71 Linear Aerospike engine project. He specialized in operation of the high-pressure systems and helped integrate project hardware with the SR-71 aircraft. On that project, he also was a mission controller and flight test observer.