Al Schock, Longtime Space Nuclear Power Expert 1926-2007

I don’t suppose most ZTnews readers knew or heard of Al Schock.  But I count myself fortunate to have known him for about 23 years.  Al was an icon in the US Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator programs, and space nuclear power generally, for as long as I can remember.  Scan the literature on RTGs and you’ll find Al everywhere, either as author or as a citation.

Tough minded.  Honest.  Above all, competent.  And he expected no less from others.  I suppose Al cared more about getting it right than bruising your feelings.  Quite so.  I had the pleasure of making a number of presentations with him in the room and I can say you better be prepared, because he was.


    Cronin B. Vining

Below is pasted The Washington Post obituary on Al Schock, who died on 20 June.  His skillful analyses spanned RTGs and space nuclear reactors.  His talents and insights will be greatly missed.  I am going to propose that there be a special dedication to him at next year’s Space Technology & Applications International Forum (STAIF).

    Gary L. Bennett

The following obituary appeared in the Washington Post June 29, 2007:

Alfred Schock  Chemical, Nuclear Engineer

Alfred Schock, 81, a chemical and nuclear engineer who spent 30 years as director of the energy systems department at what became Orbital Sciences Corp., died June 20 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. He had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Schock, a Bethesda resident, retired from Orbital Sciences in 2002 as a Germantown-based engineer in the energy systems department.

When he began his career in the late 1950s, he joined what was then Fairchild, a commercial and military contractor. The company went through changes over the years and was acquired by Orbital Sciences in 1994.

He was a native of Vienna, Austria, and settled in New York with his parents in 1938 to escape anti-Semitism. He became a U.S. citizen in 1944 and served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.

At Columbia University, he received a bachelor’s degree (1948) and a master’s degree (1950) in chemical engineering. He was a 1957 graduate of the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology in Tennessee.

He wrote many professional articles on ways to generate electricity in restricted environments, such as outer space. He served on independent review boards and assessment committees involving nuclear radioisotope and nuclear reactor power systems on spacecraft.

His honors included commendations from NASA and the Energy Department.

He was a member of Phi Lambda Upsilon, an honorary chemical society.

His avocations included attending opera performances.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Nora Weinraub Schock of Bethesda.

— Adam Bernstein