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New Marshall Center Space Transportation Boss Looks to the Future
John Rogacki, who's spent his career seeking new challenges, now finds himself with perhaps his most difficult ever: re-capturing America's lead in the space launch business and opening space to entrepreneurs, explorers and even tourists.
Rogacki is the first director of the new NASA Space Transportation Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He oversees all space transportation projects at the Marshall Center, NASA's Lead Center for Space Transportation Systems Development.
"At Marshall, we bring space to people and people to space," he said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to be involved in an area I feel strongly about."
From owning nearly all the world launch business in the early 1990s, the United States has slipped to owning less than half as other countries have caught up or surpassed the capabilities of the U.S. fleet, Rogacki said. That fleet has changed little since the 1960s. The Fastrac engine now being developed by the Marshall Center is one of only two new rocket engines developed by this country since the Space Shuttle engine was developed in the 1970s, Rogacki observed.
"The launch business is going overseas," Rogacki said. "With that business will go funding for research and development technology. This is the right time, and Marshall Center is the right place to develop a new generation of launch technologies. We need airline-like access to space."
A 1973 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., Rogacki earned a master¹s and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington at Seattle.
During an active duty Air Force career spanning more than 25 years, Rogacki logged more than 3,000 flight hours as a command pilot in aircraft ranging from motorized gliders to heavy bombers. From 1985 to 1987, he served as chief of the B-52 Branch, Standardization and Evaluation Division, 42nd Bomb Wing at Loring Air Force Base, Maine.
Rogacki returned to the Air Force Academy from 1990 to 1993 as associate professor of engineering mechanics and chief of the Materials Division. He gained the distinction in 1993 of being the first American engineer and military officer to have lectured at Moscow State Technical University since the start of the Cold War.
In 1993, Rogacki joined Wright Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as chief of the Structures Division, managing nearly all the Air Force's fixed-wing aircraft structural research and development. He advanced in 1995 to deputy director of the lab¹s Flight Dynamic Directorate, where he was responsible for orchestrating research and development in flight control, aeromechanics and other core areas.
Before joining NASA, Rogacki was director of the Propulsion Directorate at Phillips Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. There he spearheaded design and delivery of space and missile propulsion technologies.
"I¹ve had a tremendous opportunity during my working career to grow through a wide variety of opportunities and challenges," Rogacki said. "I've always wanted to work for this country¹s most important needs. For 26 years, that was the defense of this nation. Now, it¹s making space transportation safer, more reliable and less costly."
Rogacki is a native of Harrison, N.J. He and his wife, Wanda, and their children, Janina and John, live in Madison, Ala.
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