Charles Richard Johnson Obituary

Charles Richard Johnson (Dick) died peacefully at his home in El Segundo surrounded by his family on March 31, 2022 following a long illness. Dick was born on December 4, 1936 in Lewiston, Idaho to Lillian H. and Charles J. Johnson. His family moved several times around the country, but ended up back in Lewiston in 1949.

His lifelong interest in classical music started with his playing the clarinet and violin in the Lewiston High School band and orchestra. He also acquired a passion for fly fishing leading to numerous trips in future years around the west to the best fly fishing rivers in the country.

He also developed an interest in chemistry in high school and with a friend built a chemistry lab in a detached shed at his home. His superior performance on the chemistry achievement test was instrumental in his admission to Caltech and his future life in Southern California. Dick came to Caltech in 1955 and received a BS degree in applied chemistry in 1959 and a Masters Degree in mechanical engineering in 1960. The next year Dick was an exchange student for a year at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm Sweden, where he met his first wife, Gudrun. Returning to Los Angeles in 1961,

Dick joined Hughes Aircraft Company as a Member of the Technical Staff and married Gudrun in 1962. Dick had a varied and successful career in the Hughes Space and Communications Group (HSC) over the next 48 years. He started working as a systems engineer on studies and government satellite proposals. Dick went on to work as the systems engineering manager on several government programs. He was the program manager of both HS-350, a large classified communication satellite program, and the UHF Follow-On program. Dick served as manager of commercial new business programs at HSC for two years. He also was manager of the HS-601 programs division, which developed the highly successful 601 satellite bus used by commercial and government satellite programs. Before retirement in 1994 he was the manager of all HSC government new business. After a very brief retirement he came back to work in 1995 as a consultant offering technical support to numerous HSC/ Boeing programs, proposals, and several technical review teams until he fully retired in 2009.

Dick and Gudrun had an active family life during these years, raising three children, Karin, Erik, and Anders. They had numerous trips to Europe, especially Sweden, and visited many of Gudrun’s friends and family. They started their married life in Baldwin Hills, but moved to El Segundo in 1974 and lived here the remainder of their lives. Gudrun predeceased Dick, and he married Linda Yan in 2006. During this time Dick continued his interest in music as the president of the South Bay Community Concert Association for eight years. He spent many hours listening to CD’s from prospective performers to recommend artists to the board for upcoming concert seasons. Another of Dick’s avocations was cooking. Taught by his mother, he developed his skills and did a lot of cooking in his retirement years, Dick and Linda took several trips abroad including one to China to meet Linda’s family. They were both active in and sang in the choir of the United Methodist Church of El Segundo. Linda was devoted to Dick and attended him with great care in his declining years.

Dick is survived by his wife, Linda Yan Johnson, his brother, Bob Johnson, his three children, Karin Tan, Erik and Anders Johnson, and four grandchildren, Ginger and Serkan Tan and Steele and Kaylee Johnson.

Dick’s memorial service will be held on April 30th, 2022 at 2:00pm at the United Methodist Church of El Segundo, located at 540 Main Street. There will be a reception at the church following the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, the United Methodist Church of El Segundo, or to a charity of your choice. 

Paul Sengstock – Rest In Peace

Paul Sengstock passed away on January 28, 2021 at age of 88, spending his final months in hospice care. He is survived by his wife Judy – his college sweetheart, three children, and five grandchildren. Paul attended Northwestern University where he earned his degree in Electrical Engineering and was in the Navy ROTC program. Following his Navy career, he was hired by Hughes Ground Systems and moved to California, settling in Torrance.

At Hughes Space and Communications, Paul was part of Dr. Harold Rosen’s team that built and launched the first commercial communications satellites (Syncom I and II) in 1963. His contributions included design development and support of Launch and Mission Operations. Paul subsequently worked on several commercial HS376 spin stabilized spacecraft that were launched on several different expendable launch vehicles and then the first space shuttle optimized spacecraft, Syncom IV.

