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Dr. George Schmidt to Head NASA Propulsion Research Center at Marshall Center, Supporting Future Exploration of Solar System
Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034) News Release: 04-279

Dr. George R. Schmidt has been named manager of NASA's Propulsion Research Center, the primary organization occupying the new Propulsion Research Laboratory at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Schmidt will lead the organization's research and development of advanced propulsion technologies at Marshall's state-of-the-art laboratory. Under Schmidt's guidance, NASA scientists, engineers, guest researchers, and partners from industry, academia and other government labs will seek innovative breakthroughs in propulsion systems to support a broad range of future space missions.

The Propulsion Research Center is a key participant in realizing the Vision for Space Exploration — NASA's bold initiative to return Americans to the Moon and send robotic missions to Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System to prepare for eventual human journeys beyond near-Earth space.

Schmidt most recently served as program executive for Nuclear Power Systems in NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. There, he led development of radioisotope-based nuclear power systems for flight applications and advanced power conversion technologies for NASA's Project Prometheus — intended to develop spacecraft power systems capable of sending exploration missions throughout the solar system.

From 1999 to 2002, Schmidt served as deputy manager of the Propulsion Research Center at Marshall, directing research intended to deliver key technologies — nuclear, electric, high-energy plasma, solar, laser and antimatter propulsion and studies in advanced physics — for safe, low-cost access to Earth orbit and travel beyond.

A graduate of NASA's Senior Executive Service candidate development program, which grooms men and women to lead programs at the top levels of the federal government, Schmidt had numerous additional responsibilities during his tenure at the Propulsion Research Center. In 2002, he served on the staff of the associate director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Space and Defense Power Systems, formulating development strategies for advanced power systems supporting NASA's Nuclear Systems Program. That year, he also briefly served as acting manager of the Advanced Space Transportation Program Office at Marshall, managing an organization responsible for more than $200 million in launch and in-space flight technology projects.

In 2001, Schmidt helped the Marshall Center expand its partnership with Alabama universities to develop space propulsion technologies while assigned to the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville — the collaborative research facility uniting government, academic and industry scientists. In 2000, Schmidt went to NASA Headquarters in Washington to aid the Agency in responding to Federal Bureau of Investigation recommendations for comprehensive security guidelines and protection of sensitive NASA technology and software products and documentation.

He also served as an adjunct professor between 1999 and 2001 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he developed and taught courses in the scientific and engineering principles of advanced space propulsion.

Schmidt joined NASA in 1989, leading testing of advanced cryogenic fluid management systems for storage and transfer of extremely low-temperature rocket fuel and propellants. He rapidly advanced to a number of successive leadership positions related to the development of propulsion systems and hardware.

Before coming to NASA, Schmidt held lead engineering positions on the International Space Station program and several advanced space transportation projects while working at Booz-Allen & Hamilton in Reston, Va., and at The Boeing Company's aerospace divisions in Huntsville and Seattle.

Born in New York, N.Y., Schmidt considers Seattle, Wash., his home town. Schmidt earned concurrent bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering in 1981 from Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. In 1985, he received a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1993, Schmidt earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Schmidt is the author or coauthor of more than 50 papers and publications on propulsion technologies and research. He has received nearly two-dozen NASA awards, including the Research and Technology Award in 1994, recognizing his notable achievements in technology development; two Marshall Center Director's Commendations for technical leadership; and four NASA Special Service awards for significant contributions to NASA's mission and the welfare of its employees.

The Propulsion Research Center is part of the Marshall Center's Science and Technology Directorate, supporting NASA's Exploration Systems and Science Mission Directorates, and is a member of the National Space Science and Technology Center. The Propulsion Research Center plays a critical role in NASA's development of advanced launch technologies and propulsion systems intended to carry out the work of the Vision for Space Exploration.