Dan Sokolowski worked as an engineering coop student at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lewis Research Center from 1962 to 1966 while earning his Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue. At the time of this photograph Sokolowski had just been hired as a permanent NASA employee in the Chemical Rocket Evaluation Branch of the Chemical Rocket Division. He had also just won a regional American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics competition for his paper on high and low-frequency combustion instability.
The resolution of the low-frequency combustion instability, or chugging, in liquid hydrogen rocket systems was one of Lewis’ more significant feats of the early 1960s. In most rocket engine combustion chambers, the pressure, temperature, and flows are in constant flux. The engine is considered to be operating normally if the fluctuations remain random and within certain limits. Lewis researchers used high-speed photography to study and define Pratt and Whitney’s RL-10’s combustion instability by throttling the engine under the simulated flight conditions. They found that the injection of a small stream of helium gas into the liquid-oxygen tank immediately stabilized the system.
Sokolowski’s later work focused on combustion in airbreathing engines. In 1983 was named Manager of a multidisciplinary program aimed at improving durability of combustor and turbine components. After 39 years Sokolowski retired from NASA in September 2002.