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Countdown to Psyche: Marshall Aids Preparations for Asteroid Mission, Key Technology Payload


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Countdown to Psyche: Marshall Aids Preparations for Asteroid Mission, Key Technology Payload

By Rick Smith

When the Psyche spacecraft lifts off Oct. 5 to rendezvous with a distant, metal-rich asteroid – and test an innovative new communications system on the way – management teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will be watching keenly.

Psyche is the 14th planetary exploration mission in NASA’s Discovery program, which is managed for the agency by Marshall – as is the TDM (Technology Demonstration Missions) program, which funds the DSOC (Deep Space Optical Communications) project.

Brad Zavodsky, left, Psyche mission manager in Marshalls Planetary Missions Program Office, and Joel Robinson, Deep Space Optical Communications mission manager at Marshall, ponder a scale model of the Psyche spacecraft.
Brad Zavodsky, left, Psyche mission manager in Marshall’s Planetary Missions Program Office, and Joel Robinson, Deep Space Optical Communications mission manager at Marshall, ponder a scale model of the Psyche spacecraft, which will be launched Oct. 5 on a mission to study a metal-rich asteroid deep in our solar system and will test innovative laser-based communications during the spacecraft’s transit around the Sun.
Credits: NASA/Mick Speer

“We ensure the project teams have all the resources they need to execute the project, monitor costs and schedules to keep the project on track and on time, and work closely with the payload and launch teams throughout the flight mission,” said Brad Zavodsky, Psyche mission manager in Marshall’s Planetary Missions Program Office.

Joel Robinson, DSOC mission manager at Marshall, concurs. He and Zavodsky serve as “conduits,” he said, between directorate-level technology and science leadership at NASA Headquarters and the Psyche and DSOC project leadership – both of which, serendipitously, are managed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The program office teams at Marshall include program planning and control personnel, independent technical authorities, and procurement and acquisition specialists. These technical experts provide the Psyche and DSOC missions with all necessary guidance and direction throughout their respective development and programmatic life cycles.

“That means a number of presentations, weekly telecons, and periodic reviews,” Robinson said, “but it’s all worth it as we count down to launch. All that oversight helps facilitate delivery of a robust payload – one that’s ready for launch and ready to extend humanity’s reach into the solar system.”

Led by principal investigator Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton at Arizona State University, Psyche is set to be lofted to space on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy – the first interplanetary launch of that rocket – from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 9:34 a.m. CDT on Oct. 5.

Powered by solar electric propulsion, Psyche’s flight to the asteroid will take six years; it will reach its destination in 2029 and begin a 26-month period of scheduled scientific observations, gathering images and data to shed new light on the asteroid’s history and composition.

The Psyche asteroid, orbiting the Sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, measures roughly 173 miles at its widest point. Researchers are keen to determine whether it may have been the core of a planetesimal, part of an early planet.

“We know a good deal about Earth’s core, but we can’t study it directly because of its depth below the crust and mantle,” Zavodsky said. “Investigating Psyche is perhaps the closest we can come. Studying its composition and structure is an exciting opportunity to learn more about such objects in space – and perhaps a little something about our own planet as well.”

Should the Psyche spacecraft encounter challenges during flight, Zavodsky’s team will assist mission managers at JPL and Arizona State University, for whom Marshall oversees the project management and principal investigator contracts.

“We’ll maintain direct engagement with the project team and NASA decision-making authorities,” he said. “Should an issue arise, the project will be prepared to stand up anomaly response teams to understand and resolve those challenges. Our program office will support that effort as needed.”

Meanwhile, the DSOC technology demonstrator is set to pursue its own mission, sending and receiving test data from Earth using a near-invisible infrared laser and sensitive photon-counting camera. It will mark NASA’s farthest-ever test of high-bandwidth optical communications – paving the way for broadband communications when NASA sends astronauts to Mars.

“We’re tackling the twin issues of bandwidth and transmission rate to expand and refine our data-gathering ability from missions beyond the Moon,” Robinson said. “We can’t transmit data faster than the speed of light, but we can do far more with advanced optical systems of the same size and power requirements as traditional radio systems.”

