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Kenneth “Ken” Alden Young

Aerospace Engineer for NASA/Contractors (Retired)

B.S. ASE 1962, The University of Texas at Austin

Ken Young was an aerospace engineer for 25 years (1962-1987) with the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Johnson Space Center), followed by 24 years as an independent space systems consultant/senior manager for several NASA/DoD contractors (Northrop-Grumman, Loral/Lockheed-Martin, SAIC, Booz-Allen-Hamilton). He retired in 2011.

Young received his B.S. degree in aerospace engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. He also completed the Management Development Program for NASA at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 1975.

Young’s professional career began in June 1962 at the newly established Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. He was assigned to the Rendezvous Analysis Branch of the Mission Analysis Division (later the Mission Planning & Analysis Division, MPAD), which was formed from the original Space Task Group at the new NASA, Langley, Virginia. Young was one of six engineers assigned to develop the entirely new space disciplines of rendezvous and orbital mechanics. His first ten years at MSC were spent applying these disciplines to the rendezvous and orbital trajectory analyses, computer software tool development and mission designs required for detailed Gemini and Apollo mission concepts, plans and flight operations support. He continued for another 15 years applying the same for the follow-on manned space programs of Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, Space Shuttle and Space Station before leaving the Federal service in late 1987. This was followed by 24 years as an expert in rendezvous, flight dynamics and space systems integration as a consultant and/or a senior manager for various NASA/DoD contractors, finally retiring in 2011.

In his first eight years with NASA, Young became one of perhaps two dozen engineers in the world who were experts on the new disciplines of rendezvous and orbital mechanics as applied to complex space missions for Gemini and Apollo. That led to the highly successful “firsts” of the world’s first space rendezvous on Gemini 6A/7 in Dec. 1965 and the first moon landing on Apollo-11 in July, 1969. In the early to mid 1970s (with Apollo-Soyuz) and again in the 1980s (Space Shuttle and Space Station), Young became a NASA “technical spokesperson” for international cooperation in space with Russia and other nations. He was the U.S. trajectory leader for the joint flight (ASTP) with the Soviet Union in July 1975, which contributed to détente between the two countries.

In his retirement years, Young has given several manned space history talks to UT Austin undergraduate students and to retired “continuing education” UT alumni. He also maintained contact with several UT ASE/EM faculty members, such as Wally Fowler and Byron Tapley. During his 49 years in the space industry, Young also received numerous team and individual awards for sustained and superior performance on all the U.S. manned space programs from Gemini/Apollo to the International Space Station. He was one of 50 NASA Flight Operations persons honored at the Seattle Air & Space Museum’s “Wings of Heroes” event for the 40th Apollo 11 celebration.

Young lives in El Lago, Texas, near the JSC, with his wife, Tricia. He enjoys traveling, telling NASA “war stories,” watching all sports (except ice hockey and soccer) and following the exploits and careers of their nine grandchildren. He also has written several published stories of his space experiences, travel adventures and childhood memories.