Nguyễn Xuân Vinh (born January 1930 in Yên Bái, Vietnam) is a noted Vietnamese-American aerospace scientist and educator. Vinh is Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he taught for nearly thirty years. His seminal work on the guidance, dynamics and optimal control of space vehicles and their interaction with the atmosphere has played a fundamental role in space exploration and technological development.

Military service

Nguyễn Xuân Vinh attended the French Air Force Academy at Salon de Provence where he specialised in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1954, he graduated from the nearby Aix-Marseille University in Mathematics and was commissioned as an officer. The following year, he qualified as a French Air Force multi-engine pilot.

Following his return to Vietnam, Vinh was appointed Chief of Staff in the Republic of Vietnam Air Force in October 1957. In 1958, Vinh became the Commander and first Air Marshal of the Vietnam Air Force at the age of 28. He served as Air Force Commander until 1962 when he resigned and emigrated to the United States ? .


In 1965, Vinh was the recipient of the first Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences conferred by the University of Colorado. In 1972, he was awarded a national doctorate in Mathematics by the University of Paris, France. He joined the University of Michigan in 1968 as an associate professor of Aerospace Engineering and was promoted to the rank of professor in 1972. During his tenure at Michigan, Vinh chaired more than 20 doctoral committees. It is estimated that over 1,000 aerospace engineers studied under him.

In 1994, he was given the Mechanics and Control of Flight Award by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

As a scientist and educator, he has published three books and more than 100 papers in mathematics, astrodynamics and trajectory optimization. He is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and a foreign member of the French National Academy of Air and Space.


In 1960, to promote a cadet recruitment program for the newly created Air Force Academy in Vietnam, he wrote a novel: Pilot’s Life, which became a best-seller (now in its sixth printing) and he was awarded the Republic of Vietnam’s National Literature Prize. The novel is in the form of a series of letters written by a pilot to his sweetheart.[1]


In 2006, he won the Dirk Brouwer Award, awarded by the American Astronautical Society, for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of space flight mechanics and astrodynamics. [2]


  • Hypersonic and Planetary Entry Flight Mechanics. 1980. Vinh, N. X.; Busemann, A.; Culp, R. D. University of Michigan Press.
  • Optimal Trajectories in Atmospheric Flight 1981. Vinh N. X. , Studies in Astronautics 2, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam.
  • Flight Mechanics of High-Performance Aircraft. 1993. Nguyen X. Vinh. Cambridge Aerospace Series. ISBN 0-521-34123-X

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Trần Văn Hổ
Commander Republic of Vietnam Air Force
1958 – 1962
Succeeded by
Huỳnh Hữu Hiền