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Photo of Frank Picha
   Frank Picha
   Propulsion Engineer
Altadena, California
United States Of America
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High School: South Kitsap HS, Port Orchard,  WA
Mechanical Engineering, Washington State University
MBA, Washington State University

Background Information
Frank Picha earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in mathematics from Washington State University in 1990. In 1992, he completed his Master of Business Administration with emphasis in finance and management from Washington State University. While in college he was acknowledged as an Outstanding Freshman Scholar, achieved the President’s Honor Roll, graduated from the University Honors Program, received a scholarship for graduate studies, and worked as a teaching assistant.

From 1992 to July 1996 Frank excelled as a Manufacturing Process Engineer at Sealed Air Corporation in Redmond Washington. He designed and improved new production techniques involving the manufacture and conversion of blown film polymers.

In July 1996 he joined Aerojet Rocket Research Center located in Redmond Washington (formally Rocket Research, then Olin Aerospace, then Primex Aerospace, then General Dynamics Aerospace). He worked as a Manufacturing Engineer and later a Senior Development Engineer until July of 2001. At General Dynamics, he applied his manufacturing knowledge to monopropellant rocket engine fabrication and assembly. He also gained valuable hands-on experience in vacuum furnace brazing, induction brazing, plasma coating, and electron beam welding. Specialized knowledge gained included monopropellant rocket engine design and analysis, hydrazine/catalyst familiarity, and bi-propellant rocket engine design and analysis. He was nominated for Engineer of the Year, awarded a Certificate of Merit from the Rocket Engine team, and was the recipient of various employee recognition awards and bonuses. Small engine propulsion programs responsible for included: IGS, Mars-07/09, X-38, MAP, GPS, A2100, Delta III & IV, P-81, Stardust, and Deep Space 1.

Frank joined the Propulsion Flight Systems Group at JPL in July of 2001 to support the Mars Exploration Rover Propulsion team. As a MER Propulsion team member, Frank was the responsible engineer for propulsion welding including weld schedule development, welder qualification, and sample fabrication using orbital GTAW and manual TIG. He was the cognizant hardware engineer for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER), cruise stage propulsion sub-system mechanical integration and functional testing, as well as the test conductor for MER spacecraft propellant loading and system functional testing at Kennedy Space Center. He was also a Propulsion Mission Operations Engineer for MER-A and MER-B initial acquisition, spindown, and TCMs. Following MER, he worked on the Prometheus NEXIS Xenon ion engine fabrication and integration as a cognizant engineer and further supported Lithium magnetoplasmadynamic thruster projects through expertise in refractory metal fabrication and joining techniques. Frank joined the Mars Science Laboratory project initially as the Lead Propulsion configuration and integration engineer, later taking on roles as the contract technical manager for the Cruise Stage rocket engines and Descent Stage RCS thrusters. His most recent tasks included the Aquarius thruster replacement fitting qualification and installation Cog-E, and AMBR shock test task manager. He is currently the JPL Team X Propulsion Chair, leading early project formulation in a concurrent mission design environment for proposed missions, and supports the Ultra-Lightweight diaphragm tank technology development task directing the development of the NDE test plan.

In his spare time, Frank is active in golf, baseball, softball, wakeboarding, snowboarding, mountain biking, and hiking. He enjoys Church, music, reading, travel, and the construction of scale model rockets and airplanes.

Contributions to Mars Exploration

RCS thruster Cog-E [more contributions ...]
Personal Reflections

Understanding the complexity and interactions between sub-systems [more personal reflections ...]