General Kevin P. Chilton, USAF (Ret.)

General Kevin P. Chilton.
General Kevin P. Chilton

Press releases about the event are posted on the Press page, and photos on the Photo Gallery. Banquet and speaker information are on the Agenda page.

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1954, Kevin P. Chilton graduated from St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey, California in 1972. He earned his BS in engineering sciences from the USAF Academy in 1976 and received his Air Force commission. He completed a master's degree in mechanical engineering on a Guggenheim Fellowship at Columbia University of New York, NY in 1977.

In 1978, after receiving his wings at Williams Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, he qualified in the RF-4 Phantom II and was assigned to the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. From 1978 until 1980, he served as a combat-ready pilot and instructor pilot in the RF-4 in Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. In 1981, he converted to the F-15 Eagle and was assigned to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena as a squadron pilot.

In 1982, Chilton attended the USAF Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and finished as the number one graduate for the year, receiving the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award.

Subsequently assigned to the 9th and 7th Tactical Fighter Squadrons at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, Chilton served as an F-15 squadron weapons officer, instructor pilot, and flight commander until 1984, when he was selected for the USAF Test Pilot School. Graduating number one in his class in 1984, Chilton was assigned to Eglin AFB, Florida, where he conducted weapons and systems tests in all models of the F-15 and F-4. While a member of the 3247th Test Squadron, Chilton served as squadron safety officer, as chief of test and evaluation, and as squadron operations officer.

NASA Career
Selected by NASA in June 1987, Chilton is a veteran of three space flights and has logged more than 704 hours in space. He first served as pilot on STS-49 where his crew performed a record four space walks to retrieve, repair and deploy the International Telecommunications Satellite and to demonstrate and evaluate numerous EVA tasks to be used for the future assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

Chilton's second space flight was STS-59, the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) mission, in April 1994. SRL consisted of three large radars and a carbon monoxide sensor that were used to enhance studies of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. Real-time crew observations of surface phenomena and climatic conditions augmented with over 14,000 photographs aided investigators in interpretation and calibration of the SRL data.

He commanded STS-76 which launched on March 22, 1996. It was the third docking mission to the Russian Space Station Mir which accomplished the transfer of NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid to the Russian space station, starting two years of continuous U.S. presence in space. The crew also transferred 4,800 pounds of science and mission hardware, food, and water to Mir and returned over 1,100 pounds of U.S. and European Space Agency science and Russian hardware. The first spacewalk from the Shuttle while docked to Mir also was conducted during the flight.

In addition to his flight responsibilities, Chilton held a variety of technical assignments while at NASA. He served in the Mission Development Branch of the Astronaut Office in support of the Infrared Background Signature Survey satellite, and the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle programs. He was the Astronaut Office T-38 safety officer; was leader of the Astronaut Support Personnel team at the Kennedy Space Center; and was the lead spacecraft communicator for several shuttle flights.

Following his last shuttle flight, Chilton served as Deputy Program Manager for the ISS Program. In this role, Chilton was critical to moving the ISS program from the development phase to the operational phase. His substantial credibility with both the Astronaut Office and the Mission Operations Directorate at the Johnson Space Center was essential to the development of ISS flight operations processes and to the resolution of a wide variety of issues relating to the ISS operations concepts. His professional demeanor and personal rapport made Chilton a highly respected colleague among his Russian ISS counterparts and helped with the development of partnering agreements which were the basis for future international partner participation.

Air Force Space Command and US Strategic Command Leadership
After leaving NASA in 1998, Chilton served on the Air Force Space Command Staff, the Air Staff, the Joint Staff, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 8th Air Force and the Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike. He was promoted to four-star general on June 26, 2006, the first former astronaut to reach this rank.

As Commander, Air Force Space Command from July 2006 to October 2007, Chilton oversaw a global network of satellite command and control, communications, missile warning and launch facilities. He instituted a "back to basics" approach at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) which resulted in fifty-one consecutive successful national security space launches, an unprecedented accomplishment. In addition, Chilton developed an integrated command philosophy for inspection and oversight of space systems research and development and test and evaluation units, effectively rating the progress of acquisition guidance implementation and program leadership and support at the Space Innovation and Development Center, and SMC.

Chilton's leadership ensured the Eastern and Western Ranges successfully supported 26 launch operations, including the Space Shuttle, spacelift, missile defense and ballistic missile testing. Also, during his command, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program achieved full operational capability, meeting the operational need for a robust, cost-effective spacelift capability to launch satellites by using standard payload interfaces, launch pads and infrastructure.

Chilton significantly improved implementation of the command's number one mission priority to evolve from space surveillance to true space situational awareness (SSA). He developed future links for SSA and refined tactics, techniques and procedures to standardize and improve analysis of space threats. And in January 2007, Chilton watched over the unprecedented operational and intelligence integration to track and assess the Chinese anti-satellite test, the largest space breakup event in history. This endeavor fused traditional warning sources with non-traditional sources to verify that no friendly satellites were at risk to more than 2300 pieces of debris.

Since 2007, Chilton has been in command of U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for the plans and operations for all U.S. forces conducting strategic deterrence and Department of Defense (DoD) space and cyberspace operations. Throughout this timeframe, Chilton has consistently emphasized improvement in three mission areas: Strategic Deterrence, Space, and Cyberspace.

One of the high points of his tour was the successful execution of Operation Burnt Frost. When analysts determined a satellite carrying a tank of 1,000 pounds of hydrazine fuel could be a threat to human life, the U.S. DoD and other agencies came together to find the best course of action. More than two dozen federal agencies collaborated to shoot down the non-functional National Reconnaissance Office satellite on Feb. 20, 2008. Their extraordinary efforts were a huge success. Chilton at U.S. Strategic Command led the planning and coordination of efforts between the Missile Defense Agency, the NRO, NASA and the Pacific Command, and did so in less than 60 days, culminating in the successful engagement of a derelict satellite. As a former astronaut and past Commander of Air Force Space Command, he was the perfect individual to lead this effort.

Chilton was selected as Strategic Command's first inductee of the Strategic Order of the Sword and Shield by the command's enlisted sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen. According to the nomination, "At each level of command; Wing, Numbered Air Force, Major Command and Unified Combatant Command; (General Chilton) has created an environment that valued and respected the expertise and experience of enlisted members."

Chilton resides in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife. They have four children. He enjoys reading and all sports, including running, snow skiing, sailing, and softball. He also played the guitar in a rock and roll band.

Awards and Honors
2011 National Space Trophy, Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal, three NASA Space Flight Medals, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA "Top Fox" Flight Safety Award Winner (1991), Guggenheim Fellow, Commander's Trophy, Undergraduate Pilot Training, 1982 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award, and 1984 Liethen-Tittle Award for top graduate, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

Current as of January 2011

Read a more in-depth profile of General Chilton in the 2011 Program Book.

Return to the top