Frederick Wilford "Rick" Sturckow (born August 11, 1961) is an Engineer, United States Marine Corps officer and a NASA astronaut. Sturckow is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions. He flew on STS-88 and STS-105 as a pilot and STS-117 and STS-128 as a commander. All four missions docked with the International Space Station, making Sturckow one of two people to visit the station four times. Sturckow later was assigned to the Johnson Space Center as a CAPCOM. He left NASA in May 2013 to become a pilot for Virgin Galactic.[1]


Sturckow was born La Mesa, California, but considers Lakeside, California, to be his hometown. He is married to the former Michele A. Street of Great Mills, Maryland. He enjoys flying and physical training. His father, Karl H. Sturckow, resides in Lakeside and his mother, Janette R. Sturckow, resides in La Mesa. He was a member of the Marine Corps Association (MCA) and a former member of Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP).

Sturckow has the nickname "CJ", which stands for "Caustic Junior". It was given to him when he was a young Marine, because he resembled a squadron commander who was appropriately called “Caustic”.[2]


Sturckow graduated from Grossmont High School, La Mesa, California, in 1978. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University in 1984.

Awards and honorsEdit

Defense Superior Service Medal, Single Mission Air Medal with Combat “V”, Strike/Flight Air Medals (4), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, NASA Space Flight Medals (4).

Military careerEdit

Sturckow was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1984. An honor graduate of The Basic School, he earned his aviator wings in April 1987. Following initial F/A-18 training at VFA-125, he reported to VMFA-333, MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. While assigned to VMFA-333 he made an overseas deployment to Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines and was then selected to attend the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in March 1990. In August 1990, he deployed to Sheik Isa Air Base, Bahrain for a period of eight months. Sturckow flew a total of forty-one combat missions during Operation Desert Storm. In January 1992 he attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California. In 1993 he reported to the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for duty as the F/A-18 E/F Project Pilot. Sturckow also flew a wide variety of projects and classified programs as an F/A-18 test pilot.

He has logged over 4,000 flight hours and has flown over 50 different aircraft.

NASA careerEdit

STS-128 Rick Sturckow adds his crew's patch to a wall of the Unity node

Sturckow adds the STS-128 mission patch to the wall of the Unity Node aboard the International Space Station.

Selected by NASA in December 1994, Sturckow reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995. He completed a year of training and evaluation and was assigned to work technical issues for the Vehicle Systems and Operations Branch of the Astronaut Office. He currently serves as Deputy for the Shuttle Operations Branch of the Astronaut Office, and also serves as Lead for Kennedy Space Center Operations Support. Before STS-128 Sturckow was a veteran of three space flights and has logged over 904 hours in space. He served as pilot on STS-88 in 1998 (the first International Space Station assembly mission), and most recently on STS-105 in 2001. Sturckow was the commander of the STS-117 mission. Sturckow was the commander of the STS-128 mission launched on August 28, 2009.[3] Sturckow was also the launch CAPCOM for STS-130 in February 2010,[4] and for STS-131 in April 2010.[5] On January 13, 2011, NASA named Sturckow as the backup commander for STS-134.[6] The appointment allowed the commander, Mark Kelly (who subsequently flew the mission), to continue to support his wife, U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, while she recovered from an attempted assassination.

After NASAEdit

On May 8, 2013, Virgin Galactic announced[7] they had hired Sturckow for flight testing of the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft and the White Knight Two aircraft, as the company prepares for subsequent commercial operations.

See alsoEdit


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