Joseph Sholtis

Profile Updated: February 11, 2022
Joseph Sholtis
Joseph Sholtis


Joseph Sholtis


Joseph Sholtis


Yes! Attending Reunion
Class Year 1970
Residing In Tijeras, NM USA
Spouse/Partner Cheryl Sholtis
Homepage View Website
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Occupation Nuclear, aerospace & systems engineer; Owner & Principal, Sholtis Engineering & Safety Consulting
Children Children (2): Christian Joseph Sholtis, born 1973; Carole Lynne (Sholtis) Rusk, born 1978.
Grandchildren More…(6): Analise Rusk; Olivia Sholtis; Nicolas Sholtis; Evan Rusk; Connor Rusk; Mateo Sholtis.
Military Service USAF  

At PSU (1966-1970):
* PSU freshman baseball team (catcher), 1967
* Standard & Trick Drill Team member, 1967-70
* Standard Team Commander, 1969
* Graduated from PSU (BS Nuclear Engineering, Distinguished Military Graduate, 1970)

Since PSU graduation in 1970:
* 23 years on active duty in USAF as Nuclear Research Officer and Systems Development Program Manager (1970-1993). Highlights: Identified Soviet space nuclear developments, including USSR Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites (RORSATs) as being reactor powered, while at USAF Foreign Technology Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (1971-74); Analyst, Test Manager, and Chief, Nuclear Power Systems Safety Branch, Air Force Weapons Laboratory (AFWL), Kirtland AFB, NM (1974-77); DoD Member of the Technical Staff, ACRR Upgrade Analyst, and LMFBR Accident Delineation Study Project Manager at Sandia National Laboratories, Kirtland AFB, NM (1978-80); Chief, Radiation Sources Division & Reactor Facility Director at Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) in Bethesda, MD (1980-84); Program Manager, joint DoD/NASA/DOE SP-100 Space Reactor Power System development for the Strategic Defense Initiative, at DOE HQ (1984-87); oversaw design, construction, licensing, and operation of 1.0 MW nuclear reactor for neutron non-destructive evaluation of F-15 honeycomb wing sections & other USAF aircraft components, for McClellan Air Logistics Center, CA; and Chief, Nuclear Energy Systems, Director USAF Worldwide Nuclear Systems Safety Programs, and DoD Coordinator of joint DoD/NASA/DOE/EPA/NRC Presidentially-appointed Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel for conduct of nuclear safety/risk assessments of all U.S. nuclear-powered/heated space missions, to permit informed launch approval by the White House (1987-93). Retired from USAF as LtCol (1993)
* MS NucE & PhD (Coursework NucE), Univ. of New Mexico (1977 & 1980)
* Owner & Principal, Sholtis Engineering & Safety Consulting (1993-Present)
* Internationally recognized expert in space nuclear systems, their reliability & safety, and the risks associated with their ground demonstration testing, launch & use in space
* Inventor: Conceived of & advanced plutonium-238 oxide coated particle fuel & fuel forms, to improve the design integration, performance, and safety of future radioisotope heat sources & power systems for space and specialized remote applications.
* Involved in every U.S. nuclear-powered/heated space mission since 1974; a total of 15 missions: Viking 1 & 2, USAF LES 8 & 9, Voyager 1 & 2, Galileo, Ulysses, Mars Pathfinder, MER A & B (Spirit & Opportunity rovers), Cassini, New Horizons-Pluto, MSL 'Curiosity' rover, and Mars 2020 'Perseverance' rover missions. Involved in numerous independent studies for NASA, DOE, and their Centers & national labs; and two National Academies Committee studies/reports: 1) "Radioisotope Power Systems: An Imperative for Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Space Exploration" (2010), and 2) "Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration" (2021). God willing, hope to be involved in development & deployment of nuclear propulsion for DoD & NASA, as well as the "Dragonfly" drone mission to Saturn's moon Titan in 2027, and others that follow.

For more info, GO TO:

School Story

Wow -- too many to write about! Will need to convey at a reunion.

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