Robert David Braun

Head, Space Exploration, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Dr. Braun leads an active research program focused on the design of advanced flight systems and technologies for planetary exploration. Recent research projects include entry, descent and landing systems analyses and technology maturation to enable eventual human exploration of Mars, robotic concepts capable of powered flight in planetary atmospheres, entry system architectural concepts for human return from the International Space Station and the Moon, integrated design and aeroelastic analyses of inflatable aerodynamic decelerators, development of a small recovery system for in-space biological science experiments, and engineering mitigation strategies for planetary defense. He is responsible for undergraduate and graduate level instruction in the areas of space systems design, astrodynamics and planetary entry. In 2010-2011, Dr. Braun served as the NASA Chief Technologist. In this capacity, he served as the senior NASA leader on Agency technology policy and program matters, clearly articulating the importance of NASA's basic and applied research investments as an integral component of our nation's space policy. Dr. Braun created the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist and was also responsible for formulation and initial implementation of NASA's Space Technology Program, which develops crosscutting technologies and advanced capabilities to enable NASA's future space missions. Dr. Braun co-founded and serves as Chief Technology Officer of Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC, a small business providing atmospheric reentry services to enhance safety and promote the utilization of space. TVA offers small spaceflight systems designed to provide unprecedented data on the physics of reentry breakup, and for the safe return of small payloads from space. Prior to coming to Georgia Tech, Dr. Braun worked at NASA for sixteen years where he contributed to the design, development, test, and operation of several robotic space flight systems. He was a member of the Mars Pathfinder design team from 1992 to 1997, participating in landing operations for this mission. He has also contributed to the Mars Microprobe and Mars Sample Return flight projects. From 2000-2001, Dr. Braun served as Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer of NASA's Intelligent Synthesis Environment program, where he led and integrated NASA's advanced engineering environment technology development activities. From 2001-2003, Dr. Braun managed the development of the ARES Mars Scout mission (a proposed scientific survey utilizing a Mars airplane) including the successful ground-based and high-altitude flight test program. He is an AIAA Fellow and the principle author or co-author of nearly 200 technical publications in the fields of atmospheric flight dynamics, planetary exploration systems, multidisciplinary design optimization, and systems engineering.



  • Space Systems Design Lab (SSDL)

  • Center for Space Technology & Research (C-STAR)

AE Academic Disciplines:

  • Systems Design & Optimization


B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 1987, Pennsylvania State University; M.S., Astronautics, 1989, George Washington University; Ph.D., Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1996, Stanford University;

Distinctions & Awards

Member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Fellow of the AIAA; AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award, 1999; NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals (2 times); NASA Group Achievement Award (8 times); Hesburgh Award Teaching Fellow, 2009; AIAA von Karman Lectureship in Astronautics, 2011; NASA Distinguished Service Medal, 2011; Alvin Seiff Memorial Award, 2012;