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David Komar

Title: Aerospace Vehicle Design and Mission Analysis Lead

Technical Focus Area: System Sizing and Performance Closure

Missions/Projects: Human Landing Systems

Mr. David R. (D.R.) Komar is a member of the Vehicle Analysis Branch (VAB) at NASA Langley Research Center, with responsibility for conducting in-house and NASA inter-center systems analysis, vehicle concept assessment, and advanced technology assessment for human and robotic exploration missions and architectures. D.R. has experience developing and assessing a range of concepts including spacecraft, launch vehicles, entry vehicles, landers, and crew habitation systems.

D.R. currently is providing technical insight for the Human Landing System program in support to NASA’s Exploration System Development Mission Directorate, performing architecture design and system’s analysis of both SpaceX and Blue Origin lunar mission architectures and associated vehicle systems.

D.R. is the lead developer of the Hercules Transportation System and the Hercules Single-Stage Reusable Vehicle concept, designed to support future lunar and Mars campaigns aimed at establishing a permanent and self-sustaining human presence beyond Earth orbit.

To support VAB, Langley, and NASA’s need for space architecture concept definition and assessment, D.R. developed the Exploration Architecture Model for In-Space & Earth-to-Orbit (EXAMINE) framework that enables rapid and consistent design and assessment for a broad range of designs and exploration architecture trade spaces. This effort, initiated in 2006, employs a unique set of capabilities that enable architecture, mission, and vehicle level trade alternatives and inputs to be rapidly and consistently modeled in support of customer needs.

Finally, D.R. has served as mentor for 30+ students (high school through post-graduate level) through NASA’s various internship programs.


  • Bachelor of Science in Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1990
  • Master of Science in Engineering Management from the University of Central Florida in 1996

    Professional Experience

    • Aerospace Vehicle Design and Mission Analysis Lead, Vehicle Analysis Branch, NASA Langley Research Center, June 2004 to Present
    • Hypersonic Vehicle System Concepts Lead, Advanced Concepts Office, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, June 2000 to June 2004
    • Engine System Performance Analyst, Engine Systems Branch, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, August 1996 to June 2000
    • Propulsion System Operations Analyst, Engine Systems Branch, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, June 1995 to August 1996
    • Orbiter Main Propulsion System Engineer, MPS/SSME Systems Branch, NASA Kennedy Space Center, January 1993 to June 1995
    • Orbiter & SRB APU & Hydraulic Systems Engineer, APU/Hydraulics Systems Branch, NASA Kennedy Space Center, January 1991 to January 1993


