Aerojet Rocketdyne gives $1M for UAH Space Science Chair

Aerojet Rocketdyne gives $1M for UAH Space Science Chair
Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake announces a $1 million gift to the University of Alabama in Huntsville for an endowed chair in the Department of Space Science. (Contributed)

Aerojet Rocketdyne announced this week it will fund a $1 million endowment to establish the Aerojet Rocketdyne Chair in Space Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

“Aerojet Rocketdyne is proud to be able to partner with the University of Alabama in Huntsville on numerous R&D initiatives related to propulsion and space science,” said Eileen Drake, CEO and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The first scholar named to the endowed chair is Gary Zank, director of UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research and the chair of the Department of Space Science.

Gary Zank leads the Department of Space Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. (UAH)

“Dr. Gary Zank is an international rock star in the study of space science, and we’re looking forward to our partnership with him and UAH to advance the critical knowledge and scholarship in this field,” Drake said.

Already a UAH eminent scholar and distinguished professor, Zank was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors for a scientist.

“Becoming a leader in the field of space science is one of the strategic priorities for the university, and this endowment will go a long way toward helping us achieve that objective,” UAH president Robert Altenkirch said.

“We are grateful to Aerojet Rocketdyne for their support of our Department of Space Science – and our university as a whole – as we seek to grow our contributions to such a vital field of academic research.”

Massive expansion

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been expanding its presence in Huntsville in a major way. In April, the company announced plans to bring 800 jobs to Huntsville and to build a state-of-the-art factory where its next-generation AR1 rocket engine will be produced.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is expanding its presence in Huntsville in a major way. (Aerojet Rocketdyne)

Earlier this year, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced that Huntsville would become home to its Defense Business Unit, along with its Defense Advance Program, known as the Rocket Shop.

In that announcement, Drake cited “the top-tier talent at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Propulsion Research Center, the exceptional level of rocket engine expertise at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and at our teammate, Dynetics” as reasons behind the move.

This week’s announcement about the endowment was made in conjunction with UAH’s spring graduation ceremony, during which Drake delivered the commencement address.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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