College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

NASA International Space Station manager Montalbano newest member of AerE Hall of Distinguished Alumni

Alric Rothmayer presents Hall of Dinstinguished Alumni plaque to Joel Montalbano
Alric Rothmayer presents Hall of Dinstinguished Alumni plaque to Joel Montalbano
AerE Vance and Arlene Coffman Endowed Department Chair Alric Rothmayer (left) presents the Hall of Distinguished Alumni plaque to Joel Montalbano at a banquet marking his induction.

Department of Aerospace Engineering alumnus Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) program, was inducted into the department’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni during a banquet in his honor April 21.

Montalbano spent the day in the department meeting with faculty and the department’s Industrial Advisory Council. He also toured department facilities, provided a student seminar and met with students in the department’s M:2:I (Make To Innovate) program who discussed and showed the various projects they are working on.

Montalbano with CyRoc group
Joel Montalbano (center) poses with members of the Cyclone Rocketry student team and faculty advisor Leonard Bond during a exhibition session in Howe Hall.

Montalbano earned a B.S. in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Iowa State in 1988. He immediately went to work for NASA, holding technical and operational integration roles before being selected as a flight director, where he had overall responsibility for executing Space Shuttle flights and ISS expeditions.

With his 2020 promotion to ISS manager, he has led a 5,700-person team responsible for the development and operation of complex space flight hardware and software and its integration with modules from international partners into a fully functional and operating ISS with a permanent human presence. He is also responsible for policy development, international partner negotiations, continued development of a commercial low Earth orbit economy, on-board science and technology demonstration, and the overall safety and health of the crew and on-orbit vehicle. View his official NASA biography.

Montalbano with Micro-G student team
Montalbano discusses the device developed by the Make To Innovate program’s Micro-G NExT team, one of eight recently selected to advance in the national competition.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering Hall of Distinguished Alumni includes more than 30 department graduates who have made a significant impact on the field of Aerospace Engineering. Plaques honoring each inductee can be found in the lobby of Howe Hall.