National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Dr. Isaiah M. Blankson



Dr. Isaiah M. BlanksonDr. Isaiah M. Blankson is a Senior Scientist/Technologist (ST) in the Research and Technology Directorate at NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio.He has held this position since 1997, and serves primarily as a Hypersonics Specialist: Air-breathing Hypersonic Technologies.As an ST, he initiates and conducts research related to aeronautical and space propulsion systems, identifies research opportunities and defines research objectives, assists/advises in developing program goals, and provides leadership and teaching to staff in specialty areas.

He provides advice and guidance to NASA Glenn Administration, Center program managers, and other Government Agencies in his areas of expertise. Specialty areas include air-breathing hypersonic aerodynamics and propulsion, plasmas and electromagnetic interactions in gas dynamics, magnetic levitation systems, and advanced millimeter-wave imaging technologies for aviation safety and homeland security.

Recently, as part of NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program, Dr. Blankson has formulated and instituted a research program in plasma and MHD interactions in Aerodynamics and Propulsion. He has assembled a team of six scientists and engineers to study topics in localized plasma flow control, plasma ignition and flame-holding, and alleviation of performance degradation in nozzles in the transonic regime.The team is also studying airframe/propulsion technology integration for hypersonic waveriders.

Dr. Isaiah M. Blankson

Dr. Blankson as featured on the cover of “Science Spectrum Magazine,” September/October 2005, CCG Inc. Publication, “Scientist of the Year,” 2005 Emerald Honors. Background photo: NASA Glenn Research Center’s “MHD Energy-Bypass Engine Concept.”

Dr. Blankson previously served as the NASA Program Manager, NASA’s Generic Hypersonics Program, NASA Office of Aeronautics (Code R), Headquarters, Washington DC(1988 -1996). The NASA-wide Generic Hypersonic research program, a $28 million per year program, was a fundamental program that addressed R&D primarily associated with air-breathing hypersonic vehicles that use highly-integrated airframe/propulsion systems.

As overall Program manager he was responsible for the planning, direction, review, and resource allocation. He also served as an Assistant Director, National Aerospace Plane Office (Code RN). In 1991, he was appointed Deputy Director of Hypersonics Research Division (Code R), NASA Headquarters. He is credited with laying the foundation for the SWERVE-PEGASUS program which eventually became the X-43.

Collaborating with military researchers (U.S. NAVY), he investigated the design of waverider cruise missiles and aircraft concepts that can travel at between four and eight times the speed of sound. He also came up with an innovative strategy to develop smart, long-range hypersonic cruise missiles powered by air-breathing, hydrocarbon-fueled engines. The U.S. NAVY’s RATTLRS program is one outgrowth of these efforts.

Dr. Blankson came to NASA from the General Electric (GE) Corporate Research Center in New York, where he probed the mysteries of hypervelocity plasma-armature projectile launchers, develop a gas-dynamic design for high-power circuit breakers, and parsed the gas-dynamics of high-temperature powder coating operations for halogen lamps.


Dr. Blankson earned all his degrees from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He received the Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1969, and the Master of Science Degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1970. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, also in Aeronautics and Astronautics, was awarded in 1973 for a thesis dealing with the interference-free wake of a magnetically suspended cone in hypersonic flow (Mach 6.3). At MIT, he was the recipient of the Luis de Florez Award for excellence in engineering.

Current Research

Dr. Blankson’s current research is in the area of hypersonic aerodynamics and propulsion including waveriders, unmanned autonomous high speed air vehicles, weakly ionized plasma phenomena with application to drag reduction and sonic boom alleviation, and passive millimeter wave imaging applied to aviation safety problems. Specifically, Dr. Blankson is actively pursuing studies in the following areas:

MHD Energy Bypass Engine Concepts (Mach 0-7) based on conventional and exoskeletal gas turbine engines. Applications are to global-range cruise vehicles, two-Stage Space Access vehicles, and energy-on-demand hypersonic systems.

Weakly-Ionized Plasma (WIG) phenomena – aerodynamic and propulsion applications of WIG. (Electromagnetic Field interactions in hypersonic flows). Applications are to supersonic and hypersonic flow control, wave drag reduction, and sonic boom alleviation.

