Kevin P. Chilton

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Kevin P. Chilton
Kevin P. Chilton.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born (1954-11-03) November 3, 1954 (age 62)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other names
Kevin Patrick Chilton
Other occupation
Test pilot
USAFA, B.S. 1976
Columbia University, M.S. 1977
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General, USAF
Time in space
29d 08h 22m
Selection 1987 NASA Group 12
Missions STS-49, STS-59, STS-76
Mission insignia
Sts-49-patch.png Sts-59-patch.png Sts-76-patch.png
Retirement February 1, 2011

Kevin Patrick "Chilli" Chilton (born November 3, 1954) is an American mechanical engineer, and former United States Air Force four-star General and test pilot. His last assignment was as Commander, U.S. Strategic Command from October 3, 2007 to January 28, 2011. Prior to his appointment to general officer ranks, Chilton spent 11 years of his military career as a NASA astronaut. He retired from the Air Force on February 1, 2011, after having achieved the highest rank of any military astronaut. On January 30, 2012, General Chilton was named to the board of directors of Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Early life[edit]

Born November 3, 1954, in Los Angeles, California, he graduated from St. Bernard High School, Playa del Rey, California, in 1972. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Sciences from the United States Air Force Academy in 1976, and a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University on a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1977. He enjoys reading and all sports, including running, snow skiing, sailing, and softball.

Early Air Force career[edit]

Chilton handing a GPS receiver to Steve Doocy during an interview with Fox & Friends

Chilton received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976. After receiving his pilot wings at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona in 1978, he qualified in the RF-4C Phantom II and was assigned to the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. From 1978 until 1980, he served as a combat-ready pilot and instructor pilot in the RF-4C in Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

In 1981, he converted to the F-15 Eagle and was assigned to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, as a squadron pilot. In 1982, Chilton attended the USAF Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and finished as the number one graduate for the year, receiving the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award.

Subsequently, assigned to the 9th and 7th Tactical Fighter Squadrons at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, Chilton served as an F-15 squadron weapons officer, instructor pilot, and flight commander until 1984 when selected for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. He graduated number one in his class to win the Liethen-Tittle Award, as the outstanding test pilot at the school.

Chilton was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where he conducted weapons and systems tests in all models of the F-15 and F-4 aircraft. While a member of the 3247th Test Squadron, Chilton served as squadron safety officer, as chief of test and evaluation, and as squadron operations officer.

NASA career[edit]

In August 1987 Chilton was assigned to NASA and became an astronaut in August 1988, qualifying for assignment as a pilot on Space Shuttle flight crews.

Chilton held a variety of technical assignments. He served in the Mission Development Branch of the Astronaut Office in support of the Infrared Background Signature Survey (IBSS) satellite, and the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle (OMV) programs. He was the Astronaut Office T-38 Talon safety officer, leader of the Astronaut Support Personnel team at the Kennedy Space Center, and was lead spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) for numerous Shuttle flights.

Chilton also served as Deputy Program Manager for the early International Space Station program. A veteran of three space flights, Chilton logged more than 704 hours in space.

An accomplished guitarist, Chilton spent a portion of his spare time hammering out riffs on a Fender Stratocaster while jamming with the all astronaut band, "Max Q".

Spaceflight experience[edit]


Chilton, standing 2nd from left, with his STS-49 crewmates

STS-49, which lasted from May 7–16, 1992, was the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Endeavour. During the mission, the crew conducted the initial test flight of Endeavour, performed a record four EVA’s (spacewalks) to retrieve, repair and deploy the International Telecommunications Satellite (INTELSAT), and to demonstrate and evaluate numerous EVA tasks to be used for the assembly of Space Station Freedom. Additionally, a variety of medical, scientific and operational tests were conducted throughout the mission. STS-49 logged 213 hours in space and 141 Earth orbits prior to landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where the crew conducted the first test of the Endeavour’s drag chute.


STS-59, the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) mission, April 9–20, 1994, was launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. SRL consisted of three large radars, SIR-C/X-SAR (Shuttle Imaging Radar C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar), and a carbon monoxide sensor that were used to enhance studies of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. The imaging radars operated in three frequencies and four polarizations. This multispectral capability of the radars provided information about the Earth's surface over a wide range of scales not discernible with previous single-frequency experiments. The carbon monoxide sensor (MAPS) used gas filter radiometry to measure the global distribution of CO in the troposphere. Real-time crew observations of surface phenomena and climatic conditions augmented with over 14,000 photographs aided investigators in interpretation and calibration of the data. The mission concluded with a landing at Edwards AFB after orbiting the Earth 183 times in 269 hours.


