JPL Chief Technologist Lands AIAA Award

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Fred Hadaegh

"Believe in your vision and don't get disappointed if people don't immediately jump on the bandwagon." That's the advice of JPL Chief Technologist Fred Hadaegh for other JPLers hoping to make major inroads in technology. Hadaegh has followed that philosophy throughout his career at JPL (since 1984) and has helped the Lab become a world leader in technologies previously deemed improbable by many skeptics.

Hadaegh's "never give up" attitude led to a body of work that is now being honored by the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), which has presented him with its 2021 Mechanics and Control of Flight Award. The award citation praises his "extraordinary contributions for advances in the theory, computation, and implementation of autonomous guidance, navigation, and control of single and distributed spacecraft systems."

The specific work covered involves Hadaegh's technical contributions and leadership in developing the principles and methodologies enabling practical use of multiple spacecraft and telescopes flying in formation, and swarms of hundreds or thousands of small spacecraft. His work has impacted how scientists detect and characterize exoplanets and improve Earth observations, among other capabilities.

"This is extremely humbling, and I'm honored to be selected for this award, which includes past recipients who are among the giants in the field," Hadaegh said. "The award goes to me, but also reflects the work of JPL and collaborators from academia and industry."

The AIAA presented the award to Hadaegh at a virtual ceremony on Jan. 20. A formal reception is being planned for August 2021. This particular award is administered jointly by three AIAA technical committees; Atmospheric Flight Mechanics, Astrodynamics, and Guidance, Navigation and Control.

The organization describes its work as ensuring that aerospace professionals are recognized and celebrated for their achievements, innovations, and discoveries that make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous.

Hadaegh was appointed JPL’s Chief Technologist in 2016. Before that, he served as Associate Chief Technologist. He is a JPL Fellow, Senior Research Scientist, and Principal Engineer.

For two decades, he supervised the Guidance and Control (G&C) Analysis Group, which leads research in guidance, estimation, and control theory and develops algorithms and software for planetary science and astrophysics missions. He also led development of G&C technologies for spacecraft formation flying, autonomous rendezvous, and docking for NASA missions and Department of Defense programs.

Hadaegh is a Fellow of the AIAA and of the IEEE (Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers). His numerous awards include NASA’s Exceptional Service and Exceptional Achievement Medals, The World Automation Congress Lifetime Achievement Award, and a JPL Award of Excellence.