Spaceflight community mourns loss of ULA Chief Scientist Bernard Kutter

'Gifted aerospace engineer' described as 'central part' of space exploration by those who knew him

ULA chief scientist Bernard Kutter died on Aug. 12. (Image: ULA courtesy) (WKMG 2020)

The space and engineering community is grieving for the loss of one of spaceflight’s most gifted minds after the death of United Launch Alliance Chief Scientist Bernard Kutter.

Kutter, who was considered a leader in NewSpace and the architect of ULA lunar plan, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Aug. 12, according to the National Space Society.

ULA confirmed the passing of Kutter in a statement from CEO and President Tory Bruno.

“ULA lost a valued teammate and friend. It is with a very heavy heart we share that Bernard Kutter, our Chief Scientist and manager of Advanced Programs, unexpectedly passed away. Bernard has been a cornerstone of our Advanced Programs team, shaping the future of space technology and sharing that vision with many inside and outside of ULA,” Bruno said in a statement. “Bernard’s influence can be seen everywhere from the Vulcan Centaur design to NASA’s lunar architecture. Our hearts are with his family during this very difficult time.”

Kutter was based at ULA’s Denver offices and was overseeing the design of the company’s new Vulcan rocket, which will replace ULA’s workhorse rocket Atlas V and the Delta Heavy IV rockets.

After graduating from the University of Washington in 1987, Kutter worked at United Launch Alliance and its predecessors for more than 32 years.

According to the National Space Society, Kutter was also the architect of ULA’s plan to put 1,000 people into space in the next 25 years. He hosted workshops on lunar science for ULA employees and other members of the spaceflight and planetary science community.

“Bernard was a gifted aerospace engineer and a strong advocate for a thriving human presence in space,” said Near Earth founder and National Space Society board member Hoyt Davidson. “His untimely death robs us of decades of important contributions.”

Out of respect for Kutter’s family, ULA declined to comment further, but the overwhelming support from the spaceflight community offers a great insight into the loss.

Phil Metzger, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, described Kutter as a “central part” of space.

“Bernard deserves to be remembered in the history books for his long-term, steady, high-quality contributions to space access and to making this a better world,” Metzgar said in a tweet.

In his own words, Kutter wrote, “I want to help humans use space to better our lives and enhance our understanding of the universe.”