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Professor Gary Flandro Named AIAA Fellow

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.

FLANDRO NAMED AIAA FELLOW—Dr. Don Daniel, UTSI’s Chief Operating Officer, (at left) congratulates UTSI Professor Dr. Gary Flandro on recently being named a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “This distinction is long overdue for Dr. Flandro,” said Dr. Daniel. The two men stand in front of a display that shows Saturn and the spacecraft Voyager on the “grand tour” of the planets, 1977-1989, which was made possible by a discovery Professor Flandro made in the summer of 1964, realizing the rare alignment of the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and the possibility of such a tour using the “gravity assist” method, thus reducing flight time from 40 years to less than ten.

–UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford