AFRL researchers honored

The Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley recently announced the selection of the 2018 AFRL Fellows and AFRL Science and Engineering Early Career Award winners. From among the 13 honored researchers, the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate here at Kirtland Air Force Base is pleased to recognize Dr. Lawrence “Robbie” Robertson as an AFRL Fellow and Dr. Benjamin Prince as an Early Career Award winner.

The AFRL Fellows program recognizes the most outstanding scientists and engineers in the areas of research achievements, technology development and transition achievements, or program and organizational leadership. This recognition is given to AFRL’s most distinguished and exceptional researchers who are at the pinnacle of their career and represent the top 0.2% of AFRL’s professional technical staff.

Robertson is recognized for his program and organizational leadership achievements. He currently serves as the program manager for the Quantum Sensing and Timing Group in the Space Vehicles Directorate. He started at AFRL in 1998 with the Directed Energy Directorate also at Kirtland AFB then moved over to the Space Vehicles Directorate in 2001. In 2005 Robertson recognized a key AFRL technology could assist a damaged operational satellite to meet its original performance goals via targeted software upgrades. After carefully studying the computer systems architecture and doing some tests, his estimation algorithms were uploaded to the operational system and increased the main payload performance 500%, and surpassed the original system specs by 100%.

“AFRL is one of the greatest places to work in the Air Force,” said Robertson. “We get the opportunity to change and shape the Air Force with new ideas and concepts. It’s extremely rewarding to watch an idea start out on a piece of paper, turn into real hardware and software and, in many cases, get adopted by the warfighter. How cool is that!”

Recently Robertson has been leading the development of new atomic clock technology. Last year he successfully negotiated a $30+ million joint AFRL and Space and Missile Systems Center Global Positioning System program that exploits a space-qualified version of a new optical atomic clock. The atomic clock is scheduled to fly on the Navigation Technology Satellite – 3 experimental satellite to demonstrate its operational viability in space. This demonstration will culminate a major effort to improve GPS clock performance, the first such improvement in decades. Robertson earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder and is a graduate of Albuquerque’s Sandia High School Class of 1986.

The Science and Engineering Early Career Award, first given in 2012, recognizes the Laboratory’s most promising young scientists and engineers for exceptional leadership potential and significant research or engineering achievements during the on-set of their career. Normally, no more than four or five awards are given each year.

Prince became an AFRL government research chemist in the Space Vehicles Directorate in 2011 after a two-year stint as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the directorate. He greatly expanded the scope of the Space Chemistry Laboratory at Kirtland to enable work on space situational awareness, fundamental high-energy physics, next-generation spacecraft propulsion, atmospheric sensing technologies, and hypersonics, all areas of exceptionally high interest to the Air Force. Prince has made outstanding technical contributions to defining fundamental physics associated with fielding future space propulsion systems. He has a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry form Iowa State University and was the Air Force nominee to the prestigious 2018 Arthur S. Flemming Award for Basic Science.

“I am humbled by the response from so many of the AFRL family,” Prince said. Though I am being recognized, there is a vast armada of coworkers, collaborators, and dedicated AFRL mentors who have supported me along the way.”

The 2018 AFRL Fellows and Science and Engineering Early Career awardees were recognized at a banquet held in their honor on Oct. 25th at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

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