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  • Guruswami Ravichandran (right) presents the Wings Award to Sir Martin Sweeting at a gala banquet and awards ceremony at the Caltech Athenaeum.
09/21/2012 10:36:49

Caltech Awards International Aerospace Honor to Satellite Pioneer

Sir Martin Sweeting, founder and executive chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, is the 2012 recipient of the International von Kármán Wings Award. The award—presented annually by the Aerospace Historical Society, which is part of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at Caltech (GALCIT)—acknowledges outstanding contributions by international innovators, leaders, and pioneers in aerospace.

Sweeting has been recognized for his technical and leadership contributions to aerospace academia and industry—in particular, for pioneering the concept of rapid-response, low-cost, and highly capable small satellites for Earth observation, communications, and space science.

"Professor Sweeting's pioneering work on small satellites, in addition to its inherent engineering and scientific value, is also helping to educate the next generation of aerospace engineers," says Ares Rosakis, chair of Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science, Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics, and professor of mechanical engineering. "It is an honor to give this award, named after the founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory—and the founding director of GALCIT—to Professor Sweeting."

A leading authority on satellite technology, Sweeting is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Surrey and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He founded SSTL in 1981, with a vision of making space more accessible. Utilizing modern commercial off-the-shelf technology, SSTL has developed a new market for small but advanced satellites and provides innovative and reliable cost-effective solutions for established space agencies, emerging-nation space programs, and commercial and research organizations.

"It is a privilege to be recognised in the von Kármán Wings Award, and to share this accolade with visionaries and innovators that I greatly admire," said Sweeting in an SSTL press release. "During my career, small satellites have developed from being a research curiosity to become instrumental in scientific research, understanding our planet, and satellite navigation—I am thrilled to have played a part to make this all possible."

Guruswami Ravichandran, chair of the Aerospace Historical Society, director of GALCIT, and the John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech, presented the Wings Award to Sweeney at a gala banquet and awards ceremony on September 13 at the Caltech Athenaeum.

Previous recipients of the Wings Award include Joanne Maguire, aerospace engineer and executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company; Abdul Kalam, the 11th president of India; Yannick d'Escatha, the chairman and CEO of the French space agency, Centre National d'Études Spatiales; Caltech alumnus Alexis Livanos (BS '70, MS '73, PhD '75), former corporate vice president and chief technology officer for Northrop Grumman; Charles Elachi (MS '69, PhD '71), director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); Kent Kresa, former chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman and chairman of Caltech's Board of Trustees; Burt Rutan, aerospace entrepreneur and founder of Scaled Composites; aerospace pioneer Paul MacCready (MS '48, PhD '52); Edward Stone, the David Morrisroe Professor of Physics at Caltech and former director of JPL; and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

For more information on the International von Kármán Wings Award, the Aerospace Historical Society, and 2012 recipient Sir Martin Sweeting, go to

For more about GALCIT, go to

Written by Katie Neith