Image of Charlie Atkinson; Atkinson is seated, wears a blue collard shirt, has light hair, and has a closed mouth smile.

Charlie Atkinson

Chief Engineer, James Webb Space Telescope
Northrop Grumman
2021 Women In Defense Fall Webinar Series

Charlie Atkinson has 34 years of technical and program management experience in the civil space, defense, and aerospace industry focused on development programs, from inception to delivery. Since March 2019, Charlie has been the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Chief Engineer, responsible for the technical success of the mission. JWST is the highest priority science mission at NASA and is slated for launch in late 2021.

Prior to becoming the JWST Chief Engineer, Charlie was the Northrop Grumman Vehicle Engineering Deputy Manager after having been the Deputy Telescope Manager for JWST since the program’s inception, managing the technology development, design, assembly, and test of the first large aperture, deployable, segmented telescope to be put in space. Before JWST, Charlie was responsible for the integration and alignment of the grazing incidence cylindrical mirrors on the Chandra X-Ray Telescope. Charlie has also worked on digital camera systems, a laser communications system, and several other space-borne optical systems.

Charlie received his BS in Physics, Math, and Geophysics from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. Charlie has twice been awarded an Engineers' Council Distinguished Engineering Achievement Award, the Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Award in Engineering, and the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal; he has also been awarded three Northrop Grumman Chairman’s Awards and the Aviation Week Program Excellence Award. He holds a patent for a telescope design using a Discontinuous Pupil corrector.