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DATT Summit Keynote Presentations

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Launch Director
Exploration Ground Systems Program, NASA

Keynote Topic: Building Launch Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration and How NASA's Launch Teams Have Changed Over Time and How This Is Influenced by Technology

Bio: Charlie Blackwell-Thompson serves as launch director for NASA's Exploration Ground Systems Program, based at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She will oversee the countdown and liftoff of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft during its first flight test, called Exploration Mission-1. Named to the position in January 2016, Blackwell-Thompson is NASA's first female launch director. Her role includes leading and managing the launch operations planning and execution for the Exploration Ground Systems program and Exploration Systems Development Division, or ESD. She also serves as the cross-program lead to the Launch Integration team responsible for integration and coordination of launch operations across the three programs: SLS, Orion and EGS. In her role as launch director, she manages the development of all launch countdown plans, philosophy, and launch and scrub turnaround procedures and schedules, as well as training approaches.

Prior to being named launch director, Blackwell-Thompson served as the program's Test Management Branch chief. The branch manages test, launch, and recovery operations for EGS and the ESD. She also served as the chief of Launch and Landing through the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP), before taking a leadership position within the Ground Processing directorate at Kennedy upon the SSP completion.


During the SSP, Blackwell-Thompson held numerous launch countdown leadership positions. She served as one of three certified NASA test directors for launch of the space shuttles. In addition, she served as the chief NASA test director from STS-130 until program completion. She also served as the assistant launch director for STS-133 and through numerous tanking tests.

Blackwell-Thompson joined NASA in 2004 as a NASA test director in the Launch and Landing Division. She has been involved with the prelaunch processing operations and launch countdown since Return to Flight. She is also a qualified tanking test director and served in that position for STS-116, STS-117 and STS-118. In addition to her shuttle launch countdown duties, she supported the planning efforts for launch operations in the Constellation Program.

Blackwell-Thompson graduated from Clemson University in 1988 with a degree in computer engineering. She came to Kennedy after graduation in 1988 as a payload flight software engineer for The Boeing Company. She was responsible for the test and checkout of the avionics systems for many payloads, including the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), the Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), and multiple Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) and Spacelab missions. Blackwell-Thompson went on to work as the lead in the Electrical Integration Office, responsible for the electrical systems checkout for payload flight hardware, as well as the integration of that hardware into the shuttle. She served as the lead electrical engineer for multiple Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, as well as the research double module (RDM) that flew on STS-107. Prior to coming to the Launch and Landing Division, Blackwell-Thompson served as the ground operations integration lead engineer for the Orbital Space Plane.

Blackwell-Thompson is the holder of multiple patents related to launch vehicle interface standardization concepts, and command and control methods and systems. She has received numerous awards, including multiple Space Flight Awareness Team Awards, the astronaut's Silver Snoopy for her work on the Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Stellar Award.

Blackwell-Thompson is a native of Gaffney, South Carolina, where she graduated from Gaffney High School. She now resides in Merritt Island, Florida, with her husband and three children.

Dr. David Van Wie, Mission Area Executive for Precision Strike
John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL)

Keynote Topic: Do Emerging Hypersonic Applications Drive New Test and Telemetry Needs?

A world-wide resurgence in interest is underway in the development of aerospace systems that fly at hypersonic speeds for applications as diverse as reusable space launch vehicles, global point-to-point transportation systems and new classes of weapons. An overview of emerging testing challenges for development of these new capabilities will be provided with a focus on the unique aspects of hypersonic operational environments, new data types, and knowledge-based data collection.

Bio: Dr. Van Wie is the mission area executive for Precision Strike at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) responsible for a portfolio of programs addressing integrated kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities with emphasis on Department of Defense applications. Dr. Van Wie has over 35 years experience in aerospace vehicle development with an emphasis on supersonic and hypersonic vehicles. He holds B.S. (summa cum laude), M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland and a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.


Dr. Van Wie has lectured extensively in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland in airbreathing and rocket propulsion, and high-speed aerodynamics. Dr. Van Wie also holds a research faculty appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Van Wie was a member of the USAF Scientific Advisory Board’s Committee on Hypersonic Airbreathing Vehicles (1991), Whither & Why of Hypersonics (2000), Kinetic Precision Effects (2008), Munitions for the 2025+ Environment and Force Structure (2011), and Technical Readiness of Hypersonic Vehicles (2014). Dr. Van Wie has also served as a member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine studies including the Committee on the Assessment of the Air Force Hypersonic Technology Program (1987), Decadal Survey of Aeronautics (2006), Committee on Future Air Force Needs for Survivability (2006), Conventional Prompt Global Strike (2007), and Reusable Booster System Review and Assessment (2014).


Dr. Van Wie was twice awarded the Gene Zara Award for outstanding contributions to the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) program (1989, 1992), was recognized for Outstanding Sustained Contributions to the JANNAF Airbreathing Propulsion Subcommittee (2003), and presented the Frederick S. Billig Lecture at the International Symposium for Airbreathing Engines (2003). Dr. Van Wie received the Air Force Award for Meritorious Service in 2012 and was selected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2010. He was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 2017 for contributions to hypersonic technology enabling new classes of flight vehicles. 

Daniel Dumbacher, Executive Director

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 

Keynote Topic: AIAA's Involvement in the Test and Telemetry Field and How AIAA's Worldwide Membership Can Work Together with the Test and Telemetry Community in Sharing Technology and Standards

Bio: Dan Dumbacher is the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).


Before joining the AIAA staff in January 2018, Dumbacher was a Professor of Engineering Practice in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, where he taught courses in systems thinking, systems engineering, and space policy.

Prior to Purdue, Dumbacher served as the Deputy Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development Division, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. In that capacity, he provided leadership and management as the Program Director for Exploration Systems Development, which included: the Space Launch System, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations development and integration efforts. He led a national team of over 5,000, spanning all NASA centers and industry, and was responsible for a $3 billion annual budget.

During his career, he has received numerous awards and honors including the coveted Silver Snoopy Award and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. In 2015, Purdue recognized him with the Gustafson Teaching Award.

Dumbacher earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has also completed the Senior Managers in Government program at Harvard University.

Dumbacher is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana. He and his wife Lee have three grown children.

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