NRL's Peter Wilhelm Marks 50 Years of Government Service


3/30/2009 - 28-09r
Contact: Donna McKinney, (202) 767-2541


Peter G. Wilhelm, Director of the Naval Center for Space Technology located at the Naval Research Laboratory, is celebrating 50 years of government service on March 30, 2009. As Director of the Naval Center for Space Technology (NCST), he is responsible for the technical and managerial leadership of the NCST's mission, which is to preserve and enhance a strong space technology base and provide expert assistance in the development and acquisition of space systems which support naval missions. During Mr. Wilhelm's tenure, the space program at NRL has grown from a Branch to a Division and now to a Center.

Mr. Wilhelm, who has directed the NCST since its inception in 1986, has been with NRL since March 1959. Under his direction, NCST and the Navy have achieved numerous successes and "firsts" in space including the first Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite and the highly successful Clementine Deep Space Mission, which demonstrated the capability of, and has become the model for low-cost, high-value space exploration. Mr. Wilhelm's achievements include contributions to the design, development and operation of 95 scientific and fleet-support satellites.

Mr. Wilhelm began his career in 1957 as an electrical engineer with Stewart Warner Electronics where he was assigned to a project to redesign the UPM-70, a Navy radar test set. In March 1959, he joined NRL as an electronics engineer in the Electronics Division. In December 1959, he joined the Satellite Techniques Branch; in 1961, he became head of the Satellite Instrument Section; in 1965, he became head of the Satellite Techniques Branch; and in 1974, head of the Spacecraft Technology Center. In these positions, he performed satellite system design, equipment development, environmental testing, launch operations, and orbital data handling. In 1981, Mr. Wilhelm was named the superintendent of the Space Systems and Technology Division. In October 1986, he was appointed Director of the newly established Naval Center for Space Technology, the Navy's lead laboratory for space.

Mr. Wilhelm has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University. He has received the following honors and awards: Pioneer of National Reconnaissance, 2000; Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, 1999; AIAA Goddard Astronautics Award, 1999; The Secretary of the Navy Career Service Award, 1999; DoD Distinguished Civilian Service Award, 1998; NRL Lifetime Achievement Award, 1998; National Academy of Engineering, 1997; NRL's Roger L. Easton Award for Engineering, 1997; Rotary National "Award for Space Achievement" Foundations Stellar Award for Program Management, 1993; Robert J. Collier Award (Team Award), 1992; Elected a Fellow of AIAA, 1989; Presidential Rank Award - Meritorious Executive, 1988; CAPT Robert Dexter Conrad Medal (Navy's highest Award for Scientific Achievement), 1987; E.O. Hulburt Award (NRL's highest award for Science - first and only engineer to win this award), 1983; Navy's Space Systems Program Achievement Award, 1985; IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Group "Man-of-the-Year Award," 1981; Federal SES Performance Awards, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1994; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation for Development, Acquisition and Operation of Space Systems, 1977 to 1981; Elected Fellow of Washington Academy of Science, 1971; Navy Award of Merit and Special Achievement, 1976; Navy Unit Commendation for Exceptional Meritorious Service, 1974 to 1976; Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, 1971; and Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, 1962.

Mr. Wilhelm's other achievements include: Lecture on NRL's Space Program at U.S. Space Foundation's Annual Conference - Plenary Session, 1996; Lecture on Hybrid Assisted Reusable Launch VEhicle (HARVE) design @ Joint Conference on Reducing Cost of Space Systems, 1995; Chairman, of NASA's Origins External Review Board (OERB), 1996 and 1997; Served on NRC Study on Reusable Launch Vehicle, 1995; Chairman of American Astronautical Societies (AAS) Guidance and Control Conference, 1995; Served on Congressionally mandated "Launch Mobilization Study" - determined U.S. policy on launch issues, 1994; and he is a Member of the Mars Observer Failure Review Board, 1993.

Mr. Wilhelm is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Washington Academy of Science.



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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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