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Space propulsion pioneer Yvonne Brill to present Aero-Astro Gardner Lecture

Yvonne BrillYvonne Brill, a pioneer in rocket propulsion development for more than six decades, will present the annual Aero-Astro 2009 Lester Gardner Lecture on April 2. The Lecture will be given at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge and begins at 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Brill's presentation will begin with short history of the beginnings and evolution of earth observation and commercial communication satellites. With this as background, she will discuss her experiences in developing onboard rocket propulsion systems that ensure satellites maintain their prescribed orbits and can relay data to earth. She will also share her perspectives on what it was like doing pioneering work in space propulsion when there were few women in the field, why she chose engineering, and why she believes engineering is such an exciting and rewarding career for women.

Women in Aerospace

This year’s Gardner Lecture by Yvonne Brill is part of the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s 2009 celebration of the Apollo Program and the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. "Giant Leaps" is our tribute of the legacy of Apollo focuses not just on the history of this project, but also on how we will embrace the great challenges and opportunities of our future. We are exploring how aerospace has inspired the innovators of our past and present, and how it can inspire the technical leaders of the next generation.

The speaker

Ms. Brill received her B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Manitoba and her M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Southern California. Her career began in the aircraft industry but shifted into the new field of rockets when Douglas Aircraft, her employer, was awarded the Project RAND contract. She became a Research Analyst in the Missiles Division with the project, which later became the RAND Corporation. She participated in pioneer studies that defined rocket propellant performance and derived high temperature thermodynamic properties for rocket exhaust gas species. The data from these studies were incorporated into the tables that provided the first industry standards. Following RAND, Ms. Brill worked for a number of different corporations on the design and testing of a variety of ramjet and turbojet engines that used hydrocarbon and experimental high energy propellants. In the early years of the space race, she worked as a consultant evaluating proposed new rocket fuels and oxidizers.

In 1966 she joined the staff of RCA AstroElectronics, initially as a senior engineer in propulsion systems responsible for launch vehicles and on-orbit satellite propulsion. Her patented invention while at RCA, the electrothermal hydrazine thruster, manufactured by Primex Aerospace (now Aerojet Redwood) and initially flight proven in 1983, has a wide representation in space applications. More than two hundred of these rocket engines have been flown on both low earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites. At RCA as Manager NOVA Propulsion she managed the fabrication through qualification and flight of theTeflon Solid Propellant Propulsion System flown on the NOVA spacecraft. Successful flight of the first TSPPS system in 1981 brought electric propulsion to an operational status in the United States. The TSPPS enabled three NOVA satellites to make precise ephemeris data available in real time to users of the US Navy Navigational Satellite System for many years until that system was phased out in favor of the Global Positioning Satellite System. From 1981 to 1983 she was at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC as Manager, Solid Rocket Motor, Space Transportation Systems. From 1986 to 1991 she was employed by the International Maritime Satellite Organization in London as propulsion manager for the INMARSAT-2 satellite series.

Today, Ms. Brill is a consultant specializing in satellite technology and space propulsion systems. She has served on many National Research Council committees evaluating space missions and is a member of its Space Studies Board. From 1994-2001 she was a member of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. Ms. Brill is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow of the Society of Women Engineers. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. Among her awards are the AIAA 2002 Wyld Award in Rocket Propulsion, the IEEE 2002 Dr. Judith A. Resnik Award, and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2001. In 1993 she received the SWE Resnik Challenger Medal, and in 1986 the SWE Achievement Award, that organizationís highest honor.

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