2009 Peter Wilhelm

Sputnik's Connection to GPS Spacecraft Developments at the Naval Research Laboratory

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Peter WilhelmPeter Wilhelm, the Director of the National Center for Space Technology based in Washington, D.C., will quickly cover the history of the National Research Laboratory’s (NRL) earliest pioneering effort in the United States space program in 1946, through major improvements in rocketry in the 1950’s to the development of a scientific program to launch and track a satellite. He will further describe how the NRL launched and operated the nation’s first spy satellite in 1960. Since that time, the NRL has launched 93 satellites, among them the first Global Positioning Satellite and the first U.S. satellite to return to the moon in 25 years: Clementine. He will describe satellites currently under development, advanced study and more futuristic concepts and technologies. In all cases, his lecture will focus on NRL’s innovative efforts have helped and benefited society.

Peter G. Wilhelm earned a B.S.E.E. from Purdue University in 1957 and has completed all course work for an M.S.E. from George Washington University. Mr. Wilhelm joined the Satellite Techniques Branch of the Naval Research Laboratory in 1959. In 1981, he was named Superintendent of the Space Systems and Technology Division, the Navy's lead laboratory for space. He is credited with contributions in the design, development, and operation of 92 scientific and Fleet-support satellites. In October, 1986, Mr. Wilhelm assumed his current position, Director of the Naval Center for Space Technology (NCST). The Center's mission is to "preserve and enhance a strong space technology base and provide expert assistance in the development and acquisition of space systems which support naval missions."

Mr. Wilhelm's awards include the Navy's Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Presidential Meritorious Executive Award, the National Research Laboratory's (NRL) Space Systems Program Achievement Award, the E.O. Hulburt Science and Engineering Award (NRL's highest award), the Captain Robert Dexter Conrad Award (Navy's highest award for outstanding technical and scientific achievement), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Aerospace and Electronic Systems Group Man of the Year Award for 1981.

Mr. Wilhelm has been elected a Fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 1995, he accepted the Stellar Award for the NRL Clementine Development Team, and in 1997, he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). He is also the first recipient of a new NRL Award for Engineering Excellence - The Roger L. Easton Award, named after NRL’s inventor of the GPS concept. In 1999, Mr. Wilhelm was awarded the Secretary of the Navy Career Service Award, AIAA Goddard Astronautics Award and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award. In September, 2000, he was inducted in the original class, as a Pioneer of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).