Maxime Faget

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Maxime Faget
Maxime Allen Faget

(1921-08-26)August 26, 1921
Stann Creek Town, British Honduras
(now Dangriga, Belize)
DiedOctober 9, 2004(2004-10-09) (aged 83)
Houston, Texas, United States
Other namesMax Faget
Alma materCity College of San Francisco
Louisiana State University, B.S. 1943
Known forDesigner of the Mercury capsule
AwardsASME Medal (1975)
Space shuttle model, created by Faget, April 1, 1969

Maxime Allen "Max" Faget[1][2] (pronounced fah-ZHAY; August 26, 1921 – October 9, 2004) was a Belizean-born American mechanical engineer. Faget was the designer of the Mercury spacecraft, and contributed to the later Gemini and Apollo spacecraft as well as the Space Shuttle.


Faget was the son of American doctor Guy Henry Faget, and great-grandson of another prominent physician, Jean Charles Faget. Born in Dangriga, Belize (then known as British Honduras), he attended City College of San Francisco in San Francisco, California, and he received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University in 1943.[3]

After three years as a submariner aboard USS Guavina in the U.S. Navy, Faget joined the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia as a research scientist. While working for NACA at Langley, he worked on the design of the X-15 hypersonic spacecraft.[4]

In 1958, Faget became one of the 35 engineers who formed the Space Task Group, creating the Mercury spacecraft. He based his designs on the aerodynamic work of Harvey Allen from the mid-1950s, and was instrumental in selecting the blunt-body shape that won the Mercury competition over numerous contenders.[5] He led the development of the escape tower system used on Mercury, which was used in various forms on almost all following crewed spacecraft. He also worked on the Gemini and Apollo vehicles, which shared many design points with the Mercury.[6]

Faget filed a patent for a space shuttle vehicle design in 1972. His design, which he named "DC-3" in homage to the famed Douglas DC-3 airliner, was a small two-stage fully reusable shuttle with a payload capacity around 15,000 pounds (6,800 kg). DC-3 was officially studied by North American Aviation and shown in the press as a baseline contender for the Space Transportation System (STS). North American also studied a version of the same basic system with a much larger 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg) payload. However, the DC-3's nose-high re-entry profile was controversial, and eventually doomed it when the U.S. Air Force joined the Shuttle program and demanded cross-range performance that the DC-3 could not meet. In the end, its most lasting contribution was to clearly identify the trade-offs inherent in any reusable design.[7]

In 1962 Faget became the Director of Engineering and Development at the Manned Spacecraft Center[3] and continued to work for NASA until his retirement in 1981, shortly after the second Space Shuttle flight (STS-2). After his retirement, he was among the founders of Space Industries Inc., established in 1982. One of the projects of the company was the Wake Shield Facility, a device to create near-perfect vacuum in the thermosphere. The WSF flew three times with a Space Shuttle in 1994–96 (STS-60, STS-69, STS-80).

In 1962, Faget received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[8] Faget was inducted into the 1969 National Inventors Hall of Fame, and received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and John J. Montgomery Award. He was inducted into the Houston National Space Hall of Fame in 1969.[9] He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1990.[10] Faget was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2020.[11]

Faget died of bladder cancer on October 9, 2004, aged 83.


Faget was co-inventor on five United States patents issued to Space Industries, Inc. between 1988 and 1992:

Patent No. -----------------Title

MAX-1 spacecraft[edit]

The private spaceflight organization Copenhagen Suborbitals was developing a piloted spacecraft named after Faget, the MAX-1, but the project was halted due to issues around the effects of rapid acceleration of humans in a standing position.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Max Faget".
  2. ^ "Maxime Faget, 83; Pioneering Aerospace Engineer Designed Mercury Capsule". The New York Times. 12 October 2004.
  3. ^ a b Garber, Steve. "Biographical Data Dr. Maxime A. Faget". Updated October 15, 2004 by Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  4. ^ Allen, Bob (2015-08-03). "Maxime A. Faget". NASA. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  5. ^ Chaikin, Andrew (November 2009). "How the Spaceship Got Its Shape: In the 1950s: Harvey Allen solved the problem of atmospheric entry but first he had to convince his colleagues". Smithsonian. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution.
  6. ^ Oberg, James. "Max Faget: Master Builder". Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  7. ^ Marcus Lindroos, MSC/North American Concept-A "DC-3" Archived 2012-03-16 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  9. ^ Harbert, Nancy (September 27, 1981). "Hall to Induct Seven Space Pioneers". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. p. 53 – via
  10. ^ Sheppard, David (September 27, 1990). "Slayton to Join Space Hall of Fame". El Paso Times. El Paso, Texas. p. 9 – via
  11. ^ "Enshrinee Maxime Faget". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  12. ^ Madsen Peter (August 18, 2012). "Store nyheder om store raketter". Ingeniøren. Archived from the original on August 21, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2021.

External links[edit]