Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II

Aerospace Innovator - A Catalyst for Success

Inducted in 2005

Thomas Kenneth (TK) Mattingly has had the good fortune to spend his entire career using technology and teamwork to accomplish challenging goals on the frontiers of aerospace—goals that were defined first in terms of aeronautical, then space, and finally business objectives. His contributions began in the public sector where he developed, delivered, and operated systems that achieved vital national objectives. Lessons learned were then used to create economically attractive activities in the private sector. Each assignment involved innovation, most required satisfying stringent time and resource constraints, and all depended on a culture of personal accountability and professional excellence to succeed.

TK attended Auburn University on a Navy ROTC scholarship, receiving his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and commission in 1958. As a naval aviator, he flew from carriers in the Atlantic and attended the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School where he was named the Distinguished Graduate. In 1966, NASA selected him for duty as an astronaut. He played key roles in developing the Apollo spacesuits, planning the first human flight to the moon (Apollo 8) and supporting the first lunar landing (Apollo 11). Assigned to fly Apollo 13, but removed from flight status as a medical precaution shortly before launch, he became part of the engineering effort that returned the crew safely to earth. He finally circled the moon as command module pilot on Apollo 16.

From 1972 through early 1985, he was a main-stay of the space shuttle program, coordinating operational inputs to the design team and first flight preparations. He commanded the final orbital test flight and the first flight to carry a national security payload. He amassed 504 hours in space as well as 5,000 hours in jet aircraft. Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1985, TK was tasked with revitalizing a Navy procurement command. Within three years, Congress cited this team’s innovative use of commercial components in military satellites as an example of “DOD acquisition at its best.”

Retiring from the Navy in 1989, TK was the recipient of Distinguished Service Medals from the Department of Defense, the Navy, and NASA. He restored confidence in the Atlas commercial space launch system by earning a profit and initiating procedures that have delivered 100 percent success for a decade. As President of Rocket Development Company, he guided the design of an entire space launch system that could generate a good return on investment by competing for existing demand. His team also earned credibility by delivering key hardware components on schedule and substantially below traditional costs. Most recently, he used modern systems engineering and management tools to lead Mexmil, a leading supplier of insulation systems for air transports, from bankruptcy to profitability in spite of the economic distress facing its airline customers.

Auburn University’s Alumni Engineering Council has previously honored Admiral Mattingly with its Outstanding Achievement Award. Other distinctions have been conferred by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Delta Tau Delta, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. TK now resides in
Arlington, Virginia. His son, Thomas, is a neuro-surgeon in nearby Richmond.

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