Syncom IV was the brainchild of Alois Wittman and Dr. Harold Rosen who handpicked a small dedicated team to run the program led by Ron Swanson as program manager and Jerry Dutcher as system engineering manager. The system engineering team consisted of Chuck Rubin mechanical and Paul Sengstock for spacecraft electrical interfaces that worked closely with NASA and the different Hughes functional areas during the development phase. Syncom IV required development of its own propulsion to transfer from the Shuttle orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous orbit. It was to be secured to the Shuttle’s payload bay using a reusable “cradle” adapter encircling the lower half of the spacecraft’s cylindrical drum. Deployment in orbit was to be implemented through a “Frisbee” ejection, clearing the payload bay with a small residual velocity and low spacecraft spin. Spacecraft on-board timers would autonomously command deployment of the S/C omni antenna to enable command and telemetry capability, spin up the spacecraft to about 30 rpm and fire the solid rocket motor to achieve the first transfer orbit. Electrical interfaces with the shuttle, the on-board S/C timer, launch, mission control and operations control centers were Paul’s primary responsibilities.

Syncom IV S/C was offered to the Navy as a lynch-pin for 5 years of world-wide communication service from 4 geosynchronous locations. Options were identified for 2 years of service extension and Navy could purchase the satellites after option exercised. The project was renamed LEASAT for Leased Service.

The Leasat contract provided Hughes an opportunity to expand its business from a spacecraft manufacturer to developing the system architecture and providing hardware for an entire worldwide communications system, including being a service provider. Hughes responsibilities included financing, launching, insuring, building the ground control network and operating the satellites for their lifetime in addition to spacecraft manufacture. Hughes Communications Inc (HCI) was formed as a subsidiary to Hughes Aircraft to provide ground stations and become the service provider to the Navy. 

Jack Fisher, Rest in Peace

by Andy Ott

Jack Fisher, the key founder, architect and manager of this website ( capturing Hughes Space and Communications Group history from 1960 to 2000 passed away November 2, 2020 at the age of eighty-eight after a battle with lung cancer. His legacy includes his wife Myra of 64 years, two children (Robert and Julianne) and four grandchildren. Jack retired from Hughes SCG in 1992 but continued to manage this website until the illness would no longer allow. 

Jack was born in Berwyn Illinois in 1932. His avid interest in airplanes during WWII was key to his graduation from the University of Illinois (BSAE); then USC (MSAE) and UCLA (Hughes Executive Education Program). Prior to joining Hughes in 1961, Jack worked for Lockheed in trajectory design and optimization of several launch vehicle and aircraft systems. This experience paved the way for Jack to join the Orbital Dynamics Section of Hughes.

Jack’s first assignment at Hughes was directing the trajectory and orbit design for the Hughes Lunar Orbiter proposal to NASA. This was in addition to various studies of Surveyor transit trajectories. He was assigned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for 6 months to learn Ranger trajectory procedures and support Ranger 5 flight operations and became responsible for Ranger 6 trajectory design. Jack became the Group Head of the Guidance and Trajectory Department for the Surveyor program.Jack became a nationally recognized expert of systems engineering in spacecraft development and mission design for commercial, NASA and DoD programs, including:

  *Managing Spacecraft Systems Engineering Laboratory that provided mechanical, electrical, launch systems and mass properties expertise, including oversight.

  *Led Pioneer Venus and Galileo Systems Engineering which resulted in launch and delivery of six spacecraft to Venus and a probe to Jupiter that increased our knowledge of both by orders of magnitude.

  *Planned and directed Systems Engineering Training Program at SCG that resulted in training of several hundred Systems Engineers. Planned and presented a 3-day seminar on Mil Std Systems Engineering on both the East and West coasts, a seminar to General Motors Executive committee and hundreds of top executives both in the United States and GM Europe familiarizing them with Spacecraft Systems Engineering processes, and a 5-day NASA Systems Engineering Course to Goddard, JPL, Langley, Lewis, and Ames.

Jack has published and presented numerous papers to several professional societies and has consulted with a number of organizations including the Royal Australian Air Force. Jack also consulted with NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory and Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) project leading the Project Manager’s Independent Review Team.