Meeting the Challenges of Spacecraft Research at NRL

It takes a team to get to space, and John Schaub knows that. As superintendent of the Spacecraft Engineering Department in the Naval Research Laboratory's Naval Center for Space Technology, Schaub leads a highly skilled team of engineers, scientists, and technicians in the execution of cutting-edge spacecraft research and development programs relevant to the needs of the Department of the Navy and Department of Defense.

John Schaub and two colleagues working on the LACE spacecraft in NRL John Schaub (lower left) working on the LACE spacecraft in NRL's thermal vacuum test facility in 1989. (Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Schaub has more than 26 years of federal service, all of it at NRL. During these years, Schaub has contributed to the successful launch of 19 satellites or space instruments, with several more under development. He has seen the changes in the ways that systems are built.

When I started in the mid 80's, the nation was producing very large and very capable space systems. Unfortunately these systems were also massive and therefore very costly to launch.

Schaub describes how NRL has made a concerted effort to drive down the size and cost of these systems.

By applying strong systems engineering principles, exploiting the commercial miniaturization of electronics, and entrusting the quality of the product that we are producing to each individual team member, we are producing today very capable systems in much smaller packages, much faster and less costly.

Before being appointed to his current position, Schaub served as associate superintendent and then acting superintendent of the Spacecraft Engineering Department from November 1998 to December 2006. On a detail to the National Reconnaissance Office, he directed the Space Technology Experiment Satellite Program Office from May 1994 to November 1998. There, he led a multi-milliondollar, first of a kind advanced technology demonstration space mission to accomplish challenging program objectives of national significance within severe cost and schedule constraints.

Schaub completed a dual degree program, with bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and in physics with honors from the State University of New York at Oneonta.

Schaub likes to make the case for NRL being a good place to work.

NRL's retention statistics make the case that when folks come to NRL, they stay... My theory is it is because of the work. NRL offers exciting opportunities to materially contribute towards solving 'real' problems. The personal satisfaction that comes from knowing that the work that you do 'makes a difference' is underrated. I promise recruits that they will be challenged every day they come to work.

This story was originally published in the September 2011 Limited Edition issue of SPECTRA, the magazine of the Navy's Corporate Laboratory.