U.S. President announces Roger Easton recipient of National Medal of Technology

From: Ted Molczan (seesat@rogers.com)
Date: Thu Nov 24 2005 - 09:34:30 EST

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    Roger L. Easton is a recipient of the 2004 National Medal of Technology - the
    highest U.S. honour for technology.
    Among Easton's many inventions, two are particularly important to our hobby:
    the Naval Space Surveillance System (Navspasur), and the NAVSTAR-Global
    Positioning System (GPS).
    Roger Easton's name likely is familiar to those on the list who made visual
    satellite observations in support of scientific research programs sponsored in
    the U.K. by the Optical Tracking Subcommittee of the British National Committee
    for Space Research. In his personal and scientific memoir, A Tapestry of Orbits,
    Dr. Desmond King-Hele remembered Easton, "as a great benefactor of orbit
    analysis: without [whose] inventiveness, foresight and kindness, much less would
    have been achieved in the 1970s and 1980s". Here is a further brief excerpt:
    "Roger Easton, of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) at Washington, was the
    inventor of both Minitrack and Navspasur (and also of the Global Positioning
    System for navigation). When he visited the RAE in 1968, he knew that we looking
    for reliable sources of observations; he also knew that the Navspasur
    observations were not being used for scientific analysis but only to help in
    producing NORAD orbits and in updating predictions. Roger Easton offered to send
    all the observations of any satellites we chose. This offer was eagerly
    accepted, and soon there was an agreed list of about forty satellites, mostly
    those already on the priority list for optical tracking. The list could be
    updated whenever we wished by correspondence with Roger Easton's colleague at
    NRL, Rudolph Zirm. This system worked admirably throughout the 1970s and 1980s,
    although both Roger and Rudolph retired about 1980."
    I have appended the NRL's announcement of Roger Easton's award.
    Ted Molczan
    Contact: NRL Public Affairs
    Naval Research Laboratory
    President announces Roger Easton recipient of National Medal of Technology
    Nation's highest honor for technology
    (Washington, DC . 11/21/05) - President George W. Bush has announced that Roger
    L. Easton is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology for his extensive
    pioneering achievements in spacecraft tracking, navigation and timing technology
    that led to the development of the NAVSTAR-Global Positioning System (GPS). The
    White House made the announcement on Monday, November 14. The Nation's highest
    honor for technology, the National Medal of Technology is awarded to individuals
    who embody the spirit of American innovation and who have advanced the Nation's
    global competitiveness.
    Easton, the former head of NRL's Space Applications Branch, Space Systems
    Division, retired from NRL and Federal Service in 1980, and later served as a
    consultant to NRL to conduct assessment of industry proposals for upgrading the
    Naval Space Surveillance System and to explore his concept for improving GPS
    geo-locational accuracy from 1994 to 2000. He began his career at NRL in 1943 as
    a research physicist, working on radar beacons and blind landing systems in the
    Radio Division, and served as an active duty Naval Officer conducting research
    aboard the Lab from 1944 to 1945.
    He was awarded the National Medal of Technology for "his invention of the
    Minitrack satellite tracking system used to track Vanguard satellites and
    determine orbits; his development of the Naval Space Surveillance System still
    in use today cataloging all known man-made space objects orbiting Earth; his
    invention of a "Navigation System Using Satellites and Passive Ranging
    Techniques" and his subsequent development of Time Navigation and Navigation
    Technology Satellites that formed the technological basis for modern GPS."
    Easton conceived, patented, and led the development of critical enabling
    technologies for the United States Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS today is
    a constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites providing precise navigation and
    timing data to military and civilian users. Easton, as a scientist and engineer
    at NRL, developed his concept for a time-based navigational system with passive
    ranging, circular orbits, and space-borne high precision clocks synchronized to
    a master clock. The U.S Patent Office received his invention, "Navigation System
    Using Satellites and Passive Ranging Techniques," on October 8, 1970. His
    earlier work exploiting space-based systems for geodesy, navigation, and timing
    laid the foundations for his visionary leap to the concept he dubbed TIMATION,
    for time navigation. He tested his concepts at NRL through development and
    launch of four experimental satellites: TIMATION I and II (in 1967 and 1969) and
    Navigation Technology Satellites (NTS) 1 and 2 (in 1974 and 1977). NTS-2, the
    first satellite to fly in the GPS 12 hour orbit and transmit GPS signals, flew
    the first cesium atomic frequency standard in space. Using time measurements
    from NTS-2, he experimentally verified Einstein's theory of relativity. A
    relativistic offset correction that he applied is still in use by every
    satellite in the GPS constellation.
