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Universities Space Research Association Taps Dr. Harold W. Yorke to Lead the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy Science Mission Operations

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) announced today the appointment of Dr. Harold Yorke as Director of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Science Mission Operations effective October 15, 2016.

As Director, Science Mission Operations of SOFIA (a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with an infrared telescope), Dr. Yorke will assume the leadership and management of the Science Mission Operations of SOFIA. He will provide the technical and management guidance of the combined USRA and Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI) staff and research equipment to maximize the productivity of the observatory. Dr. Yorke will interface with NASA on a routine basis to ensure the continued success of SOFIA.

USRA President and CEO, Jeffrey Isaacson cited Harold Yorke's appointment as an example of technical leadership and management expertise that USRA brings to programs such as SOFIA. "We are delighted to have Hal join USRA to help NASA advance scientific knowledge and push the boundaries of exploration," said Dr. Isaacson. "His record of scientific accomplishment, leadership experience, and passion for discovery suit him ideally to steer the SOFIA science mission into the future."

According to Dr. Nicholas White, Senior Vice President, Science, "Hal Yorke's experience in science leadership and management makes him the perfect choice to lead the next phase of the SOFIA mission to pursue our Cosmic Origins."

Dr. Yorke comes to USRA from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he held numerous leadership positions including Manager of the Science Division and the NASA Project Scientist for the Herschel Space Observatory.

His areas of research include numerical radiation-hydrodynamics simulations of astrophysical plasmas, in particular as related to star and planet formation, the study of the atoms, molecules and dust between the stars in the Milky Way -- the interstellar medium (ISM); observations of the ISM and star forming regions at millimeter, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, and X-ray wavelengths; and design studies for space-based and suborbital far infrared and sub-millimeter observatories.

Among Dr. Yorke's professional activities, his service to USRA's SOFIA Science Council, his membership of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, and his role as Editor of Astronomy Notes are notable. He is a recipient of numerous awards including NASA's Exceptional Achievement Award and the Group Achievement Award.

He received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Univ. Göttingen, Germany, and his Bachelor of Science in Physics from UCLA.

Dr. Yorke succeeds Dr. Erick Young who is retiring from his position as Director of SOFIA Mission Operations. Recognizing his contributions to NASA and the science community, Dr. Jeffrey Isaacson stated, "Erick's valuable service to USRA has taken the SOFIA Mission Operations to a new level, and we are very grateful for his work that impacted both NASA and USRA."

About USRA

Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.