A rocket scientist who oversaw many of NASA’s Space Shuttle launches will present a lecture at West Virginia University on Monday, November 6.
Known as the Rocket Man, Suresh Kulkarni helped launch 55 successful flights for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. His lecture, “Engineering Role Before and After the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster,” will be presented as part of the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering’s lecture series from 5-6 p.m., in G102 of the Engineering Sciences Building.
Kulkarni will share the events that occurred the night before and the day of the 1986 Challenger launch, many of which many not be known publicly, as well as the environment that existed in the organization pre-Challenger and how it changed after the incident. He will also discuss the steps that were taken to assure flight safety and some of the ethical challenges faced by him and his team.
After earning his PhD at the University of Denver, Kulkarni joined Thiokol Corporation (now Orbital-ATK) in Promontory, Utah, in 1972 as a junior engineer. In 1989, he was appointed vice president of engineering and oversaw 550 engineers working in the design, fabrication, testing and launch of solid rocket motors, which propelled the Shuttle into space. He had the ultimate authority to give the final go for the ignition of shuttle rocket boosters at Kennedy Space Center.
Among the many astronauts he worked with during his career were John W. Young, who walked on the moon, and Robert Crippen, the mission commander and pilot of STS-1 (Orbiter Columbia), the first orbital flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. He also worked with Story Musgrave, who twice repaired the Hubble Telescope.
Notable Shuttle missions that Kulkarni was involved with include Magellan Spacecraft to Venus (May 1989), Galileo Spacecraft to Jupiter (October 1989), Hubble Space Telescope (April 1990) and the Shuttle-Mir (the Russian Space Station) docking (July 1995). In 1999, he served on then-President Bill Clinton’s Presidential Commission—the Space Launch Broad Area Review—to investigate commercial flight failures and recommend corrective actions.
The lecture is free and open to the public.
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