AE Alumni Brown, Onken and Trask Honored
All three alumni honored with AE awards this spring have concentrated their careers in spacecraft and space travel.
Blaine Brown, BS 81, (MS 90, University of Houston), works on human spaceflight engineering and management projects with NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Jay Onken, BS 89, manages the Mission Operations Laboratory at NASA’s center in Huntsville, Alabama. And Aaron Trask, BS 98, MS 00, PhD 02 (MBA 07 Drexel University), advises the U.S. government on national space systems, including satellite constellation and sensor analysis, enterprise requirements, and space protection.
Brown and Onken were recognized with AE’s 2011 Distinguished Alumni Awards. Trask received the 2011 Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award.
Brown serves as Director of Program Management for Lockheed Martin, focusing on NASA’s Orion Program. He has been with Lockheed Martin for 29 years, working with NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Currently, Brown serves as the Deputy for the Orion Crew & Service Module Integrated Product Team on NASA’s Orion crewed deep space exploration spacecraft. He has responsibility for the design, development, test, and certification of both the Orion Crew Module capsule that houses the astronaut crew and the Service Module that provides propulsion and power to the spacecraft.
Previously, Brown served as the Lockheed Martin Deputy Program Manager on NASA/JSC’s Science, Engineering Analysis and Test contract involving over 2,000 employees. Product responsibilities included hardware and software design, development, testing, and operation of Space Shuttle and International Space Station components. These included the Wireless Video System helmet cameras spacewalking astronauts use; the Centerline Berthing Camera System used for precision alignment of large modules being attached to the Space Station; the Aercam Sprint remotely piloted robotic vehicle; the Robonaut dexterous anthropomorphic robot; Space Shuttle tile inspection and repair hardware; the Station vibration isolated treadmill; and other crew on-orbit exercise equipment.
Duties also involved management of Space Science research and analyses such as lunar rock curation, micrometeoroid and orbital debris modeling and testing, and operation of Johnson Space Center’s large ground test laboratories used for human space-rated hardware qualification, testing, and astronaut training.
Brown has been recognized for his work with the NASA Astronaut Silver Snoopy Award, the Lockheed Martin Corporation NOVA Award, the Rotary NASA Stellar Extraordinary Achievement Award, the Lockheed Martin Top Fight Award, the NMA Manager of the Year Award, and numerous technical commendations.
Onken has been named to the Senior Executive Service position of manager of the Mission Operations Laboratory at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Senior Executive Service is the personnel system covering top managerial positions in some 75 federal agencies.
Onken oversees a team of 450 civil service and contractor employees in the Mission Operations Laboratory in Marshall's Engineering Directorate. The directorate supports NASA's exploration missions, and is responsible for developing the capabilities and supporting research and technology that enables America's journey to the moon. Onken directs the Payload Operations Integration Center for the International Space Station and manages operations and ground support facilities at the Huntsville Operations Support Center – a NASA technology hub for monitoring scientific research and enabling communications during space operations.
The Marshall Center is a key player in providing ongoing support to the International Space Station – the largest and most complex international science project in history. Onken has served as acting manager for the lab since 2006 and as its deputy manager since 2004.
From 2002 to 2004, Onken was deputy project manager for the International Space Station Payload Operations and Integration Function. In that capacity, he managed planning and execution of science activities on the space station, and training of astronauts and flight controllers. He spent the previous year at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, setting up an organization to make science activities on board the station more efficient from a ground operations standpoint.
From 1999 to 2001, as payload operations director, Onken directed the preparation for two space station expeditions: Expedition 3 from August to December 2001, and Expedition 4 from December 2001 to June 2002.
From 1996-1999, Onken served as a flight director for the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. Onken led the planning and execution of a test that verified that the Operations Control Center at the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, could command the observatory and process data. He also led the effort to plan the 45-day post-launch activation and checkout period. He then served as a console flight director for the observatory’s activation and checkout in 1999.
Onken joined the Marshall Center in 1989 as an orbital analysis engineer, supporting six Spacelab missions. Spacelab was a facility where science experiments were carried out in the space shuttle's payload bay.
Among Onken’s honors have been two NASA Medals for Exceptional Service, three NASA Certificates of Appreciation, a Johnson Space Center Flight Director’s Award, and several group achievement awards. He has authored and co-authored numerous American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) papers and served as the keynote speaker for two AIAA regional events.
Trask is a principal aerospace engineer for Apogee Integration LLC of Chantilly, Virginia. He joined the company in early 2007, and is responsible for advising the U.S. government on national space systems including satellite constellation and sensor analysis, enterprise requirements, and space protection.
After earning his PhD, Trask worked for the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington D.C. for four years. There, he developed software for a virtual mission operations center, the TacSat satellite radio interface, and a Navy P3 aircraft emitter identification experiment. He was also project manager for the installation of a portable ground station and lead engineer for the navigation and orbit determination team of the Upperstage satellite for the DARPA MITEx mission. The satellite exceeded its mission goals and design life in part due to extra fuel remaining onboard after precisely executing its 95-minute insertion maneuver.
In addition to his professional career, Trask continued his education by earning an MBA from Drexel University in 2007. He has participated in professional societies, and was elected to the Space Flight Mechanics Technical Committee of the American Astronautical Society. He currently holds the position of secretary and chair elect of that organization.