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For release: 05/25/04
Release #: 04-153  

Robert Sackheim honored with Presidential Rank Award for service to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Photo description: Sackheim

Robert L. Sackheim, assistant center director and chief engineer for space propulsion at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been awarded a 2003 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives — one of the highest honors for government service work.

Photo: Sackheim (NASA/MSFC)


Robert L. Sackheim, assistant center director and chief engineer for space propulsion at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been awarded a 2003 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives — one of the highest honors for government service work. He was among a group of federal senior executives recently honored in Washington.

The Presidential Rank Award is a prestigious honor given to a select group of senior federal executives who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time. Executives who have demonstrated strength, integrity, industry and commitment to the public trust are nominated for the award by the head of their agency. A panel of private citizens evaluates the candidates, selecting only those who, through their personal conduct and results-oriented leadership, qualify for referral to the President who makes the final designation.

Sackheim has served as assistant center director and chief engineer for space propulsion at the Marshall Center since joining NASA in 1999. In his position, he supervises all NASA space propulsion research and development activities — from Space Shuttle propulsion elements and conventional rockets, to innovative kerosene and liquid oxygen engines intended to launch next-generation spacecraft to orbit, to alternative propulsion technologies meant to carry them deep into the Solar System and beyond.

Before coming to the Marshall Center, Sackheim was manager of the propulsion systems center for TRW Corp. at their Space and Technology Division in Redondo Beach, Calif., where he was responsible for design, development and testing of high energy chemical lasers, materials technologies, and combustion and fluid system products. He had previously served as project manager for TRW's Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle project, an effort intended to develop a short-range space cargo vehicle to ferry payloads to and from the International Space Station.

Born in New York City, Sackheim earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and his master's degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University in New York. He has completed his doctoral coursework in chemical engineering at the University of California in Los Angeles, where for nine years he taught a professional-level engineering course on spacecraft design and propulsion. Sackheim lived in Palos Verdes for almost forty years before moving to Huntsville.

Sackheim has been honored with numerous awards throughout his career. In 2001, he was presented a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for notably outstanding leadership that had a pronounced effect on the technical or administrative programs of the Agency. Several professional organizations have also recognized Sackheim for his contributions to the propulsion field, including the American Association of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Academy of Engineering, and the International Academy of Astronautics. He has written more than 150 technical papers, contributed to four books on space propulsion, and holds eight patents in spacecraft propulsion and control systems technology.

Sackheim and his wife, the former Babette Freund, have two children and two grandchildren and reside in Madison, Ala.

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