Building on the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration mission flown on the International Space Station in 2013 and the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, launched to geostationary orbit above Earth in 2021, the DSOC effort is the first to experiment with ultra-long-range, laser-based communications.

“It’s exciting to take optical communications capabilities into deep space for the first time,” Robinson said.

DSOC could deliver 10 to 100 times the data current radio systems are capable of transmitting, with far greater precision and clarity.

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

DSOC mission manager at Marshall

DSOC will test its optical transmission capabilities at and beyond a range of 1 astronomical unit, which is about 93 million miles – or the distance from the Sun to Earth. Psyche proves to be the perfect means to that end, requiring a gravity-assisting pass around the Sun in order to accelerate on its journey to the Psyche asteroid.

JPL laser researchers in California will send optical data to the DSOC payload during pre-conjunction – the period before the spacecraft is blocked by the Sun itself – and again during post-conjunction.

Smith, a Manufacturing Technical Solutions employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.



Last Updated
Sep 28, 2023

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      Deformable Mirrors (DM) are devices that can adjust the optical path of incoming light by changing the shape of a reflective mirror using precisely controlled piston-like actuators. By adjusting the shape of the mirror, it is possible to correct the wavefront that is perturbated by optical aberrations upstream and downstream of the DM. These aberrations can be caused by external perturbations, like atmospheric turbulence, or by optical misalignments or defects internal to the telescope.
      DM technology originated to enable adaptive optics (AO) in ground-based telescopes, where the primary goal is to correct the aberrations caused by atmospheric turbulence. The main characteristics of a DM are: 1) the number of actuators, which is proportional to the correctable field of view; 2) the actuators’ maximum stroke – i.e., how far they can move; 3) the DM speed, or time required to modify the DM surface; 4) the surface height resolution that defines the smallest wavefront control step, and (5) the stability of the DM surface.
      Ground-based deformable mirrors have set the state-of-the-art in performance, but to lay the groundwork to eventually achieve ambitious goals like the Habitable Worlds Observatory, further development of DMs for use in space is underway.
      For a space telescope, DMs do not need to correct for the atmosphere, but instead must correct the very small optical perturbations that slowly occur as the space telescope and instrument heat up and cool down in orbit. Contrast goals (the brightness difference between the planet and the star) for DMs in space are on the order of 10-10 which is 1000 times deeper than the contrast goals of ground-based counterparts. For space applications total stroke requirements are usually less than a micrometer; however, DM surface height resolution of ~10 pm and DM surface stability of ~10 pm/hour are the key and driving requirements.
      Another key aspect is the increased number of actuators needed for both space- and ground-based applications.  Each actuator requires a high voltage connection (on the order of 100V) and fabricating a large number of connections creates an additional challenge.
      Deformable Mirror State-of-the-Art
      Two main DM actuator technologies are currently being considered for space missions. The first is electrostrictive technology, in which an actuator is mechanically connected to the DM’s reflective surface. When a voltage is applied to the actuator, it contracts and modifies the mirror surface. The second technology is the electrostatically-forced Micro Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) DM. In this case, the mirror surface is deformed by an electrostatic force between an electrode and the mirror.
      Several NASA-sponsored contractor teams are working on advancing the DM performance required to meet the requirements of future NASA missions, which are much more stringent than most commercial applications, and thus, have a limited market application. Some examples of those efforts include improving the mirror’s surface quality or developing more advanced DM electronics.
      MEMS DMs manufactured by Boston Micromachines Corporation (BMC) have been tested in vacuum conditions and have undergone launch vibration testing. The largest space-qualified BMC device is the 2k DM (shown in Fig. 2), which has 50 actuators across its diameter (2040 actuators in total). Each actuator is only 400 microns across. The largest MEMS DM produced by BMC is the 4k DM, which has 64 actuators across its diameter (4096 actuators in total) and is used in the coronagraph instrument for the Gemini ground-based observatory. However, the 4k DM has not been qualified for space flight.
      Fig. 2: The Boston Micromachines Corporation 2k DM that has 2040 actuators with 400 um pitch. Credit: Dr. Eduardo Bendek Electrostrictive DMs manufactured by AOA Xinetics (AOX) have also been validated in vacuum and qualified for space flight. The AOX 2k DM has a 48 x 48 actuator grid (2304 actuators) with a 1 mm pitch. Two of these AOX 2k DMs will be used in the Roman Space Telescope Coronagraph (Fig. 3) to demonstrate the DM technology for high-contrast imaging in space. AOX has also manufactured larger devices, including a 64 x 64 actuator unit tested at JPL.
      Fig. 3: The Roman Space Telescope Coronagraph during assembly of the static optics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Credit: NASA Preparing the technology for the Habitable Worlds Observatory
      Deformable Mirror technology has advanced rapidly, and a version of this technology will be demonstrated in space on the Roman Space Telescope. However, it is anticipated that for wavefront control for missions like the HWO, even larger DMs with up to ~10,000 actuators would be required, such as 96 x 96 arrays. Providing a high-voltage connection to each of the actuators is a challenge that will require a new design.
      The HWO would also involve unprecedented wavefront control requirements, such as a resolution step size down to single-digit picometers, and a stability of ~10 pm/hr. These requirements will not only drive the DM design, but also the electronics that control the DMs, since the resolution and stability are largely defined by the command signals sent by the controller, which require the implementation of filters to remove any noise the electronics could introduce.
      NASA’s Astrophysics Division investments in DM technologies have advanced DMs for space flight onboard the Roman Space Telescope Coronagraph, and the Division is preparing a Technology Roadmap to further advance the DM performance to enable the HWO.
      Author: Eduardo Bendek, Ph.D. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
      The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004).
      Dr. Eduardo Bendek (JPL) and Dr. Tyler Groff (GSFC), Co-chairs of DM Technology Roadmap working group; Paul Bierden (BMC); Kevin King (AOX).
      Astrophysics Division Strategic Astrophysics Technology (SAT) Program, and the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

