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50 Years of Research
10.03.08
 
Robert C. HendricksRobert C. Hendricks, one of NASA's longest-standing employees. Photo Credit: NASA
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In June 1957, as National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Lewis Research Center was shifting towards an expanded role in space research, Robert C. Hendricks was transitioning as an aerospace engineering graduate and newly commissioned U.S. Air Force officer beginning active duty in NACA's Rocket Branch.

"I was recruited to help solve combustion problems on the X-15 rocket engine, part of a classified program managed by Langley and supported by the Air Force and Navy," Hendricks explained. "My research culminated in the successful operation of the liquid oxygen (LOX) ammonia man-rated rocket engine and my commitment to the Air Force."

Eager to tackle the next challenge, Hendricks developed critical cryogenic heat transfer data for liquid hydrogen fuel used for rocket engines. This new enabling technology aided Lewis' work on Centaur and directly impacted the Apollo program. It is now used in all LOX-hydrogen engines including the space shuttle main engine and crew and cargo vehicle (J - 2X, S) engines.

Hendricks cites NASA visionaries Robert Graham, John Evvard, John Sloop, and Abe Silverstein, among the dynamic leadership that enabled his early accomplishments.

"I was intense and eager to get things done," Hendricks recalled. "Graham was my supervisor and such a clear thinker. He helped me to be patient, while constantly working to open doors."

Among the many awards for his significant contributions, Hendricks received, in 1985, NASA's Exceptional Scientific Research Medal, for "...immeasurable contributions to NASA's hydrogen-oxygen chemical rocketry technology."

Currently, a senior technologist and research engineer in the Research and Technology Directorate, Hendricks performs basic and applied research in fluid dynamics and heat transfer. In addition to writing over 300 papers, Hendricks continues to make significant contributions in research related to turbo pump seals that have led to the creation of design codes and the agency's Seal Program. He also has performed important jet engine characteristic work related to heat transfer, and, more recently, to alternative fuels.

Hendricks dedication to research benefiting aeronautics and space exploration is equaled in his passion to protect the Earth and its inhabitants. He is involved in several conservation efforts and annually travels to different locations around the world building and repairing structures, e.g., churches, schools and homes, to help those less fortunate than himself.

Hendricks' energy, interests and breath of research have not been harnessed by time. "I'm driven by the applications of my research," Hendricks said.

S. Jenise Veris (SGT, Inc.)

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