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John Klineberg portrait.

John M. Klineberg

Former Director, Glenn Research Center (1987–1990) and Goddard Space Flight Center (1990–1995)

John M. Klineberg served as center director at NASA’s Lewis Research Center (today, NASA Glenn Research Center) from May 29, 1987 until June 30, 1990. Prior to that, he served seven years as Deputy Director and six months as acting director. Klineberg took steps to build on the center’s successes of the early 1980s, restored operations at Plum Brook Station (today, NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility), and helped establish a consortium that provides resources for the Ohio aerospace community.

Klineberg, a New York City native, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Princeton University in 1960 and a Master of Science from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1962. During this period, he worked as an engineer at Grumman Aircraft Company in New York and the Douglas Aircraft Company in California. Klineberg went on to earn his Ph.D. in aeronautics and political science from Cal Tech in 1968 focusing on fundamental research exploring friction of supersonic air flows.

Klineberg began his NASA career in 1970 as an aeronautical research engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center. There he studied the use of numerical methods for determining boundary layer separation in transonic flow. In 1974 Klineberg transferred to NASA Headquarters to lead the Low-Speed Aircraft Branch. He was subsequently promoted to deputy associate administrator of the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology.

Klineberg was then asked to serve as deputy director at Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He began his seven-year stint in this role on July 1, 1979, under John McCarthy. Klineberg was responsible for the management of the center’s research programs, which at that time included significant aeropropulsion and Earth resources work. This came to include the power system for the space station and the integration of the Centaur stage into the space shuttle as the center acquired several new programs in the early 1980s.

In September 1986, Klineberg was tapped to serve as acting center director following the departure of Andy Stofan.  In November 1986, he announced a reorganization to align resources with the increase in space projects and initiated a new strategic planning effort to improve on the success of a prior plan in 1982. He also secured funding for construction of the Power Systems Facility to house the center’s space power activities.

On May 29, 1987, NASA announced that Klineberg would be the sixth center director at NASA Lewis. He continued management of several large programs including the space station power system, the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite, and the Advanced Turboprop.

It was during this period, that the center began reactivating several of the facilities at its remote test site at Plum Brook Station, which had been closed in 1973 due to agency budget and program cuts. In 1985, a multi-agency commission recommended bringing four of the facilities back online for new research programs. The Space Power Facility, the Space Propulsion Research Facility, and the Cryogenic Tank Facility were restored between 1987 and 1990, and the Hypersonic Tunnel Facility became operational in 1996.

John Klineberg at desk.
John Klineberg in his office in June 1987.

Klineberg also facilitated the 1989 transfer of eight acres of NASA property to a new aerospace consortium for the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI). The facility, which opened in 1992, provided a combination of classrooms, auditoriums, and communications equipment for use by universities, businesses, and government agencies. OAI continues to support aerospace research, continuing education, and technology transfer.

In April 1990, the NASA administrator announced that Klineberg would be leaving in July to serve as director of Goddard Space Flight Center. He remained in that position until his retirement from NASA on April 29, 1995.  Klineberg soon joined Space Systems/Loral as executive vice president for the Globalstar satellite program. He became vice president of the company in 1999 and continued to serve on the board of directors following his retirement in 2001. In 2006 he took over as chief executive officer at Swales Aerospace. Klineberg passed away on December 31, 2022.

Klineberg’s many awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Goddard Award of Merit, the U.S. Government rank of Distinguished Executive, the U.S. Government Rank of Meritorious Executive, the AIAA Barry M. Goldwater Education Award; and the Engineer of the Year Award from the University of Maryland. He was a fellow of both the American Astronautical Society and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and served on advisory boards for a wide array of government, university, and industry organizations.

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