Airbreathing Hypersonic Cruise: WAVERIDER AIRCRAFT and CRUISE MISSILES. Airframe-integrated Mach 4-7 Hydrocarbon – fueled waverider aircraft/missiles, advanced waverider design concepts (inverse design methods). The emphasis is on unmanned autonomous high speed air vehicles: especially supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles and UCAVS concepts using turbo ramjets.

Application of Magnetic Levitation Technologies to Propulsion, e.g. Magnetically Levitated Composite Fan as an emission-free component of an all-electric engine.

Passive Millimeter Wave Imaging: Application to aviation safety problems: Development of 35GHz and 95GHz passive cameras with the ability to see through fog, and detect concealed weapons. Application to navigational aids for aircraft landing and takeoff, and the imaging of launch vehicles through their exhaust are other areas of pursuit.

Technical Memberships/Professional Affiliations

  • Dr. Blankson is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and has served since 1998 as the U.S. National Delegate to the NATO Research and Technology Organization’s Working Group (RTO, WG-010) on Hypersonic Vehicle Technology.
  • He is a Member of the Fluid Dynamics Panel, The National Academies Review Panel for AFOSR in Hypersonics and Unsteady Flows.
  • He previously served as Chairman, External Advisory Council for Department of Aerospace Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA (1990-1993).
  • He is a member of the AIAA Fluid Dynamics Technical Committee (TC) (2000 – present).
  • Dr. Blankson is a member of the Research Advisory Board at the Glenn Research Center.
  • He is the NASA Technical Monitor of a NASA-funded research program in fluid dynamics and propulsion at Hampton University.


Dr. Blankson is the holder of two U.S. patents, one on the Magneto hydrodynamic Power Extraction and Flow Conditioning in a Gas Turbine (2004, U.S. Patent 6,696,774 B1), and the other on an Exoskeletal Gas Turbine Engine. (2002, U.S. Patent 6,393,831 B1).

Honors and Awards

  • Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Senior Executive (October 2006)
  • The Black Scientist of the Year Award (National): Career Communications Group, Baltimore, MD (2006).
  • Science Trailblazer Award (National), Emerald Honors: Career Communications Group, Baltimore, MD (2006).
  • Black Engineer of the Year Award (National), Achievement in Government: Career Communications Group, Baltimore, MD (2005).
  • Martin Luther King Recognition Award (2004)
  • NASA Medal for Exceptional Service for outstanding contributions to the development of technologies for high-speed flight. (2002)
  • Technical Achievement Award, NASA Glenn Research Center (1999)
  • NASA Exceptional Performance Award (1990)
  • Luis de Florez Award for excellence in engineering, School of Engineering, MIT (1969)

Dr. Blankson is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert on hypersonic air-breathing waverider research; he has authored, and co-authored, many technical papers in this and related fields. He interacts with/advises national/international technical working groups and both standing and ad-hoc technical committees. A joint hypersonics research program with Moscow State University and Hampton University under CRDF Grant (U.S. State Department) is continuing, with several results published.

Dr. Blankson has used this association to acquire a working knowledge of the Russian language, an endeavor that has proved immensely useful. Dr. Blankson is also collaborating with an international team on passive millimeter-wave radiometry. This work has resulted in the successful design, construction, and demonstration of a prototype unit. Dr. Blankson provides well-reasoned technical advice, and represents NASA and Glenn in a professional manner consistent with NASA strategic objectives and policies.

Dr. Blankson also works to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers, not only by personally spreading the wealth of his knowledge, but also by building educational programs. He helped establish research programs and curricula at Hampton and Johnson C. Smith Universities. Under the NASA Universities Center of Excellence Program in Hypersonics, he has been a technical monitor/management coordinator for the University of Maryland, University of Texas at Arlington, Syracuse University, and North Carolina A&T State.

He has also chaired the advisory visiting committee for Penn State University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and at the North Carolina A&T NASA Center for Research Excellence. In 2005, he was invited by the University of Science and Technology (Ghana) to participate in establishing a Department of Aeronautics at the school.