In Memory of Ron Humble
From a close friend, Tom Sarafin
Dr. Ronald William Humble of Colorado Springs, Colorado, died of heart failure on July 18, 2002, at the age of 44. Ron was a close friend of mine and, as a teacher, advisor, and partner, was key to Instar's success.
Ron was a proud Canadian from Calgary. He received his engineering degree from the University of Washington. He attained his Masters and PhD. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
Flight and space were always Ron's fascination, building his first glider at 10 years of age. Early in his career, he worked as a propulsion aerodynamicist for Pratt and Whitney, a flight test engineer for the Canadian Armed Forces, a principle engineer for Lockheed, and a chief engineer and program manager for Space Industries. The past 10 years Ron spent at the United States Air Force Academy as a professor, researcher, and mentor. In 1997, Ron was awarded the Bliss Medal for Outstanding Military Instructor of the Year. From 2000 until his passing, he held at the Academy the prestigious General Bernard A. Schriever Endowed Chair in Space Systems Engineering.
Over the past few years, through his own company, KB Sciences, Inc., Ron also had several DOD contracts for development of new hypergolic propellants, rocket engines, and advanced polymer composite propellant tanks. He was the principal editor and author of the book Space Propulsion Analysis and Design and a contributing author to and Human Spaceflight: Mission Analysis and Design.
Ron was also a family man, raising two daughters, Heather and Jenna, with his wife of 21 years, Judy. He took great pride in his family and enjoyed cooking for them when he could find the time. His hobbies included bicycling, in which he had won several Colorado and Texas state championships, mountain climbing, four-wheel driving, camping, and skiing. He enjoyed these activities most when he did them with his family. His pride in his daughters was evident; he talked about them every chance he got!
I met Ron at the Air Force Academy in 1993, while we were writing our books under the guidance of Wiley Larson. Ron began teaching part time for Instar in 1998. Since then, he taught more than 20 courses to nearly 500 space-industry professionals through Instar. He most enjoyed teaching his propulsion course, which he had developed based on his book, and he got rave reviews for it. Even more popular, though, as it appeals to a broader audience, has been his course "Spacecraft Preliminary Design: Understanding Spacecraft Systems."
Ron's style of teaching was informal, filled with relevant stories from his experience, and he wasn't satisfied unless he got everyone involved. Indeed, Ron taught me how to teach. I can honestly say I learned from a master.
The week before he died, Ron and I drove together from Denver to Albuquerque to test a small satellite being developed at the Academy. He confided in me then that he wanted to do something "epic"--something that would have lasting relevance to the space industry, such as developing a new, truly affordable launch system. Ron didn't achieve that vision, but I say he did do something epic. His works have had lasting influence on countless people. And I will do my best to ensure the small part of those works that I was involved in continue to have such influence.