L. Dale Thomas, Ph.D.

Propulsion Research Center Deputy Director Alabama Space Grant Consortium Director Eminent Scholar in Systems Engineering Industrial & Systems Engineering and Engineering Management (ISEEM) Professor


301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899
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UAH Alumnus (1988) Dr. L. Dale Thomas joined ISEEM in Fall 2015 as a full professor and was Board-appointed as the Eminent Scholar in Systems Engineering. Within a year, he established the UAH Complex Systems Integration Laboratory (CSIL), UAH's advanced systems engineering research facility focusing on model-based systems engineering. Among several projects, the lab assists the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) with cube satellites to be deployed during the first Space Launch System in 2019. In July 2017, he was appointed as the deputy director of the UAH Propulsion Research Center (PRC). In that role, he leads the propulsion systems engineering research team and engages in strategic planning activities.

In July 2017, Dr. Thomas was appointed director of the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, the congress-created body that implements a portfolio of programs in research, education and public service projects in science and engineering. Dr. Thomas' core objective in assuming the role is to strengthen ties between academic researchers and industry.

Dr. Thomas brings 32 years of NASA experience to his current work on campus. He worked as an aerospace systems engineer on projects based at MSFC in Huntsville and Johnson Space Center in Houston, including the Space Station Freedom Project, the International Space Station Program, the NASA Space Launch Initiative and the Constellation Program. In 2011 he was appointed MSFC's associate center director, a role he maintained until his 2015 retirement from NASA. He serves as the director of Alabama NASA EPSCoR (established program to stimulate competitive research) Program.

Dr. Thomas has authored numerous technical papers and chapters in two textbooks, and served as an editor for the systems engineering textbook Applied Systems Engineering. He travels nationwide presenting elements of his research on models based systems engineering. Alongside other colleagues in UAH College of Engineering, Dr. Thomas served as a conference co-chair of the 14th Conference on Systems Engineering Research hosted by UAH in March 2016.


  • Ph.D., Systems Engineering-Computer Engineering | Mathematics, University of Alabama-Huntsville, 1988
  • M.S., Industrial Engineering-Electronic Engineering, North Carolina State University, 1983
  • B.S.E., Industrial & Systems Engineering, University of Alabama-Huntsville, 1981


  • Model Based Systems Engineering
  • Systems Integration
  • Systems Science

Recent Publications

  • S. Rawlins & D. Thomas, “Feasibility of Low-Enriched Uranium Fueled Nuclear Thermal Propulsion in the Low-Thrust Region Below 16klbf,” Annals of Nuclear Energy, 179(22), December 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.anucene.2022.109368.

  • V. Lopez & D. Thomas, “Proposed metric for complexity assessment using SysML,” Aerospace. October 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace9100612.

  • J. Grumbach & D. Thomas, “Quantitative Validation of the Principles of Complex System Integration,” Systems Engineering. September 2022. DOI: 10.1002/sys.21641.

  • J. Grumbach & D. Thomas,” Systems Integration Implications of Component Reuse” Systems Engineering. August 2022. DOI: 10.1002/sys.21636.

  • S. Kumar, D. Thomas, & J. Cassibry, “Decoding the Mission Design Problem for NTP Systems for Outer Planet Robotic Missions,” Nuclear Technology. August 2022. DOI: 10.1080/00295450.2022.2096388.

  • D. Nikitaev & D. Thomas, “Impacts of In-Situ Alternative Propellant Utilization on Mars Vehicle Architectures Using Nuclear Thermal Propulsion,” AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. July 2022. DOI: 10.2514/1.A35399.

  • D. Thomas, M. Houts, W. Walters, K. Hollingsworth, R. Frederick, & J. Cassibry, “Toward the Engineering Feasibility of the Centrifugal Nuclear Thermal Rocket,” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 75(5) May 2022, pp. 181-188.

  • D. Nikitaev & D. Thomas, “Preliminary Results for In-Situ Alternative Propellants for Nuclear Thermal Propulsion,” Nuclear Technology. March 2022. DOI: 10.1080/00295450.2021.2021768.

  • S. Kumar, D. Thomas, & J. Cassibry, “Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for Jupiter and Saturn Rendezvous Missions,” AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. February 2022. DOI: 10.2514/1.A35212.

  • D. Nikitaev & D. Thomas, “Alternative Propellant NTP Vehicle Architectures,” AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. January 2022. DOI: 10.2514/1.A35289.