By Nicole Capozziello
Published May 18, 2022
John Crassidis has made an impact in the aerospace field at every level: internationally, as a researcher and expert on space debris, in the Western New York community as a leader, and at UB, where he has been a dedicated teacher, mentor and colleague since 2001.
He was recently honored for his many outstanding contributions in the field with induction into the Niagara Frontier Aviation and Space Hall of Fame.
Since its inception in 1985, the Hall of Fame has served to “honor and enshrine those men and women, who in their own unique way, contributed significantly to the history and development of aviation and aerospace on the Niagara Frontier.”
“The Western New York area has a long and rich aerospace history that brought together the best engineers and pilots in the world. I am honored to be inducted with the many engineering pillars who brought about significant advancements to the field,” says Crassidis, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where he has taught since 2001.
“The university and community have been very fortunate to have John as a prolific researcher, international thought leader in his field, and an exemplary faculty member, especially as an educator and mentor,” says Francine Battaglia, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “The impactful contributions he has made are realized not just in his research but through his service commitments, including his vision to create the UB Nanosatellite Laboratory.”
Crassidis’s pioneering and sustained contributions to the field of aerospace engineering have made an impact in the areas of spacecraft orientation estimation, uninhabited aerial vehicle navigation, and general estimation theory through novel fusion of various sensor data.
As a world-renowned expert in space situational awareness, his groundbreaking research has improved the detection and tracking of space debris. This work has contributed to astronaut safety during space missions and provided new research directions for the U.S. Department of Defense, potentially providing even greater protection of our country’s assets in space. Throughout his career, Crassidis has continually held active grants to support his research, totaling $5-10 million annually.
In Western New York, Crassidis has been an active member of the AIAA Niagara Frontier Section since 1993 and has been serving as Vice Chair since 2009. He helped revive the local section, which had lost momentum and was inactive for almost a decade. His desire to bring about community connection led him to give a 2021 talk at the Aero Club of Buffalo, the oldest Aero Club in America.
“While he is an incredibly accomplished researcher and leader in the aerospace field, what stands out to me about John is his humble and self-deprecating nature,” says Walter Gordon, chairman of the Niagara Frontier Aviation and Space Hall of Fame. “He is willing to do whatever is necessary to help out, from personally emailing out meeting notices for the AIAA Niagara Frontier Section to flipping the slides at events.”
Crassidis is a dedicated and generous mentor at UB, where he has advised 22 PhD students and 25 masters students, and mentored 40 undergraduate projects. He is the founder and director of the UB Nanosatellite Laboratory (UBNL) which since 2011 has provided opportunities for hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students to work with the Air Force Research Lab and NASA to build small satellites from concept to launch. Crassidis is also the director of the Center for Multisource Information Fusion Center—the only dedicated fusion center in the U.S.—and the director of the Center for Space Cyber Strategy and Cyber Security.
His many recognitions at UB include the prestigious honor and title as SUNY Distinguished Professor (2019); Collegiate Science Technology Program (CSTEP) Research Mentor Award (2017); UB President Emeritus and Mrs. Meyerson Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring, (2017); the Richard T. Sarkin Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014); and the Tau Beta Pi New York Nu Chapter Professor of the Year (2012).
He has been elected Fellow of the American Astronautical Society (AAS), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Among his many international recognitions, he was recently given the AAS Dirk Brouwer Award for his advancements to space flight mechanics and astrodynamics.
Crassidis is a three-time UB alumnus; he received his BS in 1989, his MS in 1991, and his PhD in 1993 in mechanical engineering. He went on to work at Ford Motor Company and NASA Goddard and then began his academic career at Texas A&M before returning to UB in 2001.
Crassidis is one of five inductees for 2022. The annual induction ceremony and dinner, held in conjunction with the Niagara Aerospace Museum, Aero Club of Buffalo, and Niagara Frontier Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, took place on May 13, 2022.