AIAA to Present Premier Lectures and Program Management Excellence Award During 2023 ASCEND Written 24 August 2023


August 24, 2023 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to announce the winners of two premier lectureships and a program management excellence award. The lectures and award will be presented during 2023 ASCEND, 23–25 October, Caesars Forum, Las Vegas.

2023 AIAA von Kármán Lecture in Astronautics: “Celebrating a Century of Kármán’s Momentum-Integral and Space-Reductive Approaches: Applications in Rocketry and Beyond”

  • Joseph Majdalani, Auburn University
  • Monday, 23 October, 1130 hrs PT

Majdalani-Joe_2023The 2023 AIAA von Kármán Lectureship in Astronautics has been awarded to Joseph Majdalani, Francis Chair of Excellence and Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University. Named in honor of Theodore von Kármán, a world-famous authority on aerospace sciences, the lectureship honors an individual who has performed notably and distinguished themselves technically in the field of astronautics. This lecture will be delivered in person at 2023 ASCEND in Las Vegas, as well as recorded and available on demand.

Majdalani’s lecture celebrates the centennial of the momentum-integral approach, one of the most significant theoretical contributions of Theodore von Kármán, taught widely in the fields of
aerodynamics. He will discuss the broad impact of this approach, which was introduced in 1921, and often used in conjunction with Pohlhausen’s polynomial approximations. As a well-recognized authority in the field, Majdalani has recently coauthored a textbook on the subject of viscous boundary layers. He also has developed several new formulations based on Kármán’s approach: these lead to an essentially exact solution to the celebrated Blasius equation, whose analytical treatment has remained intractable for over 100 years.

Majdalani’s technical research focus is on advancing acoustic instability and rotating flow theories in the context of solid, liquid, and hybrid rocket engines, especially those driven by tangential injection. He has developed new effective methodologies that have been successfully applied to various rocket systems including the class of cyclonic VORTEX engines pioneered by ORBITEC and Sierra Space Corporation. 

“It is an extraordinary privilege to share and revisit the widely used method developed by von Kármán with our expanding aerospace community, even a century after its inception. Through this lecture, I not only aim at celebrating von Kármán’s remarkable contributions, I also hope to inspire further explorations of his captivating techniques in the continually evolving fields of aerospace engineering,” Majdalani remarked.

Besides his interests in advancing boundary-layer theory, Majdalani has been a pioneering researcher in aerodynamics and rocket propulsion for more than 30 years. He has been a prolific scholar and exemplary mentor who has been invited to present more than 97 seminars and plenaries worldwide. He has over 300 publications and 18,000 citations. An AIAA Associate Fellow, Majdalani is active in AIAA through technical committees and regional activities, and has received numerous AIAA awards. He earned his B.E. degree with distinction from the American University (AUB), and both his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Utah, all in Mechanical Engineering and a special focus on rocket propulsion.

2023 AIAA David W. Thompson Lecture in Space Commerce: “Connecting Space to Earth”

  • George T. Whitesides, Partner, Convective Capital
  • Monday, 23 October, 1245 hrs PT

George-T-Whitesides-2023The 2023 AIAA David W. Thompson Lecture in Space Commerce has been awarded to George T. Whitesides, Partner, Convective Capital. Previously, Whitesides served as Chief of Staff for NASA in the Obama Administration, and later as CEO of Virgin Galactic, which over 10 years he led to space operations and a public company listing. He co-founded Megafire Action, an advocacy organization that supports solutions to the wildfire crisis, and is a partner at Convective Capital, a firm that invests in firetech companies. He is the cofounder of AstroAccess, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging universal design and accessibility principles in spaceflight. 

The David W. Thompson Lectureship in Space Commerce recognizes a prominent industry leader who has created or grown a space-related business and generated substantial economic benefits and market value. The award is sponsored and endowed by Orbital ATK Inc., to commemorate the long and distinguished career of commercial space pioneer, David W. Thompson. This lecture will be delivered in person at 2023 ASCEND in Las Vegas, as well as recorded and available on demand at As part of the lectureship, Whitesides also will participate in the 5th Annual Founders Panel, an exploration of company start up stories and lessons learned, Monday, 23 October, 1500 hrs PT. The panel will be moderated by Rob Meyerson, CEO, Delalune Space, and include Brad Cheetham, CEO and President, Advanced Space, and Ariel Ekblaw, Cofounder and CEO, Aurelia Institute.

Whitesides’ lecture will address this moment in time when aerospace lessons and solutions can help solve the world’s greatest challenges. “Our leaders must be active in seeking out connections to national and global problems that we can help or solve. Climate change, inequality and inaccessibility, the carbon transition, foreign repression – all of these are among the challenges of our time. Perhaps now more than ever, the abilities of the aerospace sector are directly relevant to many of these challenges,” said Whitesides. In his lecture, “Connecting Space to the World,” Whitesides will address some of these areas and describe what the aerospace community can do to perform this work most successfully.

“We are entering an era in which humanity will be a shepherd for Earth’s biosphere. We must use the systems engineering principles our community has developed and practiced to help architect that future, and we must not be shy with policymakers and the public about our ability to help,” Whitesides added.

Whitesides is an AIAA Associate Fellow. He holds a bachelor's degree in Public Policy from Princeton University and a master’s degree in Remote Sensing and GIS from University of Cambridge, and he was a Fulbright Scholar in Tunisia.

2023 AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management

  • John M. Grunsfeld, Endless Frontier Associates, LLC
  • Tuesday, 24 October, 0800 hrs PT

John-M-Grunsfeld-2023John M. Grunsfeld, Endless Frontier Associates, LLC, is being presented with the 2023 AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management for “exceptional leadership of America’s space science program resulting in amazing achievements exploring the Earth, our solar system, and unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos.” The award gives national recognition to an individual for outstanding contributions in the management of a significant space or space-related program or project. The award honors Dr. Wernher von Braun, who was one of the world's first and foremost rocket engineers and a leading authority on space travel.

Grunsfeld is a former NASA Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, and former NASA astronaut, logging more than 58 days in space with eight spacewalks. He visited the Hubble Space Telescope three times as an astronaut to service and upgrade the observatory. In addition to receiving the 2023 AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management during 2023 ASCEND, Grunsfeld will participate in a panel discussion, “Beyond Earth: Enabling Everyday Life in Space,” Tuesday, 24 October, 1600 hrs PT.

AIAA is committed to ensuring that aerospace professionals are recognized and celebrated for their achievements, innovations, and discoveries that make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous. Visit AIAA’s Honors and Awards Program for more information.

AIAA Media Contact: Rebecca Gray,, 804-397-5270 cell

Powered by AIAA, ASCEND, which stands for Accelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery, is the world’s premier collaborative, outcomes-driven, interdisciplinary community designed to accelerate the building of our off-world future. For more information, visit, or follow ASCEND on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.