(June 20, 2020) e-Town Hall Meeting: A HISTORY OF ROCKETRY by John Halchak

When:  Jun 20, 2020 from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM (PT)
Associated with  Los Angeles-Las Vegas Section
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e-Town Hall Meeting
June 20, 2020, 1 PM - 3:30 PM
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John Halchak, Senior Fellow
Engineering department of Rocketdyne (now named Aerojet Rocketdyne)


Space Launch System (SLS)

V-2 launch in Peenemünde (1943)

Robert Goddard and His Rocket

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“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is the famous quotation of the philosopher George Santayana. For the engineer, knowing the mistakes of the past, including why they occurred, is a necessity to avoid repeating them. However, it also is important to know and understand past successes so that they may be stepping stones for future advances. Studying history also gives us a perspective of the present, helping us to understand why things are the way they are today and can point towards a path for change.

This talk will be a broad overview of the history of rocketry, with some emphasis on the importance of materials in the development of the technology. The American rocket pioneer, Dr. Robert H. Goddard, used some surprisingly advanced materials concepts for his rockets, combining metals and ceramics to achieve performance goals. Unfortunately, Goddard’s paranoia combined with his inability to work with others, destroyed his legacy. In their V-2 ballistic missile of World War II, the Germans used a variety of materials, with wartime shortages necessitating some creative materials selections. The V-2, although ineffective as a weapon, had profound long-term consequences, as it jump started ballistic missiles and space exploration. The first American and Soviet rockets were essentially improvements on the German designs that also incorporated higher strength materials to reduce overall weight and increase performance.

John Halchak

John Halchak is a retired Senior Fellow in the Engineering department of Rocketdyne (now named Aerojet Rocketdyne), located in Canoga Park, California. For 13 years, he was the director of the Rocketdyne materials engineering department. With over 51 years of experience in rocket engine materials and processes, he has worked on virtually every major program for that company, including such programs as the Atlas, Gemini, Saturn V- Apollo, Minuteman, Delta, Peacekeeper, Space Shuttle Main Engine, Waterjets, Aerospike, Space Station, NASP, RS-68, X-33, MB-60, and J-2X programs.
In the course of his work, he has been a witness to, and a participant in, many of the historical events in the space program. He has had opportunities to accumulate information from many of the pioneers in rocket development, including some of the original German Peenemunde engineers.

John has given presentations on the history of rocketry at professional societies, conferences, and universities throughout the United States.

He is a graduate of Penn State's metallurgical engineering department, a registered professional engineer, a member of the Air Force Association, a Fellow of the ASM, and a recipient of the Apollo Achievement Award, the NASA Astronauts’ Personal Achievement Award, the Penn State David Ford McFarland Distinguished Alumni Award, a NASA Group Achievement Award (1995), the San Fernando Valley Engineers’ Council 2006 Distinguished Engineering Achievement Award, and the Rotary National Stellar Award for Achievement in Space Flight.

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