Richard French earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Aerospace Engineering in 2006 and a Master of Engineering in Space Engineering in 2007, both from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. After joining the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 2007, he supported systems engineering on the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Thermal Protection System (TPS) Advanced Development Project (ADP) and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) system. He also led the development of the Thermal Performance Data Services (TPDS) for the Arc Jet Complex at the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC). He served as the Spin Subsystem engineer on the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, delivering the spin mechanism assembly and the spun-side control electronics used for instrument spin rate control, antenna deployment motor control, and active thermal control of the SMAP instrument, led major elements of the SMAP system integration and test, supported launch and commissioning operations, and continues to provide engineering support in the extended mission.
He spent two years on detail to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a Staff Technologist in the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) focused on developing a commercial space technology investment strategy for the directorate and deployed two new public-private partnership opportunities: the Tipping Point and the Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity. In that role he also supported the Early Stage portfolio, formulating new early stage university research initiatives such as the Space Technology Research Institutes (STRI) and developing content for the Space Technology Research Grants (STRG) Program.
He is currently Manager of Technology Partnerships in JPL’s Space Technology Office, managing the SBIR/STTR program while leading development of partnerships with industry to infuse technologies into JPL’s future missions. An ongoing initiative is the development of a start-up engagement program for JPL that includes regular startup pitch events in collaboration with Starburst Aerospace, a government-industry consortium-sponsored (JPL, US Air Force, Maxar, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, and IAI NA) startup accelerator run by Techstars, the founding of the Space Ventures Coalition with the Aerospace Corporation to source early stage technology opportunities in the Los Angeles region acting as the space vertical of the Alliance for Southern California Innovation, and lean, impedance-matched startup partnership acquisition tools. He also created JPL NEXT Presents, a thematic, internal conversation series with industry technology leaders to seed relationships and new concepts in JPL’s largest strategic investment program through Lab-wide exposure to technology trends occurring in the commercial sector.