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Monday, December 17, 2007
Writer: Shanna Relford
One of the world’s greatest minds in aeronautics is working right
here in Tullahoma at the University of Tennessee Space Institute and
has recently been named a Fellow of the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, Dr. Gary Flandro. Dr. Flandro was
among 30 of the world’s finest contributors to the fields of
aeronautics or astronautics selected by AIAA and its Board of
Directors to receive the title of Fellow at the Aerospace Spotlight
Awards Gala on May 13 2008, at the Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center, in Washington D.C.
Dr. Flandro’s work has supported decades of space flights and led to successful missions to the outer planets. His research work with solid rocket motors has “practically solved a challenging issue that had plagued the field for many years,” said Dr. Vigor Yang with Penn State University.
In the summer of 1964, Professor Flandro discovered the rare alignment of the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and envisioned the Grand Tour multi-planet mission utilizing the gravity assist method to reduce flight duration from 40 years to less than ten. This work led to the highly successful Voyager missions. The British Interplanetary Society first recognized him for this work with the Golovine Award in 1970. NASA later presented Dr. Flandro with an Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1998, “for seminal contributions to the design and engineering of multi-outer-planet missions, including the Grand Tour opportunity for the epic Voyager explorations.”
Dr. Flandro’s research still has a major impact on recent, and even future, solar system exploration; the Galileo (Jupiter satellite tour) mission and the Cassini (Saturn satellite tour) were made possible by the gravity assist method. In 1965, Professor Flandro also studied gravity assist trajectories to Pluto; these are the basis for the New Horizons mission launched in January 2006, which will arrive at Pluto in 2015.
Professor Flandro is also an accomplished rocket propulsion
engineer. He has established many substantial and long-term research
programs, studying crack criticality in solid propellant rockets,
instability and generation of roll torques in upper-stage and
tactical rockets, linear and nonlinear combustion instability in
tactical and strategic motors, and flow-driven pressure and thrust
oscillations in heavy lift boost rocket motors such as those used
for the Space Shuttle. He has recently carried out innovative
research in liquid rocket combustion instability for NASA
In addition, Dr. Flandro may soon leading a team at UTSI to help
NASA resolve some development problems in the Aries solid rocket
boosters for the new Constellation Launch Vehicle program, which
will eventually replace the aging Space Shuttle program, and take us
back to the moon and eventually to Mars.
“Dr. Gary Flandro is one of the world’s leading experts in solid rocket propulsion and one of the hardest workers I have known in my entire career,” said UTSI Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Daniel. “His discovery has allowed for space flights to study the outer planets previously thought impossible, and those missions allowed a generation to grow up with a much greater understanding of our solar system. This recognition by AIAA is most certainly deserved and overdue.”
Dr. Flandro earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the
University of Utah in 1957, his Master’s Aeronautics from the
California Institute of Technology in1960 and his Ph.D. from Cal
Tech in 1967. He has worked at UTSI and held the Boling Chair of
Excellence in Space Propulsion since 1991. Dr. Flandro has written
or co-authored 75 conference papers, most recently traveling to
Kyoto, Japan in September to present a paper titled “Understanding
Oscillatory Behavior of Liquid Propellant Rockets and Jet Engine
Thrust Augmentors," at the Seventh International Symposium on
Special Topics in Chemical Propulsion. He has also written or
co-authored 44 refereed papers, four books and two book chapters.
Dr. Flandro resides in Tullahoma with his wife, Linnea, and son, Troy. Another son, Tom Flandro, is a composite structures engineer in Seattle, Washington working on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.