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Guests: Peter Wilhelm, Richard Easton; Topics: An overview of Pete Wilhelm’s NRL and industrial career which was responsible for multiple advances in satellite and space technologies for national security and early commercial space. We reviewed many of Pete’s developments and accomplishments and talked about them
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The Space Show welcomes both Peter Wilhelm with Richard Easton to the program. While Richard has been a guest many times regarding GPS, this is Pete’s first visit. Before retirement, Pete was the director of the Naval Center for Space Technology within the NRL plus he worked for blue ribbon private sector space and tech companies. He was the recipient of awards and over his career he played a major role with our national security, spy satellites, advancing technology and providing the strong shoulders for other space leaders to stand and build upon. During our discussion, both Richard and Pete brought many of his accomplishments and space facts to light for The Space Show audience. As with previous Space Show programs, refer to the tags for the topics mentioned on today’s show. For your convenience, they are repeated below
Tags: Pete Wilhelm, Richard Easton, retired director of Naval Center for Space Technology, the NRL, honorary Saalfeld Award, materials science, scientific satellites, Cold War reconnaissance satellites, GPS, high performance, long-life satellites, different satellite launching systems, gravity gradient stabilization, thrusters, memory, meeting with Von Braun, GRAB the first spy satellite, timeation (Navigation Technology Satellite (NTS), SOLRAD program, meeting Elon Musk, Clementine, LACE, WindSat, TacSat 4, space debris concerns, Space Solar Power, computer development, military technology transfer, ocean launch, Atlas and government ICBM launch vehicles, spin stabilization, passive ranging, advantages from advanced electronics, the Space Surveillance System, Apollo sped IT by 20 years, nuclear power.
For the most part, this program was a collection of terrific stories told to us by Pete himself about his career experiences and accomplishments. Richard helped with some of the story telling, adding to what Pete told us. The story timeline spanned an amazing aerospace, national security, launch and commercial space career. When Pete told us the story of the first spy satellite, “GRAB,” it was quite something, especially GRAB had only recently been declassified! Pete was able to respond to questions from his own experience and judgement when asked about the difference and gaps in the early days between the Soviet Union and their space, military, and spy programs and that of the U.S. Hearing him mention U.S. hardware and advances in micro electrical systems and components was both interesting and revealing.
Pete was instrumental in developing satellite navigation at a time when no such animal really existed. His stories on The Space Show tell a much bigger story of satellite and in fact all things space in our early days. Like a talking up to date encyclopedia and quality What’s What book of questions and answers. Note what Pete said about the three special program he worked with for many years. These were classified programs but he said some parts of them have now been declassified. He described the three programs as much as he could, all of which were as best as I can remember, new to The Space Show. Listen to what he had to say about timeation which led to the Navigation Technology Satellite birds (NTS-1, NTS-2) which led to GPS. He also talked about the SOLRAD program which provided classified cover for the GRAB program mentioned earlier.
Later in the program, our guest talked about meeting Von Braun when he was the VP of Fairchild Space Company. He said meeting Von Braun was won of the most memorable meetings of his entire career. Pete later described his meeting Elon Musk who was looking for government support to his new SpaceX company and his then Falcon 1 vehicle.
Please post your questions/comments for either of our guest on our blog for this program. You can reach Pete or Richard through me here at The Space Show. You can also send them messages on our blog and I will be sure to send them to our guests.