Dr. Michael Krainak

Chief Technology Officer


As Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Dr. Krainak manages, develops and enhances the Internal Research & Development portfolio.  Our primary focus is the development of commercial optical communication terminals for use in terrestrial, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), High Altitude Platform (HAP) and satellite markets.  Dr. Krainak is the Principal Investigator leading two recently awarded NASA Small Business Innovative Research proposals:

Dr. Krainak maintains his strong interest in Photonic Integrated Circuits and their application for sensors, communication, and high-performance computing.  The RDi team (led by J. Draganov) won third place in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Payload” NASA Herox challenge that incorporates a state-of-the-art PIC for Optical Frequency Domain Reflectometry to enable a miniature fiber-grating-based Lunar Seismometer.

Dr. Krainak has a strong interest in laser-based manufacturing.  He is co-leading the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) Applications and Technology (A&T) 2: Laser-based Manufacturing, Machining and Nanoprinting sub-committee.  Dr. Krainak is a member of the Advanced Photon Counting Techniques sub-committeee for the Society of Photo-Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Photonics West Conference.

Dr. Krainak holds five patents, the most recent, “Coherent Optical Transistor”, awarded in September 2020.  He has co-authored over 200 publications. Dr. Krainak was awarded the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Internal Research and Development Innovator of the Year award in 2018.

Michael Krainak received his BS in electrical engineering from Catholic University and MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.  He started his career as a telephone switch office field engineer for AT&T Western Electric.  He worked for nine years at the National Security Agency in the Computer Research Group.  His PhD research was on real-time holography in photorefractive crystals.   He had a short sabbatical at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the Optical Computing Laboratory. For twenty-eight years, he worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the Lasers and Electro-Optics Branch on inter-satellite laser communications and lidar systems. In 2001, he worked at the semiconductor laser start-up - Quantum Photonics Inc.

Dr. Krainak’s NASA roles included:

  • Research and Development lead for Optical Communication technology and Lidar technology.
  • Technical management lead for the X-ray Timing Explorer (XTE) Interferometric Fiber Optic Gyroscope (IFOG) experiment.
  • Cloud Lidar Subsystem Lead Engineer for the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESAT) Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) Instrument.  
  • Co-Investigator for the Laser Sounder for Earth atmospheric CO2 mapping Instrument Incubator awards that subsequently led to the Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days, and Seasons (ASCENDS) mission. The ASCENDS objective is to make global atmospheric column carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements without a seasonal, latitudinal, or diurnal bias.
  • Co-Investigator on the NASA-GSFC management oversight team for the Mars Laser Communication Demonstration (MLCD).
  • Co-Investigator on the NASA-GSFC management oversight team for the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD).
  • Technical lead on the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) proposal team.
  • Lead for laser and photon counting detector subsystem Preliminary & Critical Design Reviews for the Advanced Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) on the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESAT-2).
  • Co-Investigator on the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) laser development.
  • Co-Investigator on the ACaDAMe (Atmospheric Coupling and Dynamics Across the Mesopause region) proposed space-borne sodium lidar development.

He served as the NASA representative to the American Institute of Manufacturing (AIM) Integrated Photonics Consortium.  He is presently the Chief Technology Officer at Relative Dynamics Inc. working on satellite optical communications.

Employee Spotlight

How would you describe the culture at Relative Dynamics?

Intelligent and agile with diligent pursuit of innovation, opportunities and working simulations, algorithms, models and hardware

Why did you choose to work at Relative Dynamics?

High commercial target markets and high energy work environment

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