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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    CONTACT: John Blacksten


    William J. Emrich Wins AIAA 2015 Engineer of the Year
    Honored for Work on the Megawatt-Class Nuclear Thermal Rocket Element Environmental Simulator

    March 2, 2015 – Reston, Va. – Dr. William J. Emrich, AIAA Senior Member, and project manager and lead investigator for the megawatt-class Nuclear Thermal Rocket Environmental Simulator (NTREES) at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, and lecturer at the University of Alabama – Huntsville, has won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2015 Engineer of the Year award. Emrich will receive the award at a recognition luncheon at the Hilton Orlando, Florida, in conjunction with AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2015, July 27–29.

    The award honors Emrich for “conceiving, designing, and bringing to operational status the megawatt-class Nuclear Thermal Rocket Element Environmental Simulartor.” “It is a very nice honor and yet I wish I could share it with all those who have worked with me on this project over the years and who have helped in so many ways both large and small,” said Emrich. “While working on NTREES, I’ve had an incredibly supportive management here at NASA and have benefitted tremendously from dedicated fellow engineers and technicians who have worked their tails off to make this project a success. I am so fortunate to be able to do the work I do. How many people can say they are doing the job they dreamed of doing since they were small children?” Emrich concluded, “I wake up in the morning and cannot wait to get to work to see what new challenges the day will bring. I still can’t believe I get paid to do the work I love to do and on top of that to get such a coveted award from AIAA for doing it. I am also so blessed to have a wonderfully supportive family, especially my wife who having a technical background herself allows me to share in a deeper way the joys and frustrations of this incredibly exciting project.”

    NTREES simulates the conditions – including the power needs, flow and temperatures that a nuclear fuel element would endure on a long-duration space flight mission. With nuclear thermal rockets (NTR) being proposed for future Mars missions, NTREES allows for cost-efficient testing of non-radioactive versions of the fuel elements that would be used in those rocket’s propulsion systems. NTREES is the world’s only facility for testing nuclear propulsion in conditions that mimic the stresses of the actual space environment.

    “Bill Emrich’s accomplishments in nuclear propulsion are legendary and made him the clear front runner to represent Huntsville’s engineering excellence to the nation and the world,” said Ken Phillipart, chair of AIAA’s Greater Huntsville section. “The NTREES capability is a priceless national asset and the vanguard of advanced propulsion, a vanguard now emblazoned with the words “AIAA” and “Huntsville” thanks to Bill. To be top engineer in an organization of 30,000 is something few can even dream about. Bill didn’t just dream; he did it. Greater Huntsville is proud of Bill and even prouder to call him one of our own.”

    The AIAA Engineer of the Year Award recognizes a member of AIAA who, as a practicing engineer, has made a recent, individual contribution in the application of scientific and mathematical principles leading to a significant technical accomplishment.

    For more information about the AIAA Engineer of the Year Award, or the AIAA Honors and Awards program, please contact Carol Stewart at or 703.264.7623.  


    About AIAA
    is the largest aerospace professional society in the world, serving a diverse range of more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries, and 95 corporate members. AIAA members help make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.



    American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500, Reston, VA 20191-4344
    Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551