Dr. Daniel "Dan" Rasky is an internationally recognized expert on advanced entry systems and thermal protection materials. He has developed his expertise working five years for the U.S. Air Force and more than 20 years for NASA. In the 1990’s, he and his research colleagues at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., invented a heat-shield material called Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) that has subsequently been used on several NASA as well as private industry spacecraft. For this achievement, Rasky received the NASA Inventor of the Year Award for 2007 – the first ever for NASA Ames.
In 2009, Rasky completed a one-year Interagency Personnel Assignment (IPA) with the Space Grant Education and Enterprise Institute, Inc., San Diego, Calif., where he served as a senior research Fellow supporting a number of emerging space companies and other organizations. One of these companies was Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, Calif., also known as SpaceX. Rasky spent considerable time at SpaceX providing expert consultation about the design and development of the heat-shield for their Dragon spacecraft. As a result, SpaceX chose PICA as the heat shield material for the spacecraft. On Dec. 8, 2010, the Falcon-9 rocket carried the Dragon capsule with its SpaceX fabricated PICA-X heat shield into space. It survived the launch and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere; consequently, the mission was considered an enormous success.
In addition to the SpaceX Dragon capsule, Rasky has made significant contributions to flight hardware used on eight NASA missions, including the NASA Stardust comet sample return mission. The Stardust return capsule used a PICA heat-shield that enabled the mission, and was the fastest entry ever by a man-made object at Earth. It is now on display as part of the “Milestones of Flight” exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. PICA also is being used for the primary heatshield for the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) lander mission.
Today, Rasky is the director and co-founder of the Space Portal at the NASA Research Park, Moffett Field, Calif. The Space Portal has a mission to “be a friendly front door for emerging and non-traditional space companies.” Through their initiatives and collaborations the Space Portal has had a significant role in the establishment of several notable and successful NASA programs, including the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program, the Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) program, and the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program.
Rasky also is the recipient of the Senior Professional Meritorious Presidential Rank Award, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Award, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, 12 NASA Group Awards, and eight Space Act Awards. He has six patents, 64 publications, and is an associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a senior member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).