David Oberhettinger is the founder of Deep Space Engineering Technology, a firm that consults in the engineering of spaceflight systems destined for operation in deep space.
In 2020 he was appointed by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Permanent Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Following retirement from the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California (in 2020), he remains JPL’s Chief Knowledge Officer Emeritus.
Beyond serving as JPL’s first Chief Knowledge Officer, additional responsibilities within the JPL Office of the Chief Engineer included assuring engineering excellence in the design, test, and operation of robotic interplanetary spacecraft and planetary probes. This has included managing the JPL Engineering Standards Office and the JPL Spaceflight Engineering Research Program, chairing the JPL Lessons Learned Committee, and serving as a member of the JPL Engineering Board.
His primary technical expertise is in spacecraft design, spaceflight risk management, and failure modes for deep space systems. He studied space environmental physics under Dr. Henry Garrett.
Prior to work at JPL, as manager of Northrop Grumman’s Spacecraft Engineering Technology Department, he oversaw all Northrop Grumman work related to the design or test of spacecraft systems. (This work now generates $36 billion in (2022) sales for Northrop.) Before that, he served as a public interest lobbyist in Washington, D.C. A past General Chair, he was appointed by the president of AIAA to the Board of Directors of the 66th annual Reliability & Maintainability Symposium.
Lt Col Oberhettinger, USAF Auxiliary, also serves as pilot or aircrew on USAF-assigned benevolent missions. In his spare time, he flies a Cardinal (tail number N13HK) to captivating places like Santa Barbara or Santa Ynez. He is a frequent speaker on the international conference circuit, having delivered keynote speeches in Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, and Africa– plus a TED-type Talk.