Yvonne C. Brill, RCA Astro Electronics
Yvonne C. Brill has effectively expanded the frontiers of space through innovations in rocket and jet propulsion. Her accomplishments and services have had major technical and programmatic impacts on a very broad range of national space programs. Her most important contributions are advancements in rocket propulsion systems for geosynchronous communication satellites.
Her ability to conceive an innovative satellite propulsion system to solve complex operational problems of acquiring and maintaining station resulted in an important invention. Two aspects of Brill’s invention are of special significance: she developed the concept for a new rocket engine, the hydrazine resistojet, and she foresaw the inherent value and simplicity of using a single propellant. Her invention resulted in not only higher engine performance but also increased reliability of the propulsion system. And because of the reduction in propellant weight requirements, either increased payload capability or extended mission life.
As a result of her innovative concepts for satellite propulsion systems and her breakthrough engineering solutions, Brill earned an international reputation as a pioneer in space exploration and utilization. Brill invented the hydrazine resistojet propulsion system in 1967 for which she holds U.S. Patent No. 3,807,657. Her invention became a standard in the industry. Brill’s invention translates into millions of dollars of increased revenue for commercial communications satellite owners.
Through her personal and dedicated efforts, the resistojet system was developed and first applied on an RCA spacecraft in 1983. Subsequently, the system concept became a satellite industry standard. Satellites using her invention form the backbone of the worldwide communication network. (Photo from White House ceremony courtesy of Ryan K. Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation.)