Although Yvonne Brill passed away in March 2013, many of today’s rockets and commercial communication satellites work better and more efficiently because of her pioneering work.
Yvonne’s patented hydrazine resistojet propulsion system keeps a satellite in a fixed, geosynchronous orbit longer than any other system and with a larger payload. This advancement has saved commercial satellite owners like RCA, GE, and Lockheed Martin millions of dollars.
Yvonne was an advocate for women’s rights in technology and their careers. After joining the Academy of Engineering in 1987, and as an avid member of the Society of Women Engineers. She was in charge of nominating women who demonstrated the most outstanding contributions towards the field, along with recommending women to influential boards.
She worked on propellant management feed systems, electric propulsion, and an innovative propulsion system for the Atmosphere Explorer, which, in 1973, allowed scientists to gather extensive data on Earth’s thermosphere for the first time. She served on the nine-member Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on the senior advisory committee. She was on safety issues created by NASA after the command module spacecraft fire during the Apollo program.
When Yvonne began her career in 1945, she was the sole woman of technology working in rocket propulsion systems. Since then, she worked to increase the number of women in technology, encouraging other technical women and seeing they got the recognition they deserved.
Yvonne was a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
In 1986, she received the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Achievement Award, the organization’s highest honor. In 1993, she received their Resnik Challenger Medal for expanding space horizons through innovations in rocket propulsion systems. She was a recipient of the AIAA Wyld Propulsion Award like the American Association for Engineering Societies John Fritz Medal.
Yvonne was a fellow of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the SWE. She received the Diamond Superwoman Award from "Harper’s Bazaar" and the De Beers Corporation. She also earned the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, and former President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Technology Innovation.
The Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics is presented annually in her honor.
Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Manitoba and a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Southern California.