By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Academy graduate and Assistant Professor of Astronautics Capt. Luke Sauter has been selected as the Air Force nominee for the 60th annual Arthur S. Flemming Award for Applied Science, Engineering and Mathematics.
The prestigious award is sponsored by the George Washington University School of Public Administration in cooperation with the National Academy of Public Administration and honors outstanding federal employees making extraordinary contributions to the federal government.
“I was actually surprised,” said the member of the Academy Class of 2002. “It’s an honor the Academy put me in for the award.”
Colonel Martin France, head of the Department of Astronautics, praised him for his achievements.
“Luke deserves the award because he’s done exactly what the Air Force and the Academy expect of our best officers-he achieved great success managing a cutting-edge space program at the Air Force Research lab, then moved to the Academy where he was able to apply those engineering and management lessons to the classroom.”
As an astro instructor, Captain Sauter was lauded for his responsibilities as faculty lead for the capstone rocket design course and leading a team of eight faculty mentors and a multi-disciplinary team of 25 cadets through the systems engineering process for the design and testing of the Falcon LAUNCH VII rocket vehicle. The team is the first to make use of a Department of Defense Space Experiment Review Board ranked payload effort in conjunction with the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Last year the Academy team broke the world university record altitude of 30,000 feet by venturing to an altitude of 354,724 feet.
Captain Sauter is also teaching coordination of launch efforts with NASA, the Army, Navy and Air Force test organizations at White Sands Missile Range.
He has taught 149 cadets in seven sections of the Introduction to Astronautics, Astro 310, course.
While at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and as a lieutenant, Captain Sauter initiated the engineering concept of the space situational awareness technology demonstrator known as the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space, or ANGELS program. It is rated among the top five of all Space Command experiments.
In addition, he wrote the proposal and served as program manager of ANGELS 25-member, $55 million first-of-its-kind national security capability program.
During his time on the Hill, Cadet Sauter was the top astronautical engineering major for two years and served as chief engineer for the FalconSAT-2 Academy satellite.
He holds a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will attend England’s University of Surrey for a Ph.D. with an emphasis on development of small satellites and proximity operations.
Captain Sauter spoke easily of the Academy and astronautics.
“These are world-class opportunities and the best opportunity for research and development in the Air Force,” he said.
He stressed cadets also benefit greatly from acquiring skills in briefings, communications and leadership along with engineering experiences.
In only one school year, cadets can go from fulfilling mission requirements and systems engineering to launch.
“It’s cradle to grave,” he said. “And they only get one opportunity to get it right.”
The next rocket launch is set for April 2010.
Colonel France stressed Captain Sauter’s contributions have positively impacted cadets.
“They see what’s possible for them if they have the kind of enthusiasm Luke displays every day and work hard like he has,” he said.
Cadet 1st Class Dan Richardson said Astro 310 was a turning point for him.
“It showed me definitely what I wanted to do,” he said, citing Captain Sauter for making the class interesting and relevant.
“He is always willing to give input on how to make things better,” he said of the laboratory environment.
Cadet 1st Class Ryan Pitts also declared his astro major after Astro 310 with Captain Sauter.
“He made it easier for the core class and made it easier to do homework,” he said.
Cadet Pitts called Captain Sauter “very personable” and always willing to help cadets both in and out of the classroom.
Captain Sauter is married and father to three youngsters. He finds time to enjoy family activities, climbing Fourteeners and helping the less fortunate in Colorado Springs.
“I never want to win awards just to win awards,” he said. “It’s about doing a good job.”