Chilton commanded STS-76, the third docking mission to the Russian space station Mir, which launched on March 22, 1996 with a crew of six aboard Atlantis. Following rendezvous and docking with Mir, transfer of a NASA astronaut to Mir for a five-month stay was accomplished to begin a continuous presence of U.S. astronauts aboard Mir for the next two-year period. The crew also transferred 4800 pounds of science and mission hardware, food, water and air to Mir and returned over 1100 pounds of U.S. and ESA science and Russian hardware. The first spacewalk from the Shuttle while docked to Mir was conducted. Experiment packages were transferred from the Shuttle and mounted on the Mir docking module to detect and assess debris and contamination in a space station environment. The Spacehab module carried in the Shuttle payload bay was utilized extensively for transfer and return stowage of logistics and science and also carried Biorack, a small multipurpose laboratory used during this mission for research of plant and animal cellular function. This mission was also the first flight of Kidsat, an electronic camera controlled by classroom students via a Ku-band link between JSC Mission Control and the Shuttle, which used digitized photography from the Shuttle for science and education. Following 145 orbits of the Earth, Atlantis landed with a crew of five at Edwards Air Force Base in California on March 31, 1996, 221 hours after liftoff.

Air Force career resumed[edit]

Chilton left NASA in 1998 to become Deputy Director, Political Military Affairs for Asia, Pacific, and the Middle East on the Joint Staff. His first military command was the 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9 RW) at Beale AFB, California, from May 1999 to September 2000. In August 2004, Chilton assumed the dual duties of Commander, Eighth Air Force (8 AF) and Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike (JFCC SGS) at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. In April 2006, Chilton was nominated to become the Commander of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) at Peterson AFB, Colorado. On June 26, 2006, he received his fourth star and assumed command of Air Force Space Command.[1] Chilton then took command of the United States Strategic Command in October 2007, his last assignment before retiring. General Chilton is the only former astronaut to achieve four-star grade. Lieutenant General Tom Stafford, Vice Admiral Dick Truly and Lieutenant General Susan Helms have attained the rank of three stars.


Military assignments[edit]

  1. May 1977 – May 1978, student, undergraduate pilot training, Williams Air Force Base, Arizona
  2. May 1978 – August 1978, student, RF-4C Replacement Training Unit, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina
  3. August 1978 – November 1980, RF-4C pilot and instructor pilot, 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan
  4. November 1980 – August 1982, F-15C pilot, 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan
  5. August 1982 – October 1982, student, Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
  6. October 1982 – December 1983, F-15A pilot, instructor pilot and flight commander, 9th and 7th Tactical Fighter Squadrons, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico
  7. January 1984 – December 1984, student, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California
  8. January 1985 – August 1987, test pilot and operations officer, 3247th Test Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
  9. August 1987 – August 1988, astronaut candidate, NASA, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
  10. August 1988 – May 1996, astronaut, NASA, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
  11. May 1996 – August 1998, Deputy Program Manager of Operations, International Space Station Program, NASA, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
  12. August 1998 – May 1999, Deputy Director of Operations, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  13. May 1999 – September 2000, Commander, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California
  14. October 2000 – April 2002, Director of Politico-Military Affairs, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Joint Staff, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
  15. April 2002 – August 2004, Director of Programs, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  16. August 2004 – August 2005, acting Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  17. August 2005 – June 2006, Commander, 8th Air Force, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and Joint Functional Component Commander for Space and Global Strike, United States Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
  18. June 2006 – September 2007, Commander, Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  19. October 2007 – January 2011, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska

Summary of joint assignments[edit]

  1. October 2000 – April 2002, Director of Politico-Military Affairs, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Joint Staff, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C., as a Brigadier General and Major General
  2. October 2007 – January 2011, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, as a General

Flight information[edit]

  • Rating: Command astronaut pilot
  • Flight hours: More than 5,000
  • Aircraft flown: F-4C/D/E, F-15A/B/C/D, OV-104A and OV-105A (space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour), RF-4C, T-38, U-2 and VC-11, B-52H


Chilton is a member of the Order of Daedalians, USAF Academy Association of Graduates, and American Legion.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Personal decorations
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with two width-8 white stripes at distance 4 from the edges.
Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation Medal
Unit awards
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Outstanding Unit Award with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Organizational Excellence Award with oak leaf cluster
NASA awards
NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal
NASA Exceptional Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
NASA Space Flight Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Service awards
Combat Readiness Medal
Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Campaign and service medals
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with service star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal
Service, training, and marksmanship awards
Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Air Force Training Ribbon
USAF Badges
USAF Master Astronaut badge.jpg Command Pilot Badge with Astronaut Device
Master space badge.JPG Command Space Badge
Afg 021203 114.jpg Master Missile Operations Badge
Seal of the United States Strategic Command.svg United States Strategic Command Badge

Other achievements[edit]

Effective dates of promotion[edit]

Insignia Rank Date
US-O10 insignia.svg General June 26, 2006
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General  August 9, 2005
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General April 1, 2002
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General May 1, 1999
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel January 1, 1993
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel June 2, 1989
US-O4 insignia.svg Major May 2, 1985
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain June 2, 1980
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant June 2, 1978
US-O1 insignia.svg Second Lieutenant June 2, 1976

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
James Cartwright
Commander, United States Strategic Command
Succeeded by
C. Robert Kehler