NASA has named David W. Miller, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, as its new chief technologist. He will be NASA’s principal advisor and advocate on technology policy and programs.
“David’s passion for discovery and innovation is a valuable asset as we move forward into exploring new frontiers,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in announcing the appointment. “He has challenged his students to create new ways to operate in space. I expect he will challenge us to do the same. His experience in engineering space systems, small satellites, and long-duration microgravity platforms will allow him to offer the kind of expert advice I have learned to expect from my chief technologists.”
The Office of the Chief Technologist is responsible for coordinating and tracking NASA technology investments, as well as developing and executing innovative technology partnerships, technology transfers, and commercial activities, and the development of collaboration models for the agency.
Miller has stepped down from his position as director of MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory (SSL) to accept the NASA appointment. During his tenure at NASA, Miller will keep his MIT faculty position and will continue as a student advisor.
As SSL director, Miller has played a role in many NASA projects. He was principal investigator for MIT’s Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, which is an element of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission planned for launch in 2016. He was also the principal investigator for the SPHERES microsatellite project, which is currently aiding research aboard the International Space Station. Miller has also served as vice chairman of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.
Miller has been on the MIT faculty since 1997. His work has focused on developing special spacecraft that can repair and upgrade other spacecraft and satellites in space. He participated in developing electromagnetic formation flight, which is the use of electromagnets coupled with reaction wheels to control the positions and attitudes of multiple spacecraft in proximity to each other.
He has also been a leader of AeroAstro’s capstone class, where seniors apply the conceiving, designing, implementing, and operating skills they have learned in the department to a project. The SPHERES microsatellites were conceived by students under his supervision in the capstone class.
“Dave has taken AeroAstro classes to a new level, working with both undergrads and grad students on real projects for real customers with real deliveries,” says AeroAstro department head Jaime Peraire, the H.N. Slater Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “He has unparalleled vision and understanding of aerospace systems, and this, coupled with his ability to focus large, diverse groups on complex projects, underscores what an excellent choice NASA has made for its chief technologist.”
AeroAstro has a long history of faculty taking leading roles in government policy and technology leadership. Its current community includes a former secretary of the Air Force, a NASA associate administrator, and an Air Force chief scientist.
The Jerome C. Hunsaker Professorship is named for the founder of MIT’s, and the nation’s, first aeronautics course in 1914. Hunsaker later became head of MIT’s aeronautical engineering department.