    • Choi, S., Moses, R., Park, C., Fay, C., and Komar, D.R., “Implementation Concept of Operations for a Multi-Purpose Cassegrain Solar Concentrator, Micro-Spectrometers, and Electrostatic Neutralizers to Enable In-Situ Construction Activities plus Lunar, Planetary, and Deep Space Exploration on the Moon,” NASA-TM-20205009040, October 2020.
    • Samareh, J., et. al., “Parametric Trade Study of Mid Lift/Drag Entry System for Human Mars Mission,” AIAA-2020-1512, AIAA SciTech Forum, Published Online, January 2020. 
    • Jones, C., et. al., “Cost Breakeven Analysis of Cis-Lunar ISRU for Propellant,” AIAA-2019-1372, AIAA SciTech Forum, San Diego, CA, January 2019.
    • Moses, R., et. al., “Maintaining Human Health for Humans Mars Missions,” AIAA-2018-5356, AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, Orlando, FL, September 2018.
    • Jones, C., et. al., “Autonomous Surface Site Establishment to Ensure Safe Crew Arrival and Operations,” AIAA-2018-5356, AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, Orlando, FL, September 2018.
    • Komar, D.R., Tartabini, P., and Clark, J., “Lunar and Mars Ascent and Descent/Entry Crew Abort Modes for the Hercules Single-Stage Reusable Vehicle,” NASA-TM-2018-219839, June 2018.
    • Samareh, J., Komar, D.R., Lang, C., Langston, S., Tartabini, P., Dillman, R., and Dwyer-Cianciolo, A., “Systems Analysis and Tradespace Exploration of Hypersonic Inflatable Entry Systems for Human Mars Missions,” NASA–TM–2017–219678, October 2017.
    • Komar, D.R., and Moses, R., “Hercules Single-Stage Reusable Vehicle supporting a Safe, Affordable, and Sustainable Human Lunar and Mars Campaign,” AIAA-2017-5288, AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, Orlando, FL, 2017.
    • Qu, M., Merrill, R., Chai, P., and Komar, D.R., “Optimizing Parking Orbits for Roundtrip Mars Missions,” AAS-2017-847, 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Grapevine, TX, January 2017.
    • Merrill, R., Komar, D.R., Chai, P., and Qu, M., “Optimizing Mars Sphere of Influence Maneuvers for NASA’s Evolvable Mars Campaign,” AIAA-2016-5210, AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, Long Beach, CA, September 2016.
    • Jefferies, S., McCleskey, C., Nufer, B., Lepsch, R., Merrill, R., North, D., Martin, J., and Komar, D.R., “Viability of Reusable In-Space Transportation System,” AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, AIAA-2015-4580, Pasadena, CA, September 2015.
    • Corpaccioli, Luca, Linskens, Harry and Komar, D.R., “Design of the VISITOR Tool: A Versatile ImpulSive Interplanetary Trajectory OptimizeR,” NASA – Langley Research Center, June 2014.
    • Mattfeld, B., Stromgren, C., Shyface, H., Komar, D.R., Cirillo, W., and Goodliff, K., “Trades Between Opposition and Conjunction Class Trajectories for Early Human Missions to Mars,” AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, AIAA-2014-4333, San Diego, CA, August 2014.
    • Bose, D., Komar, D.R., Samareh, J., and Winski, R., “Mission Applications of a HIAD for the Mars Southern Highlands,” IEEE Aerospace Conference Paper #2196, March 2013.
    • Bose, D.M., Winski, R., Shidner, J., Zumwalt, C., Johnston, C.O., Komar, D.R., Cheatwood, F.M., and Highes, S.J., “The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) Mission Applications Study,” AIAA Aerodynamic Decelerator System (ADS) Conference, AIAA-2013-1389, Daytona Beach, FL, March 2013.
    • Corliss, J., Kirsch, M.T., Komar, D.R., Powell, R.W., and Shidner, J.D., “Support to Inspiration Mars Design Study for Lightweight Earth Reentry Pod,” NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) Technical Assessment Report 13-00886, September 2013.
    • Merrill, R.G., Komar, D.R., Qu, M., Chrone, J., Strange, N., and Landau, D., “An Initial Comparison of Selected Earth Departure Options for Solar Electric Propulsion Missions,” IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, Montana, 3-10 March 2012.
    • Dwyer-Cianciolo, A.M., et al., “Entry, Descent and Landing Systems Analysis Study: Phase 2 Report on Exploration Feed-Forward Systems,” NASA–TM–2011–217055, February 2011.
    • Samareh, J. and Komar, D.R., “Parametric Mass Modeling for Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Systems Analysis Study,” AIAA Aerosciences Meeting, AIAA-2011-1038, Orlando, FL, January 2011.
    • Dwyer-Cianciolo, A.M., et al., “Entry, Descent and Landing Systems Analysis Study: Phase 1 Report,” NASA–TM–2010–216720, July 2010.
    • Hickman, J.W., Wilhite, A., Stanley, D., and Komar, D.R., “Optimization of the Mars Ascent Vehicle for Human Space Exploration,” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 361-370, March-April 2010.
    • Wilson, M.N., Wilhite, A., and Komar, D.R., “Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Rocket Propulsion Systems for Human Exploration of Mars,” AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, AIAA-2009-5311, Denver, CO, August 2009.
    • Komar, D.R., Hoffman, Jim, Olds, Aaron and Seal, Mike, “Framework for the Parametric System Modeling of Space Exploration Architectures,” AIAA Space Conference and Exposition, AIAA-2008-7845, San Diego, CA, September 2008.
    • Bilardo, V.J., Robinson, J.S., Komar, D.R., Taylor, W.J., Lovell, N.T., Maggio, G., and Wilhite, A.W., “NGLT Systems Analysis Tiger Team Results: Implications for Space Launch Architectures and Technologies,” AIAA 2003 Joint Propulsion Conference and Exposition, AIAA-2003-5263, Huntsville, AL, July 2003.
    • Blocker, W.D., Komar, D.R., Bradley, M.K., and McCormick, D.J., “NGLT Systems Assessment of the Boeing FASST TSTO Air-Breathing Vehicle Concept,” AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference and Exposition, AIAA-2003-5267, Huntsville, AL, July 2003.
    • Auslender, A.H., Bradford, J.E., Carreiro, L.R., Gettinger, C., Komar, D.R., and Waltrup, P.J., “Comparison of Engine Cycle Codes for Rocket-Based Combined-Cycle Engines,” JANNAF Joint Meetings, Monterey, CA, November 2000.
    • Chue, R.S., Sabean, J., Tyll, J., Bakos, R.J., and Komar, D.R., “THRSTER: A Three-Stream Ejector Ramjet Analysis and Design Tool,” JANNAF Joint Meetings, Monterey, CA, November 2000.
    • Komar, D.R., and McDonald, J., “Verification and Validation of MERPAC: A Design and Analysis Tool for Combined-Cycle Airbreathing Propulsion Systems,” JANNAF Joint Meetings, Monterey, CA, November 2000.
    • Olds, J.R., Ledsinger, L., Bradford, J.E., Charania, A.C., McCormick, D., and Komar, D.R., “Stargazer: A TSTO Bantam-X Vehicle Concept Utilizing Rocket-Based Combined-Cycle Propulsion,” AIAA Paper 1999-4888 presented at the 9thInternational Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Conference, Norfolk, VA, 1999.
    • Komar, D.R., and McDonald, J., “DRACO Flowpath Performance and Environments,” Eleventh Annual PERC Symposium, Penn State University, November 18-19, 1999. 
    • Christenson, R.L. and Komar, D.R., “Reusable Rocket Engine Operability Modeling and Analysis,” NASA TP-1998-208530, July 1998.
    • Komar, D.R.., and Christenson, R.L., “Reusable Launch Vehicle Engine Systems Operations Analysis,” AIAA 1996 Space Programs and Technologies Conference, AIAA-1996-4246, Huntsville, AL, September 1996.


