JPL DESCANSO - Deep Space Communications and Navigation Center of Excellence



Ira Katz

Ira Katz received a B.S. degree in chemistry from the Case Institute of Technology in 1967 and a Ph.D. degree in chemical physics from the University of Chicago in 1971.

Since 2001, Dr. Katz has led NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Advanced Propulsion Technology Group. In that position he made several strategic hires that improved JPL's Electric Propulsion scientific and technical talent, and flight systems engineering capabilities. Group accomplishments during his tenure include development and testing of the 25-kW NEXIS ion thruster, successful completion of the world's longest electric thruster life test, development of technology and support for precision formation flying missions (ST7, Lisa, TPF-I), and laboratory investigation and computer modeling of fundamental electric propulsion physics. He led the successful effort to infuse commercial Hall effect thrusters and XIPS ion thrusters into JPL mission planning. Under Dr. Katz's leadership the group has presented on the order of a hundred conference papers, published more than a dozen journal articles, and has won two "best paper" awards. Dr. Katz is recognized as a world leader in computer models of ion thruster physics.

Prior to coming to JPL, Dr Katz was Chief Scientist of the Applied Sciences Division of SAIC, Inc. and managed the Space group. Before that he was a Senior Vice President at the S-Cubed Division of Maxwell Technologies, Inc., where for over twenty-five years (until the sale of the Division to SAIC), he headed the investigations in spacecraft-plasma interactions and electric propulsion generated plasmas. He was a member of the Strategic Technology Council that planned and managed Maxwell's Internal Research & Development. Under his leadership, Maxwell achieved several advances in the understanding of spacecraft charging, including development of the NASA Charging Analyzer Code (NASCAP), which became the world standard in spacecraft charging. Technical accomplishments include identifying the mechanism responsible for the solar array failures on several GEO communications satellites. For several years he worked with major satellite manufacturers including Space Systems Loral, Hughes, Alcatel, TRW, and Motorola on solar array anomalies, and helped design the modifications of NASA's Terra (EOS AM-1) 5.5-kW, 127-V solar arrays. He headed the joint NASA-Air Force program to develop NASCAP-2K, a new generation of spacecraft charging codes, and successfully completed the Interactive Spacecraft Charging Handbook for the NASA Space Environments Effects (SEE). His group provided spacecraft charging analysis for NASA's STEREO and MESSENGER missions, and worked on the design and analysis of several plasma interaction space experiments, including SPEAR (Space Power Experiments Aboard Rockets) and the TSS and PMG tethered satellite experiments. The first of these rocket experiments, SPEAR 1, won the 1988 SDI Technical Achievement Award. Dr. Katz holds patents on a high-voltage bushing for space applications and for a device to control spacecraft charging.

Dr. Katz is the author of more than 70 peer reviewed articles and over a hundred conference publications.

Co-Author of Volumn 1 of the JPL Space Science and Technology Series:

Fundamanetals of Electric Propulsion: Ion and Hall Thrusters