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John W. Townsend, Jr., Papers

Identifier: Ms-1990-068

Scope and Contents

This collection contains six boxes of John W. Townsend, Jr.'s personal and professional papers from 1949 until his retirement from corporate and government aerospace work in 1990. In addition to profressional correspondence, memos, and subject files, there are extensive travel files from 1949-1968 and 1985-1990, congressional testimony on NASA projects from 1982-1986, and files on the history of the Upper Air Rocket Research Program at the Naval Research Laboratory from about 1956-1958. Throughout his career, Townsend also served on a number of council, boards, and panels. The collection also includes files from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station Advisory Panel (1966-1968, the International Academy of Astronautics (c. 1981-1987), the NASA Advisory Council (1982-1987), the National Academy of Engineering (1982-1987), the National Research Council Space Applications Board (1983-1987), and the Office of Technology Assessment Advisory Board Panel on International Cooperation and Competition in Civilian Space Activities (1982-1985).  


  • 1949 - 1990


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

John W. Townsend, Jr. was born in 1924. He received a B.A. from Williams College in 1947, an M.A. in 1949, and a Sc.D. in 1961. After completing his M.A., Townsent went to work for the Naval Research Labororatory from 1949-1958, spending the last three years as a branch head. In 1958, he moved to NASA for a decade, including three years (1965-1968) as the deputy director fo the Goddard Space Center in Maryland. He left NASA in 1968 to serve as a deputy administrator in the Environmental Sciences Services Administration (1968-1970), and an associate adminstrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (1970-1977). In 1977, he took a break from government work, serving as the president of Fairchild Space and Electronics Company (1977-1982) and, when the company changed names, president of Fairchild Space Company from 1983-1987. In 1987, he returned to NASA as director of the Goddard Space Center until his retirement in 1990. Townsend died in November 2011.


8.4 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)


The collection is in the original order it was received. For the most part, materials related to the same topic or organization are together and arranged in reverse chronological order.

Physical Access

Please note: This collection is in off-site storage and requires 2-3 days notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Source of Acquisition

The John W. Townsend, Jr., Papers were donated to Special Collections in 1990.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the John W. Townsend, Jr., Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

Some original description of the John W. Townsend, Jr., Papers was completed prior to 2000. A folder list and additional description of the collection was completed in October and November 2018.

John W. Townsend, Jr., Papers, 1949-1990
Special Collections Staff
2018 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-09-11: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US