•Pioneer Award•

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Francisco J. Delgado

Lead, Hybrid Reality and Advanced Operational Concepts Lab, Spacecraft Software Engineering Branch

NASA Johnson Space Center

Education: M.S., physics and B.S., computer science and physics, Southwest Texas State University.


As a leader in the rapidly developing fields of Virtual, Augmented, and Hybrid Reality, Francisco J. Delgado lives in a world that was considered the realm of science fiction not too long ago. As the originator and current lead of the Johnson Space Center’s Hybrid Reality and Advanced Operational Concepts Lab, he has been at the forefront of innovations in applying virtual reality technology to the human spaceflight domain for spacecraft design, on-board vehicle operations, and crew training. Mr. Delgado has pioneered innovations in combining photo realistic visuals with physical models and other sensory information to provide ultrarealistic and immersive systems. 


The lab he supervises has developed new techniques for integrating commercial, real-time photo realistic rendering systems, low latency and real-time room-scale tracking systems and 3D printed objects, realistic sound, and haptic feedback for use in human spaceflight applications. Example applications include CisLunar habitat designs, intra-vehicular (IVA) training, lunar environment and planetary exploration system designs (high fidelity landers, rovers, and tools), and reduced gravity training. 


This revolutionary work is an important step forward to making access to space more affordable for the US and all mankind. The implications of his research and development are impacting much more than just space travel, however. Virtual Reality is disrupting industries like video games, entertainment, and consumer electronics these days.  Through partnerships he has forged with companies such as NVIDIA, Epic Games, HTC, Fusion VR, Opaque Media Group, and Framestore, Mr. Delgado’s continuing innovations are being incorporated into consumer level applications for everything from VR headsets, to computers, to mobile phones.  Even people outside NASA are already using technology he has influenced on a daily basis.


Mr. Delgado was born in Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico and came to the U.S. with his family as a small child.  He credits his mother’s insistence that he work hard, respect others, and excel in school for his success. From an early age, Mr. Delgado combined his education with a constant series of jobs ranging from mowing lawns and stocking grocery shelves to working in the family restaurant. While attending Southwest Texas State University, he worked at the University Library computer center and also tutoring other students in math and physics.  


His computer expertise led to an internship at Computer Sciences Corporation and a fall semester at Los Alamos National Laboratory working on statistical analysis of a high energy astrophysics objects. After graduation, he became a co-operative student at the NASA Johnson Space Center and eventually was hired on as a full time employee. 


Since then, his work, which has included co-authoring over a dozen papers and contributing to over a dozen NASA new technology/patent submittals, has earned him over 15 Excellence Recognition, Exceptional Performance, Group Achievement, and Top Software awards. 


The reality of Mr. Delgado’s accomplishments and innovation is as far from virtual as the distance between the earth and the furthest reaches of the universe that he is helping humankind explore.

-By Vinnie Longobardo