SAMMIE Tracker: the secret to success

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Throughout five decades of federal service at the Naval Research Laboratory, Peter Wilhelm has been involved in the development, deployment and operation of satellites critical to the nation’s defense and intelligence gathering capabilities.

Now at age 74, Wilhelm, director of NRL’s Naval Center for Space Technology, is seeking to create an international consortium to launch micro satellites to keep track of all ships on earth at one time. He is also working on solving the problem of orbital debris.

Wilhelm said he’s pleased to be a SAMMIE Award finalist. It’s a “great honor” but ” when you’re in the business that we’re in, designing and building satellites, it’s a team game.”

“I don’t think that most people know that the government, and in particular the Navy, is as involved in space as we are. So that recognition, I think, is a good thing.”

Asked for his secret to success, Wilhelm made it sound simple.

“Try and get into something that you’re really interested in. And there are lots of opportunities in federal service. It’s a very broad field.”

It’s like our elders told us: if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

“If you can get into a job that you really enjoy,” said Wilhelm, “you’re going to do well at it, and that’s the best advice I could give anybody. Don’t just go after the money. Find a job that you really like and you’ll do well.”

Wilhelm said now that he’s 74 and has been a part of launching 95 satellites, he’s still working on “several more. In fact my boss told me I can’t retire until I get to a hundred.”

He didn’t say whether that was years or birds.

Either way, he laughed as he said “that’s my goal.”

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