(Invited) H. Russell Kunz: A Perspective on His Early Career

Monday, 29 May 2017: 08:05
Grand Salon B - Section 9 (Hilton New Orleans Riverside)
R. Kunz (Self)
Fuel cell research at the Power Systems Group at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft rapidly expanded in 1962 when NASA awarded a contract to produce the fuel cells for the Apollo space program. At the time, Russ Kunz had already been at Pratt & Whitney for nine years, having been hired in 1953 straight out of college. Upon joining Pratt & Whitney, Russ was assigned to a team that had before his arrival been working to develop an advanced axial-flow turbojet engine, an activity with national security implications. This engine was to be used in two aircraft of strategic importance, an eight-engine long-range bomber and the world's first supersonic interceptor. The engine received the Air Force designation J57 and became the power plant used in both the B-52 Stratofortress bomber and the F-100 Super Sabre fighter, the latter of which became the first jet-powered aircraft able to sustain supersonic speed at low altitude and which set performance records that held for 10+ years. During his first nine years at Pratt & Whitney, Russ made significant contributions to the J57 that enabled subsequent versions to increasingly provide greater performance.

Russ' involvement with the jet engine program ended when, in 1964, Pratt & Whitney moved its Power Systems Group from East Hartford, CT twelve miles north to a smaller facility in South Windsor, CT and Russ moved with it. It was at this facility where the fuel cells for every Apollo mission from 1966 to 1972 were produced. Work there continued with the transition to the Space Shuttle program from 1981 to 2011. During this period, Russ played a leading technical role.

Although the fuel cell community may now remember Russ' for his more recent contributions, it was his earlier work on high-performance jet engines and power systems for the space program that embodied the technical challenges of a time when the future of aerospace technology was still being defined. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the contributions Russ made in his early career, within the context of the times, and the influence this work had on his family.