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NASA Langley Director Appointed Executive Director of the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy

By Keith Pierce

The newly established Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy (VISA) announced Thursday the appointment of former director of NASA's Langley Research Center David E. Bowles as executive director.

Bowles, who will assume his new role on Oct. 10 when VISA makes its official launch, will work to advance the mission of the VISA regionally, nationally and internationally. VISA, a research enterprise of the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) at Old Dominion University, was approved in the last session of the Virginia General Assembly to leverage the Commonwealth's expanding space facilities and growing capability to support advances in satellites and autonomous systems, the sensors they carry and the data they produce.

"This opportunity brings together three of my passions; aerospace, education and the Commonwealth of Virginia," Bowles said. "I'm really excited for the opportunity to help people realize the untapped potential as far as what the state has to offer in terms of world-class facilities for space launch and autonomous system operations, as well for unmanned asset data technologies."

Bowles comes to VISA after more than 35 years at NASA Langley, serving as associate director in 2012 and deputy director in 2014 before being appointed to Center director in June 2015. In that role, he supported NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, the Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Office of the Chief Technologist

Bowles began his career researching advanced materials for use on aerospace vehicles, then focused on materials to be used in space. He has published many research papers on the effects of materials degradation on structural and thermal properties. He also has received numerous awards, including NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2005 and 2015, and the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive in 2017.

"I'm looking forward to working with David on VISA," said Eric Weisel," executive director of VMASC and associate vice president for applied research at ODU. "His background and expertise will help catalyze the unique commercial spaceflight and autonomy opportunities in Virginia particularly those at the Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore."

According to Weisel, VISA will partner with Virginia universities to help advance and commercialize emerging technologies related to the design and prototyping of autonomous vehicles, sensors and satellite payloads, as well as command, control, communications and computational technologies for space-based and unmanned systems, and data engineering for space-based and unmanned asset data.

"The sum of these activities will be translational technologies entering the commercial marketplace that provide improved access to space-based and unmanned asset data," he said.

In an early win for VISA, ODU received a $1.5 million grant from the Virginia Research Investment Fund to establish the Virginia SmallSat Data Consortium, a collaborative research center, co-led by Virginia Tech, with the objective to provide greater access to commercial satellite data.

"This award recognizes ODU's leadership in aerospace in Virginia and its close partnerships with Virginia Tech, Virginia Space, NASA-Wallops, and NASA-Langley," Weisel said.

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