Majdalani receives international Wyld Propulsion Award

Published: Jan 31, 2024 1:00 PM

By Dustin Duncan

Joseph Majdalani, the Hugh and Loeda Francis Chair of Excellence in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Auburn University, has received the 2024 Wyld Propulsion Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The Wyld Propulsion Award is the highest distinction in propulsion, awarded for outstanding achievements in developing or applying rocket propulsion systems. The winner is selected by 11 panelists, requiring two-thirds membership approval and consensus from five national committees and 250 voting members.

“This has been an exceptional year for our team,” Majdalani said. “In much the same way as the ‘Turing Award’ is widely regarded as the ‘Nobel Prize for computing,’ this recognition has long been perceived as the equivalent prize for propulsion. I am tremendously thankful to the amazing group of engineers at AIAA, NASA, Sierra, USAF, Georgia Tech, University of Maryland, University of Tennessee, Princeton, Purdue and the Technion, who made this all possible.”

 man pictured holding certificate with blue suit and blue background.
Powell presents Majdalani with the Wyld Propulsion engraved medal on stage at the SciTech Forum. The event draws more than 6,000 attendees, making it one of the world’s largest aerospace engineering forums.

Kurt A. Polzin, NASA’s chief engineer for Space Nuclear Propulsion, nominated Majdalani for his “groundbreaking theoretical modeling and research on cyclonic rocket engines.” Majdalani’s continued advancement of the wall-cooling flow concept results in highly effective self-cooling for vortex engines. In collaboration with Marty Chiaverini at Sierra Space, Majdalani helps to fulfill Wyld’s vision by providing superior cooling to ensure engine survivability. The internally cyclonic flow field, described by Majdalani, eliminates the need for external double-walled jackets, resulting in substantially lighter and more compact rocket engines.

“For more than 60 years, the AIAA’s Wyld Propulsion Award has recognized some of the most accomplished researchers in the world who specialize in rocket propulsion systems,” said Mario Eden, dean of Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “We are extremely proud of Dr. Majdalani for this deserving honor and for his work in this highly critical area.”

The award is named after James H. Wyld, the inventor of the regenerative double-wall cooling system, which became the standard for liquid rocket engines. This cooling concept prevents engines from self-destruction due to the intense heat they generate. In 1930, Wyld played a pivotal role as a pioneering member of the American Rocket Society (ARS), the first private group of American scientists to successfully build and test rocket engines. The ARS later merged with the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences to form the AIAA in 1963.

Majdalani joins a formidable group of former awardees that include such distinguished scientists as Frank Malina (1948), James Van Allen (1949), William H. Pickering (1957), Holger Toftoy (1958), Maurice Zuckrow (1966), Luigi Crocco (1971), Martin Summerfield (1977), Richard H. Sforzini (1996), William A. Sirignano (2009) and Kenneth K. Kuo (2011).

 man pictured holding certificate with blue suit and blue background.
Majdalani pictured with the Wyld Propulsion medal and certificate at the SciTech Forum.

In addition to the Wyld Propulsion Award, Majdalani has received multiple accolades for his teaching and mentorship. These include, but are not limited to, the Abe M. Zarem Educator Award, which he won three times in 2022, 2017 and 2012, the Lee Atwood Educator Award in 2018, the AIAA Faculty Advisor Award in 2015, the Konrad Dannenberg Educator Award in 2014 and the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award in 2007.

Majdalani has been a dedicated advocate and mentor for numerous students throughout his career. His graduate students have earned 66 student-centered awards, including 21 Best Papers and 14 Best Posters or Finish-in-Five awards, both locally and internationally. Moreover, institutionally, nine of his doctoral students have been recognized as Outstanding Graduate Research/Teaching Assistants. At the same time, six have been named ‘Most Outstanding Graduate Students of the Year’ within the Alabama-North Mississippi Greater Huntsville Section.

To date, Majdalani’s scholarly achievements have garnered several local and global recognitions. He recently delivered the Von Kármán Lecture in Astronautics and accepted the Senior Research Award for Excellence in Engineering from Auburn University. Besides receiving the General H. H. Arnold Award in 2007, he has coauthored 5 AIAA best papers at the national level in 2022, 2017, 2015, 2014 and 2005. In addition, he has coauthored more than 330 scientific articles and a leading textbook, “Viscous Fluid Flow,” now in its 4th edition, with Frank M. White.

At his Advanced Propulsion Research Lab, Majdalani focuses on enhancing the performance and safety of large combustors, rockets, and thrust engines. His team works tirelessly on achieving these outcomes by harnessing the beneficial effects of swirl dynamics and stable combustion.

Media Contact: Dustin Duncan ,, 334-844-2326
two men on stage shaking hands, one man has award certificate

Joseph Majdalani receives the Wyld Propulsion medal and a citation certificate from Rusty Powell, AIAA Director for Propulsion and Energy, at the SciTech Forum on Jan. 10, 2024, in Orlando, Florida.

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