Huy Kim Tran
NASA Ames Research Center
Director of Aeronautics
Ms. Tran serves as the Director of the Aeronautics at NASA Ames Research Center in providing technical and management oversight of research disciplines in air traffic management, airspace simulation and operations, autonomous systems, computational fluid dynamics analysis, vertical flight vehicle technology, experimental fluid mechanics, and wind tunnel operations.
Ms. Tran is also responsible for the safe operations of the world largest Wind Tunnel – the National Full-scaled Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC), the Ames Supersonic and Transonic Wind Tunnels, and the world’s largest Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS). At the agency level, Ms. Tran serves as the Ames Aeronautics Research Director and works closely with the office of the Associate Administrator and its program directors to provide strategic plan and directions for the Aeronautics. The product of their work is highlighted in several critical initiatives such as the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator, the UAS Air Traffic Management (UTM), Airspace Technology Demonstration project (ATD), Urban Air Mobility (UAM), the Scalable Traffic Management for Emergency Response Operations (STEReO), and the University Leadership Initiative (ULI). Prior to becoming the Director of Aeronautics at Ames, Ms. Tran was principal engineer for heatshield systems for six Mars missions. She was also the lead inventor of the Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablators (PICA) which has been used as the heat shield material for Mars Science Laboratory, Mars 2020, and future Mars sample return missions. She also transferred PICA technology to Space-X – PICA-X is the primary heatshield for Dragon Capsules – Cargo and Commercial Crew. She was the Chief Engineer for the heatshield system for the Stardust Sample Return Capsule (SRC) which held the record of fastest entry velocity to date return pristine comet samples to earth in January 2006, and the current SRC for the OSIRIS-Rex mission which will return asteroid sample in September 2023.
Ms. Tran holds a degree in Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Bachelor degree in Materials Engineering from San Jose State University.