NASA Office of Logic Design

NASA Office of Logic Design

A scientific study of the problems of digital engineering for space flight systems,
with a view to their practical solution.

From Runway to Orbit:
Reflections of a NASA Engineer

Kenneth W. Iliff and Curtis L. Peebles

From Runway to Orbit: Reflections of a NASA Engineer

Dale Reed (right) and Ken Iliff, using a slide rule, pictured with the Langley lenticular lifting body and theM2-F2 models on the table. (E 15468)


The control room during X-15 flight 3-55-82.  TheSeptember 14, 1966 launch was over Delamar lake and Bill Dana reached 254,000 feet and Mach 5.12 on the flight.  The personnel at the consoles are clockwise from the left: Don Olson (background left, back to the camera), Ken Iliff, Jim Adkins, Jack Kolf, Pete Knight, and Joe Vensel (foreground, back to the camera).  Ralph Mayes is at the plot board behind Kinght and Perry Row is at the other plotting board.  The B-52 ground track can be seen just in front of Row's face with Delamar lake near the B-52's semicurcular turn.  Lake Meade is the heavy dark area on the map.  (E-15774)

Kenneth W. Iliff

Dr. Iliff is known widely for his seminal contributions to aircraft parameter estimation. This is the field of determining the coefficients of differential equations by analyzing the response of the system. In aeronautics, this method is used to extract estimates of the aerodynamic, structural and performance parameters from flight data.

He was awarded the Kelly Johnson Award by the Society of Flight Test Engineers (permanently housed in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum). -He was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA). He received the AIAA Dryden Lectureship in Research Medal in recognition of significant individual contribution to aeronautics and astronautics research. Other awards include the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, which is NASA's highest scientific award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the Milt Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award. He has authored or coauthored over 81 national and international peer-reviewed technical papers, journal articles, and reports.

He attended Iowa State University, earning a B.S. in Mathematics and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering; the University of Southern California, earning an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering; and the University of California, Los Angeles, earning a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and a M.E. in Engineering Management.

Dr. Iliff began work at the Dryden Flight Research Center in 1962 and conducted research on a wide variety of aeronautical topics. He was the Chief of the Fluid & Flight Mechanics Branch before becoming Dryden's Chief Scientist in 1994. He was an Adjunct Associate Professor in the UCLA School of Engineering from 1986 to 2003.

He has analyzed flight data from 25 first flights to support initial flight envelope expansion. Throughout his career he has analyzed flight data for 90 distinctly different aircraft configurations. These include most of the advanced research aircraft (such as the lifting bodies, X- 15, XB -70, X-29, and Space Shuttle) that have been flown by NASA in the past 40 years. He retired from NASA in 2003.

Table of Contents

Apprenticeship of a Young Engineer
Birth of the Lifting Body
Building the Heavyweight Lifting Bodies
Flying the M2-F2 and Other Adventures
Flight Research in the 1960s and Early 1970s
Origins of the Space Shuttle
Getting Ready to Fly
The Approach-and-Landing Tests
Counting Down to Launch
Analyzing the Data
Becoming Operational: STS-3 through STS-5
STS-6 to the Loss of Challenger
Return to Flight: The Shuttle Program in the 1990s and Beyond
Going Nowhere Fast: The NASP
Hypersonies in the 1990s
Stairway to Heaven
About the Authors


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