    Earlier in his career at NRL, Easton collaborated with Milton Rosen in 1955 to
    write NRL's Project Vanguard proposal for a scientific satellite program for the
    International Geophysical Year. President Eisenhower announced selection of
    Vanguard as the United States national scientific contribution to the
    International Geophysical Year. Easton invented the Minitrack System to
    determine the Vanguard satellite's orbit.
    When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit, the United States could not
    track non-radiating satellites or determine if other launches occurred. Roger
    Easton solved this problem by extending Minitrack to actively follow unknown
    satellites orbiting Earth. Under his leadership, the Naval Space Surveillance
    System became the world's first system to detect and track all types of
    Earth-orbiting objects, thus contributing to America's national security and
    sense of well-being during the Cold War. For this invention, Roger Easton
    received a U.S. patent in 1964.
    Easton conceived the idea of using satellite-carried precise clocks for passive
    ranging in 1964. He conducted research, carried out space-based experiments, and
    published his findings that accurate, reliable and instantaneous satellite
    navigation could be achieved with passive ranging, circular orbits, and a
    constellation of space-borne high-precision clocks synchronized to a master
    clock, which are in fact the primary features of modern GPS. While initially
    designed for use by the military, GPS has been adapted for civilian use from
    commercial airliners to personal in-car systems. So many creative uses for GPS
    have been discovered by such a wide variety of users that, according to an
    economic study by Allied Business Intelligence, estimated worldwide sales of GPS
    equipment and services will grow to more than $34 billion by 2006.
    During his career at NRL he was awarded 11 patents. Major awards include: The
    Distinguished Civilian Service Award (1960); 1978, The Institute of Navigation's
    Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow Navigation Award "for outstanding contribution to the
    science of navigation for the year 1978" (1978); The Naval Space Surveillance
    Center established the Roger L. Easton Science and Engineering Award to mark the
    30th anniversary of the Naval Space Surveillance System (1991); National
    Aeronautic Association's 1992 Robert J. Collier Trophy presented to the GPS Team
    composed of NRL, USAF, Aerospace Corp., Rockwell International and IBM Federal
    Systems "for the most significant development for safe and efficient navigation
    and surveillance of air and spacecraft since the introduction of radio
    navigation 50 years ago" (1993); The Naval Research Laboratory established the
    Roger L. Easton Award for Engineering Excellence "in recognition of the multiple
    contributions in engineering excellence achieved at NRL by and under the
    leadership of Roger Easton" (1995); Induction by GPS Joint Program Office into
    GPS Hall of Fame "for his overwhelming contributions to engineering applications
    in navigation satellite technology [that] have made GPS a reality" (1996); and,
    The American Philosophical Society, Magellanic Premium for Navigation "for
    development of the Global Positioning System" (1997).
    Two years after leaving Federal service in 1980 and retiring to Canaan, New
    Hampshire, he was elected to two consecutive terms in the State Assembly, ran
    for Governor in 1986, and served three terms on the Board of the New Hampshire
    Electric Cooperative.
    The National Medal of Technology is the highest honor awarded by the President
    of the United States to America's leading innovators. Established by an act of
    Congress in 1980, the Medal of Technology was first awarded in 1985. The Medal
    is given annually to individuals, teams, and/or companies/divisions for their
    outstanding contributions to the Nation's economic, environmental and social
    well-being through the development and commercialization of technology products,
    processes and concepts; technological innovation; and development of the
    Nation's technological manpower. The purpose of the National Medal of Technology
    is to recognize those who have made lasting contributions to America's
    competitiveness, standard of living, and quality of life through technological
    innovation, and to recognize those who have made substantial contributions to
    strengthening the Nation's technological workforce. By highlighting the national
    importance of technological innovation, the Medal also seeks to inspire future
    generations of Americans to prepare for and pursue technical careers to keep
    America at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership.
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