Ross was raised in San Francisco, California, the son of an electrician from Nova Scotia. After obtaining his doctorate, he was made Director of the University of California's Hydrodynamics Laboratory. He joined Aerojet in August 1943. His first assignment was the top-secret Project X Aerotojet liquid fuel engine. This set the pattern of his involvement over the next 40 years in any project that involved new fuels, exotic metals, new materials, and thinking by the team well outside the established box.
The Aerotojet was to be the powerplant for the P-79B "Flying Ram" flying wing rocket fighter. The all-magnesium wing, flown by a prone pilot, was to ride 340 kgf of rocket thrust to the altitude of enemy bomber formations, cruise through the formation at near-supersonic speed on 140 kgf cruise thrust, and then ram the enemy bomber, slicing it apart with the reinforced leading-edge of its wing. For this application GALCIT had conceived a unique rotating thrust chamber design. Two canted rocket nozzles would provide the lower cruise thrust. The centrifugal force from the rotating nozzle assemblies would force the propellants to the nozzles. This seemed a reasonable solution at a time when there was no experience of high speed hot-gas high-capacity turbine pumps. For the boost thrust, the rotating assembly would feed the propellants to the fixed higher-thrust chamber. The project was plagued by problems with getting the nitric acid rotating seals not to leak corrosive fuel, and the spectacularly incorrect design of key component parts by an unqualified engineer. When the time came for the first test in 1944, the engine promptly exploded to smithereens when the firing button was pressed. Poor instrumentation meant the actual cause could never be determined. The Aerotojet and the P-79 were cancelled, but Ross was assigned to complete development of a simplified subscale version of the motor, the Centrojet. This was made to work reliably, and was useful in combustion studies. But it was realized it could not be scaled up, and the concept was abandoned for further rocket engine development.
Birth Place: San Francisco, California.