Jerry R. Norton

Jerry R. Norton – Spacecraft Oscillator Designer 1938 – 2001

Jerry R. Norton, a spacecraft oscillator designer at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., died Oct. 30, 2001 from injuries sustained in the crash of an experimental plane near Westminster, Md. He was 63. Born in Otto, N.C., he was a resident of Marriottsville, Md.

He accumulated two years of undergraduate credits from Duke University in 1956 and 1957 and earned an associate in applied science degree from Capitol Radio Engineering Institute, Washington, D.C., in 1960.

Mr. Norton joined APL in 1961 as a senior electronic technician and was soon promoted to an engineer. His early work centered around development of receiver systems for the Transit navigation satellites that the Navy and commercial ships have used since 1958. He developed the RF (radio frequency) portion of a low-cost receiver for Transit and was responsible for the electrical design, mechanical packaging and final checkout and test.

He was a specialist in the development of ultra-stable oscillators used for spacecraft navigation, timekeeping, and radio science experiments on unmanned scientific satellites. Mr. Norton led a team that designed and built a precision quartz oscillator for radio science experiments conducted by the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science’s mission to Mars. The quality and importance of Mr. Norton’s contributions together with those of his colleagues in the field of ultra-stable oscillator technology led NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to state in 1998 that “APL is the only credible source for oscillators when cutting-edge performance is needed.”

A senior engineer in APL’s Space Department, he held a patent on a navigational receiver and also served on the Technical Program Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers – International Frequency Control Symposium.

Mr. Norton and fellow APL co-worker, Jim Cloeren, built and co-owned the 1999 Titan Tornado II, two-seat, single-engine aircraft they were flying at the time of the accident. Mr. Norton was an avid gardener and enjoyed amateur photography.

Mr. Norton is survived by his wife, Ann; three daughters, Maria Lawall of Laurel, Md., Donna Norton of Marriottsville, Md., Tina Norton of Germantown, Md.; and four grandchildren.