Byron Tapley photo

Professor Emeritus, ASE/EM Department, The University of Texas at Austin

B.S. ME 1956, The University of Texas at Austin
M.S. EM 1958, The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D. EM 1960, The University of Texas at Austin

Byron D. Tapley is research professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas Austin. He held the Clare Cockrell Williams Chair in Engineering (1984-2015) until 2015 and served as Founding Director of the Center for Space Research (1983 -2015).

Tapley received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering (1956), and a master of science (1958) and Ph.D. (1960) in engineering mechanics, all from The University of Texas at Austin. In 1998, he received the Doctor Honoris Causa from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas and a Member of the National Academy of Engineering.

He joined the UT Austin ASE/EM faculty in 1959 and served as the department chair of from 1966 through 1977. Tapley established the ASE/EM orbit mechanics program in 1961, and the UT Center for Space Research in 1983, both of which he developed into international programs of excellence for study and research. He also served as the Director of the Texas Space Grant Consortium between its inception in 1990 and 1997.

Tapley’s research interests are focused on the theory of satellite motion, precision orbit determination, and nonlinear parameter estimation in the context of applying satellite remote-sensed observations to study a range of Earth System interactions. He was instrumental in establishing the field of Satellite Altimetry in 1980 to monitor ocean circulation and global sea level rise. Since 1997, he has served as Mission Principal Investigator for the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which established the paradigm shifting concept of using gravity variations to monitor water movement over the Earth’s surface.

Tapley is a fellow member of AIAA, the AGU and the AAS. His awards include the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, AAS Brouwer Award, the AGU Charles A. Whitten Medal, the AIAA Mechanics and Control of Flight Award, the University of Texas Hocott Distinguished Engineering Research Award and the University of Texas Joe J. King Award for Engineering Excellence.  In 1999, he was selected as a Cockrell School Distinguished Engineering Graduate. He served as a member of the NRC SSB and ASEB, as a member of the NASA Advisory Committee and Vice Chair of the NASA NAC Science Committee.

Tapley continues his association with UT Austin and with the Austin community at large. He spends his free time sailing and enjoying musical activities.