Opus College of Engineering
Professional Achievement Award
William A. Feess, Eng ’51
Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
Next time you arrive at a destination with help from global positioning system navigation, one person you can thank is Bill. The pioneer in GPS development is recognized for critical early developments and continuing contributions to the art and science of navigation.
A Milwaukee native who majored in electrical engineering at Marquette and worked at Allis-Chalmers as part of the co-op program, Bill landed his first full-time position at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
After a stint working with the Titan rocket program in Denver, Colo., he went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of California–Los Angeles and then took a job with Aerospace Corp., where he worked for more than 50 years.
In the early 1970s Bill conducted some of the earliest testing and analysis of satellite-based navigation for the Air Force 621B program, the predecessor to GPS. His work helped secure approval and funding to move GPS development forward. In the 1980s Bill helped develop the concept of the GPS “composite clock,” which became the time reference for the system and significantly advanced its accuracy. In 1989 he helped develop rigorous methods for steering GPS time to Universal Time Coordinated. This work led to GPS serving as the primary means of global Universal Time Coordinated distribution.
Bill also made multiple, substantial improvements to the orbit determination process at the heart of the GPS operational control segment, leading the adoption of a new solar radiation pressure model for GPS satellites, helping refine the current ionospheric model, and generating analysis used to advocate for certain GPS accuracy and integrity improvement initiatives within the Air Force.
Bill’s body of work developing and refining GPS navigation was recognized in 2010 with The Institute of Navigation Captain P.V.H. Weems Award.
Upon his retirement from Aerospace Corp., Bill continued to serve as its distinguished engineer, working part time into his mid-80s. In this capacity, he especially enjoyed mentoring young engineers.