BS, Mechanical Engineering, 1987
In January 2019, Mr. Richards accepted a position as the Strategic Partnership Manager for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Exploration and Space Communications Division. He is the liaison with other government agencies to promote the adaptation of advance technologies.
In 2018, Mr. Richards performed a one-year detail at NASA HQ as the Program Executive for Optical and Advanced Communications Technology. He provided management and technical oversight for the LCRD, LEMNOS, ILLUMA-T, and O2O projects and was the liaison to other government agencies for advance communication technologies.
From 2014 to 2018 Mr. Richards was the LCRD (laser communications relay demonstration) Deputy Project Manager at NASA GSFC. Laser Communication is the next generation in satellite communication and offers data rates from 10 to 100 times greater than conventional radio frequency communication with increased security.
From 2004 to 2014, Mr. Richards was a GOES-R Observatory Manager for NASA, where he was responsible for managing the $1.4 billion spacecraft contract to build next generation weather satellites for NOAA. This included the integration of five complex instruments onto the spacecraft and integration onto the launch vehicle.
From 1991 to 2011, Mr. Richards served as a commissioned officer in the United States Naval Reserves, from 1991 to 2011. During his twenty years, he supported the Naval Research Lab, DoD Space Test Program, Naval Weapons Center, Naval Space Command, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit-2, Naval Research Laboratory, the Naval Space and Warfare Command (SPAWAR), and Office of Naval Research/Naval Research Lab. Serving as the Mission Manager for launch and delivery on orbit of the Navy’s Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) 8 & 9 resulted in receiving a second Naval Achievement Medal. He also served as a consultant for launch vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in support of the Navy’s next generation of communication satellites as part of the Mobile User Objective Study (MOUS). His last assignment was as a Navy liaison to Air Force Space Test Program (STP)
From 1996 to 2002, he was an astronaut. Selected by NASA in April 1996, he reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. Having completed two years of training and evaluation, he was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Mr. Richards was initially assigned to the computer branch working on software for the space shuttle and the International Space Station. He next served in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch assigned to support Payload and General Support Computers (PGSCs) and the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL). He flew on STS-102 and has logged more than 307 hours in space, including 6.4 EVA (extravehicular activity) hours. STS-102 Discovery (March 8-21, 2001) was the eighth shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Prior to becoming an astronaut, he was a senior design engineer for NASA from 1987 to 1996. He received two patents for EVA tool design as the inventor of the Pistol Grip Tool (PGT). This tool became the primary tool for the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions and has been used on every International Space Station spacewalk since 1998. During this time at NASA, he worked in the Verification Office, Electromechanical Branch, Robotics Branch and the Guidance and Controls Branch, all within the Engineering Directorate. From 1983 to 1987, he worked for the Department of the Navy at the Naval Ship Systems Engineering Station
In addition to his Drexel degree, Mr. Richards was awarded a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1991. He was inducted into the World Association Cooperative Education Hall of Fame in 2007 and into Drexel's College of Engineering Alumni Circle of Distinction in 2002.