Physics-based Modeling & Integration, Lead
University of California Los Angeles

Richard Wirz is a Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at UCLA and holds a joint appointment in JPL’s Electric Propulsion Group at JPL. He is the Director of the UCLA Plasma & Space Propulsion Laboratory and the UCLA Energy Innovation Laboratory. His plasma and space related research focuses on advance propulsion concepts and the plasma science relevant to these devices. His energy research currently focuses on new approaches to fusion energy, solar thermal energy storage, and wind energy capture. Prof. Wirz received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and a B.S. in Ocean Engineering from Virginia Tech and an M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Aeronautics and Applied Sciences from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).


  • Caltech, 2005

Research and Interests

Electric and micro propulsion, low temperature plasma and plasma discharges, spacecraft and space mission design, alternative energy generation and storage.


  • Wirz R.E., Aspe S., “Integrated Wind Turbine,” Patent No. US 9,228,564, Jan. 05, 2016
  • Wirz R.E., “Accelerator System and Method for Accelerating Particles,” Patent No. US 7,773,362 B1, Aug. 10, 2010
  • Wirz R.E., “Internally Conductively-Heated Cathode,” Patent No. US 7,471,035 B2, Dec. 30, 2008
  • Conversano R.W., Goebel D.M., Wirz R.E., “Magnetically Shielded Miniature Hall Thruster,” Patent Application No. US 14/506,635, filed Oct 4, 2014
  • Wirz R.E., Stopin A., Tse L.A., Lavine A.S., Kavehpour H.P., Lakeh R.B., Furst B., Bran-Anleu G. , Garcia-Garibay M.A., “High-Density, High-Temperature Thermal Energy Storage And Retrieval ,” Patent Application No. US 14/475479 , filed Sept 02, 2014

NASA Tech Briefs

  • Wirz R., Gamero, Goebel D., “Pulsed Operation of an Ion Accelerator,” NASA Tech Brief, NPO-44961, pg. 52, Vol. 33, No. 2, Feb 2009.
  • Goebel D., Polk J. E., Wirz R., “Increasing the Life of a Xenon-Ion Spacecraft Thruster,” NASA Tech Brief, NPO-43495, Vol. 31, No. 11, Nov 2007.

Awards And Recognition Professional Society Memberships

  • Senior Member, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, AIAA
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE
  • Power & Energy Society
  • Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society
  • Sigma Gamma Tau, Aerospace Honor Society
  • Electric Rocket Propulsion Society, ERPS
  • American Solar Energy Society, ASES
  • Part-time Senior Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology