Robert D. Braun has been announced as the next head of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s (APL) Space Exploration Sector. His appointment begins on March 28, 2022.
Braun, who most recently served as Director for Planetary Science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), has more than 30 years of experience as a space systems engineer, technologist and organizational leader. He is internationally recognized as an authority in the development of entry, descent and landing systems.
“We are very pleased to welcome Bobby to the Laboratory,” said APL Director Dr. Ralph Semmel. “His achievements in leading space technology and science innovations, as well as his accomplishments in mission and program development, are an ideal match for the types of unique and complex challenges we undertake here.”
Braun has made significant contributions to the formulation, development and operation of multiple spaceflight missions for NASA. During Braun’s time as an executive leader at JPL, his programmatic responsibilities have included the Mars Exploration Program Office, Mars Sample Return Campaign Program Office, and the Europa Clipper, Psyche, Mars 2020, Lunar Trailblazer, and VERITAS flight projects.
At APL, Braun will guide the efforts in both civilian space exploration as well as national security-related space programs when his predecessor, Dr. Michael Ryschkewitsch, retires. APL scientists and engineers have designed, built and operated more than 70 innovative spacecraft and more than 300 novel space instruments during six decades of spaceflight experience, beginning with the world’s first photograph of Earth from space. The Laboratory’s Civil Space missions currently in operation include Parker Solar Probe, the recently launched Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and New Horizons, which flew past Pluto. Missions currently under development include Europa Clipper, Dragonfly and the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP).
“I am excited to join this storied institution and work closely with the talented and dedicated team at APL,” Braun said. “The Lab has been the birthplace of many of our nation’s most inspiring missions of exploration and discovery, and I am eager to get to work on the next great leaps forward in space science and technology.”
Prior to his role at JPL, Braun furthered the field of space exploration through an impressive progression of leadership roles at NASA and in academia. He served as Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, and prior to that served as a faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he led the Space Systems Design Laboratory, founded the Center for Space Technology and Research, and co-founded an aerospace startup. Before joining the Georgia Tech faculty, Braun was a member of the technical staff of the NASA Langley Research Center.
In 2010-2011, Bobby served as the first NASA Chief Technologist in more than a decade. In this role, he was responsible for technology and innovation policy and programs spanning industry, academia and all 10 NASA Centers. His work led to the maturation of a broad spectrum of technologies required for our nation’s future missions in space.
Braun is the author or co-author of more than 300 technical publications, and his national-level recognition includes election into the National Academy of Engineering and appointment as a Fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and American Astronomical Society (AAS). He is presently a member of the National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and previously served as Vice Chair of the National Academies Space Studies Board and as a member of the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. He received a Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University, an M.S. in astronautics from the George Washington University and a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the Pennsylvania State University.
Braun’s journey to APL is a homecoming of sorts, as he is the son of former long-time Laboratory staff member Jacob “Jack” Braun and fondly remembers attending holiday parties and family days at the Lab’s Laurel, Maryland, campus as a child.
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