Five selected this year to be Space and Missile Pioneers

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Five Air Force leaders were named as 2009 Space and Missle Pioneers during a special ceremony yesterday.


Dr. Benjamin Blasingame, Col. Vernon Hastings, Dr. F. Robert Naka, Col. Bradford Parkinson and Roger Easton were selected for the honor this year.


Blasingame was a pioneer in the development of the Air Force’s early Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems. He won approval for using inertial guidance as a backup for radio guidance on the Atlas ICBM and as the primary guidance system on the THOR Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. He left the Air Force ballistic missile division for an assignment at the newly constructed U. S. Air Force Academy, where he created the department of aeronautics and astronautics.

Col. Hastings was a pioneer in the development and deployment of America’s early Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems. He directed the design of all United States operational base facilities for the Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. He also led the site selection team for Camp Cooke, subsequently renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as the location for construction of the first Atlas ICBM operational launch complex. Under his leadership, contractors constructed the first Atlas F sites that featured a hardened design-underground “silo” basing.

Dr. Naka was a pioneer in the development of a wide range of ground- and space-based systems including missile warning and space surveillance radars as well as reconnaissance systems. He invented the concept of “cumulative probability of detection,” which he applied to the beam scan sequence of the large, fixed detection antenna for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System to warn of a possible attack from Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. He was instrumental in designing the millstone hill radar that tracked Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, in October 1957.

Col. Parkinson was a pioneer in the development of space-based positioning, navigation, and timing systems. He served as chief engineer on the advanced ballistic re-entry systems program. Shortly after being reassigned to the 621B navigation satellite program, in November 1972, he became its manager and oversaw the program’s evolution over the next year into the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System.

Mr. Easton collaborated with Milton Rosen in 1955 to write the NRL Project Vanguard proposal for a U.S. scientific satellite as part of the International Geophysical Year. After President Dwight Eisenhower announced selection of Vanguard as the nation’s IGY contribution, Easton supervised construction of the satellite and design of the Minitrack System to determine the satellite’s orbit. The Naval Space Surveillance Center honored him in 1991 by establishing the Roger L. Easton Science and Engineering Award, and the NRL followed suit in 1995 with creation of the Roger L. Easton Award for Engineering Excellence. On Feb. 13 2006, President George W. Bush presented Mr. Easton with the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement-the National Medal of Technology.

The Air Force Space Pioneers Award was first given under the sponsorship of the National Space Club in Washington D.C., which in 1989 honored 10 key military and civilian leaders in the Air Force space program. In 1997, the program was revitalized and established as an official Air Force award under AFSPC.