    • Group Achievement Award – June 2017, NASA-HQ, for outstanding contributions to NASA’s Evolveable Mars Campaign (EMC) approach to create innovative architectures that enable ustained human presence on Mars.
    • Group Achievement Award – June 2016, NASA-HQ, for outstanding leadership and innovation advancing the commercial development of space for NASA and public benefit.
    • NASA@WORK Recognition of Excellence – September 2015, NASA-Langley, for outstanding contributions to the NASA@work Challenge “Mars Pioneering Challenge”, and extending congratulations as a challenge winner.
    • Superior Accomplishment Award – September 2012, NASA-HQ, for outstanding contributions to the Human Exploration Framwework Team making a difference in advancing human spaceflight.
    • Center Director’s Commendation – September 2011, in recognition of my dedication, commitment to excellence, and achievements in support of the Space Shuttle Program.
    • Group Superior Accomplishment Award – August 2011, for outstanding contributions to the NASA-USAF Joint System Study.
    • Group Achievement Award – June 2011, NASA-HQ, for outstanding leadership and technical accomplishments in using systems analysis to determine NASA’s Entry, Descent and Landing requirements for planetary explorations.
    • Constellation Program Team Award – January 2011, NASA-JSC, for my integral role in the development and documentation of the global point of departure lunar architecture.
    • Superior Accomplishment and Recognition – September 2010, NASA-HQ, for brilliant contributions, sustained dedication, and visionary planning in support of Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT).
    • Superior Accomplishment Award – September 2010, for outstanding contributions to Exploration Systems Mission Directorate strategic and program planning.
    • Center Team Award – May 2010, NASA-Langley, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the preparedness of Langley Research Center to contribute significantly to NASA’s new Mission & Innovation Opportunities.
    • Official Letter of Appreciation from NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas – January 2010, for exemplary efforts in support of the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLLV) Study.
    • Group Achievement Award – September 2009, NASA-HQ, for outstanding contributions in support of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, informing the U.S. President of options for the future of human spaceflight.
    • Center Team Award – June 2009, NASA-Langley, for outstanding scientific and engineering leadership and support of the NASA Mars Architecture Working Group and the development of the Mars Design Reference Architecture.
    • Group Achievement Award – May 2008, NASA-HQ, for exceptional performance in developing the point-of-departure lunar architecture and developing innovative concepts as an integrated team.
    • Center Team Award – March 2008, NASA-Langley, for providing kjey support to the agency-wide Lunar Architecture Team that established a philosophy and approach for lunar surface exploration as part of the Vision for Space Exploration.
    • Director’s Performance Award – September 2007, NASA-Langley, for outstanding performance in developing the capability, analyzing and evaluating lunar architectures.
    • Group Achievement Award – May 2007, NASA-HQ, for exemplary efforts in the creation of an innovative, detailed, in-house design of the Crew Exploration Vehicle.
    • Exceptional Achievement Award – May 2007, NASA-HQ, for exceptional achievement in the development and application of novel analysis techniques for evaluating space system architectures and campaigns.
    • Group Achievement Award – May 2006, NASA-HQ, for significant contribution to the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, that charted NASA’s first steps back to the Moon and on to Mars.
    • Turning Goals Into Reality Award – August 2004, NASA-HQ, for outstanding contributions to the NGLT Systems Analysis Project Team and exceptional progress toward mission risk analysis.
    • Director’s Commendation – July 2004, NASA-MSFC, exceptional leadership of the systems analysis project activities for hypersonic vehicle concept development and assessment.
    • Special Service Award – April 2003, NASA-MSFC, for outstanding performance in leading the hypersonic vehicle concept studies for the NGLT Systems Analysis Project.
    • Special Service Award – July 2001, NASA-MSFC, for superior leadership and dedication in support of the 3rd Generation Inter-center Systems Analysis Team and MSFC in-house concept development efforts.