Purdue alumni contribute to winning Robert J. Collier Trophy team

Eight Purdue alumni were part of the U.S. Air Force-Boeing X-37B team that was selected to receive the 2019 Collier Trophy.
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The X-37B pioneered on-orbit, next-generation autonomous tech. (Photo: Boeing)

Eight Purdue alumni contributed to the U.S Air Force-Boeing X-37B team that won the Robert J. Collier Trophy in August.

The team, named the 2019 recipient by The National Aeronautic Association, won for “… developing and employing the world’s only reusable, autonomous spaceplane, which logged more than 2,865 days in orbit across five missions, changing access to space and serving as the nation’s workhorse in space experimentation and technology.”

The X-37B pioneered on-orbit, next-generation autonomous tech and research for the U.S. Air Force during record-setting United States Space Force endurance missions.

Two members of the Boeing team received graduate degrees from Purdue and six earned bachelor’s at Purdue.

The Collier Trophy is awarded annually for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year. The recipients represent a timeline of air and space achievements, marking major events in the history of flight dating back to 1911.

“We are honored to receive the Collier Trophy, along with our partners at the U.S. Department of the Air Force, in recognition of a record-breaking year for the X-37B program,” Boeing Defense, Space & Security CEO Leanne Caret said in a press release. “The extraordinary men and women who make up our government-industry team now take their place alongside the Collier Trophy legends who preceded them. They have made a lasting impact on aerospace development for the past decade and will influence future generations of space systems to come.”

The Collier Trophy Selection Committee was comprised of 35 aviation and aerospace professionals. The committee reviewed presentations from nine nominees and selected the X-37B team as the recipient on August 11, 2020. No date was set for the trophy to formally be presented.