Ronald (Ron) Beard

Ronald (Ron) Beard, 76, passed away July 20, 2020. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Carol Ann Beard; his son, Orson Beard (fiancé Melissa); grandchildren, Zachary, Kyle and Elizabeth; and his half-brother, Terry. He is preceded in death by his son, Gregory.

Ronald Beard was a physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). He held undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Physics and a graduate degree from George Washington University. He began his professional career as an officer in the U.S. Navy in 1968. He retired from full-time government service in 2015, but continued to work part-time at NRL until the time of his death. Mr. Beard’s most notable contribution was as a pioneer in the design and development of technologies for the Global Positioning System (GPS), an essential and ubiquitous capability used all over the world. He continued supporting the operation of GPS and the development of improvements to it. His work also included the expansion of the basic capabilities of GPS into precise frequency and time of day distribution for communications, business, and scientific research.

As a young naval officer, Ron was the Project Officer for Navigation Satellites in the Naval Air Systems Command’s Astronautics Division and the TIMATION program, a forerunner to GPS. In 1971 he joined the NRL and their early GPS developments (1971-1979) as the project scientist in the NRL’s GPS Program Office which developed Navigation Technology Satellites One and Two and operated the first atomic clocks in space. In succeeding years, he was the Program Manager of the NRL NAVSTAR GPS Clock Development Program that developed alternative sources of space qualified atomic clocks for the GPS program.

One of the primary and most critical contributions of NRL to the GPS program were the development of technologies for enabling space qualified atomic clocks. Those developments began in the early days of GPS and continued under Mr. Beard’s leadership when he became the head of the Space Applications Branch in 1984. Under his leadership that technology came to fruition in the Rubidium technology used in the operational GPS satellites of today. Ron was also instrumental in the development of NRL’s unique capability to test these units under operationally space–like conditions, a capability still used today to test and validate GPS space clocks.

Mr. Beard has participated in numerous technical groups including the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Study Group into Global Air Navigation, Navy representative on Project Reliance Frequency Control Panel, Head of the DoD PNT Focus Team for Space Technology. He has authored or co-authored over 50 technical papers. He was an organizer of the Joint Navigation Conference (JNC) as part of the Institute of Navigation (ION), and served as a Government Liaison to the ION’s Military Division. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation and an ION member for over 30 years. He was also a member of the annual Precise Time and Time Interval (PTTI) Executive Committee, where he served in several executive positions and received the Distinguished PTTI Service Award in 2012. He was a member of the American Geophysical Union and a Senior Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Mr. Beard has participated in or chaired numerous committees dealing with Precise Time and Frequency that have determined the course of systems and technology development both nationally and internationally. He has been the International chairman of the ITU-R working party on Precise Time and Frequency Services since 2005 that determines recommendations to the international community on the generation, dissemination and evaluation of precise time and frequency systems. As the chairman he has participated not only in ITU-R workshops, seminars and working groups but also has represented the ITU and the U.S. in international committees that determine the international time scale and dissemination services.