- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

Lt. Col. Melburn Carlisle “Bob” Spaulding, a retired Air Force pilot who helped develop the Air Force’s Global Positioning System, died Jan. 30 at his home in Fort Washington after battling multiple disabilities. He was 83.

Col. Spaulding was born in Huntington, W.Va. He graduated from Poca High School in Poca, W.Va., in 1941.

He became a pilot in the Army Air Forces through the Aviation Cadet Program in 1943. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in early 1945.

He left the Army in 1946, but remained in the Army Reserve to pursue a college degree at the University of Michigan. Col. Spaulding graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

Col. Spaulding returned to active duty in the newly formed Air Force after graduation. He participated in operations supporting the Berlin Airlift and Korean War. In the 1950s, he earned multiple pilot ratings in numerous aircraft. He was one of the test pilots and engineers assigned to develop and test rocket-assisted takeoffs for the B-47 bomber.

In 1956, Col. Spaulding went to the Air Force’s newly formed Western Development Division to support the Ballistic Missile Development Program at Inglewood, Calif. During this assignment, he participated in the research, development and testing for the Atlas missile. He also participated in other space-related programs, including as the X-20 Dyna-Soar space plane.

While at the Western Development Division, Col. Spaulding (then a captain) represented the Air Force as a technical adviser for a television show about spaceflight called “Men Into Space.” He provided the show with information on Air Force procedures, techniques and protocol for flight operations, and the latest missile and space programs.

In 1960, the Air Force sent him to the University of Chicago, where he graduated with a master’s degree in economics. After completing graduate school, he worked at the Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base.

He then moved to the Pentagon to help in the research and development of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which was the successor to the Dyna-Soar project.

As the Vietnam War expanded, he was stationed from 1968 to 1969 in Panama with the Air Commandos as a pilot and operations officer. He was later deployed to Vietnam as a military flight operations adviser to the South Vietnamese air force.

Col. Spaulding returned to the Pentagon, where he was instrumental in the funding, development and testing of the Air Force’s Global Positioning System.

Col. Spaulding retired in 1974.

After retirement, Col. Spaulding worked as a defense contractor in intelligence collections with the Melpar Division of E-Systems.

Survivors include a daughter, Lynn Spaulding of Aptos, Calif., Greg Spaulding of Alexandria and Scott Spaulding of Fort Washington; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was the husband of the late Margaret Jean Spaulding.

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