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Brandon Litherland

Title: AST, Aerospace Vehicle Design & Mission Analysis 

Technical Focus Areas: Aircraft and Propulsion System Model Development, Aerodynamic Solvers, Tool Integration, Education and Training

Missions/Projects: FDC X-57 Maxwell, RVLT Conceptual Design, TTT Multi-disciplinary Analysis and Optimization

Study Topics/Expertise: OpenVSP, VSPAERO, OVERFLOW & Chimera Grid Tools (CGT), Advanced Concept Aircraft, Systems Analysis, Multidisciplinary Optimization, Tool Interaction, Propeller/Rotor Modeling and Analysis, Computational Fluid Dynamics, CAD Modeling, Aero-propulsive Integration, 3D Printing/Prototyping, Wind Tunnel Testing, Communication/Outreach

Brandon Litherland grew up farming and operating heavy machinery and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy submarine fleet, serving as a nuclear power operator until 2011. 

He began his NASA career as a Pathways student in the Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch (ASAB) at Langley Research Center in 2014 while pursuing his undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He converted to Civil Service after graduating in 2016 and continued working on projects including NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, the FUELEAP CAS Activity, and developing conformal, folding propellers. He earned his master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2021 with the support of the Langley Research Center Advanced Degree Program.

His awards include being named the 2018 NASA ASAB Innovator of the Year and the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal.  

His current work includes the design and testing of the X-57 Maxwell high-lift propulsion system, creating an online training library for the open-source parametric geometry modeling program, Open Vehicle Sketch Pad, and developing advanced aircraft concept models for the Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technologies Project.


  • NASA ARMD Associate Administrator Pushing the Envelope Award, X-57 Maxwell, 2024
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, RVLT Toolchain Workshop, 2023
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, X-57 Maxwell, 2023
  • NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (EEAM), 2019
  • NASA ASAB 2017 Innovator of the Year, 2018
  • Distinguished Performance Rating, 2017-Present
  • GA Tech Presidential Fellowship, 2016 – 2018
  • Hayward Tau Beta Pi Scholarship, 2013, 2015
  • Tau Beta Pi Record Scholar, 2015
  • Illinois Space Grant Consortium Scholarship, 2014-2015
  • Robert M. Stephens Engineering Scholarship, 2015
  • Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Initiate Award, 2013
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Dean’s List, 2012-2016
  • Naval Commendation for Exemplary Performance, 2009
  • Graduated with Distinction from U.S. Naval NPTU, 2009
  • Wabash Valley College Dean’s List, 2003-2005

Education/Professional Experience

  • Aerospace Engineer (Aerospace Vehicle Design & Mission Analysis), NASA Langley Research Center – SACD/Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch, 2016 – Present
    • Projects/Activities: X-57 Maxwell, FUELEAP, RVLT conceptual design, TTT OpenVSP training development, high-lift propeller wind tunnel tests, communication and outreach
  • M.S., Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021
  • NASA Pathways Student Employee, NASA Langley Research Center – SACD/Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch, 2014 – 2016
    • Projects/Activities: LEAPTech, SCEPTOR, FUELEAP, LEAPS
  • B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Minor: Astronomy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2016
  • Nuclear Power Operator, Department of the Navy: Naval Submarine Support Command, 2007 – 2011
  • Technical Certificate, U.S. Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, 2009
  • A.S., Radio and Television Broadcasting, Wabash Valley College, 2005


  • Vivek Ahuja, Brandon L. Litherland, “Comparison of Aerodynamic Analysis Tools Applied to a Propeller-Blown Wing, “ AIAA SciTech Forum 2023
  • Xiaofan Fei, Brandon L. Litherland, and Brian J. German, “Development of an Unsteady Vortex Lattice Method to Model Propellers at Incidence,” AIAA Journal 2022 60:1, pp. 176-188
  • Brandon L. Litherland, Nicholas K. Borer, and Nikolas S. Zawodny. “X-57 “Maxwell” High-Lift Propeller Testing and Model Development”, AIAA Aviation Forum 2021, (AIAA 2021-3193)
  • Brandon L. Litherland, Nicholas K. Borer, and Steven Geuther. “A Study on the Use of Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells for Increased Power Generation on Small Aircraft”, AIAA Aviation Forum 2019, (AIAA 2019-3654)
  • Brandon L. Litherland and Joseph M. Derlaga. “A Performance Analysis of Folding Conformal Propeller Blade Designs”, AIAA Aviation Forum 2019, (AIAA 2019-3676)
  • Nicholas K. Borer, Steven C. Geuther, Brandon L. Litherland, and Lee W. Kohlman. “Design and Performance of a Hybrid-Electric Fuel Cell Flight Demonstration Concept”, AIAA Aviation Forum 2018, (AIAA 2018-3357)
  • Brandon L. Litherland, Michael D. Patterson, Joseph M. Derlaga, and Nicholas K. Borer. “A Method for Designing Conforming Folding Propellers”, AIAA Aviation Forum 2017, (AIAA 2017-3781)
  • Nicholas K. Borer, Joseph M. Derlaga, Karen A. Deere, Melissa B. Carter, Sally Viken, Michael D. Patterson, Brandon Litherland, and Alex Stoll. “Comparison of Aero-Propulsive Performance Predictions for Distributed Propulsion Configurations”, 55th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, AIAA SciTech Forum 2017, (AIAA 2017-0209)
  • Nicholas K. Borer, Craig L. Nickol, Frank Jones, Richard Yasky, Kurt Woodham, Jared Fell, Brandon Litherland, Patricia Loyselle, Andrew Provenza, Lee Kohlman, and Aamod Samuel. “Overcoming the Adoption Barrier to Electric Flight”, 54th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, AIAA SciTech Forum 2016, (AIAA 2016-1022)

Related Websites
Open Vehicle Sketch Pad Ground School Program

NASA Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate

NASA X-57 Maxwell Technical Papers

Brandon is an avid woodworker, enjoys working with his hands, and has completed multiple home renovation projects.  Other hobbies include astrophotography, astronomy, video gaming, and weightlifting.  He also enjoys reading fantasy novels, watching movies, improving his cooking and barbequing techniques, and going on long drives.  However, his favorite moments are spent with his wife and two children, regardless of the activity.