      Last Updated Nov 20, 2023 Related Terms
      Astrophysics Science-enabling Technology View the full article
    • By NASA
      27 Min Read The Marshall Star for November 15, 2023
      Commercial Crew Program’s Plaque Hanging Tradition Continues, Celebrating Work Done by Marshall Team
      By Celine Smith
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center participated in a new tradition last December to honor engineers for their exceptional efforts on CCP (Commercial Crew Program) missions to the International Space Station continued Nov. 13, with a third plaque hanging at the HOSC (Huntsville Operations Support Center).
      Team members are nominated at Marshall, Johnson Space Center, and Kennedy Space Center – centers that support CCP – to hang the plaque of the mission they supported. David Gwaltney, LVSO (Launch Vehicle Systems Office) technical assistant, was selected to hang the plaque for Crew-5, and Jonathan Carman, deputy SpaceX Falcon 9 lead engineer, was selected to hang the plaque for Crew-6. The Crew-5 mission launched in October of 2022. Crew-6 launched earlier this year in March.
      Dave Gwaltney, left, Launch Vehicle Systems Office technical assistant and Lisa McCollum, Marshall’s Commercial Crew Program Launch Vehicle Safety Office deputy manager, hold the Crew-5 mission plaque together as they smile.NASA/Charles Beason Gwaltney was chosen for the support he provided as a technical assistant for LVSO on the Crew-5 mission. While hardware for the mission was in transit it was damaged. He was critical to ensuring the proper inspections and analysis were completed. He then relayed the risk assessments to the program for acceptance. Gwaltney’s expertise led him to accurately pinpoint major areas of risks and understand them for a successful mission.
      “We had good communication lines and an experienced team that allowed us to be ready for what we needed to do,” Gwaltney said.
      Crew-5 was the first CCP mission to be led by a female commander, Nicole Mann. Mann also became the first indigenous woman to fly with NASA. Anna Kikina became the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on a U.S. commercial rocket during this mission as well.
      Carman was recognized for his coordination of the second launch attempt for the Crew-6 mission that took place during a severe weather warning at HOSC. Carman took preventative measures to ensure the launch was a success. He collaborated with Mission Management and Integration, HOSC personnel, and the Marshall support team. He relocated the launch operations team to the storm shelter while preserving open lines of communication.
      Jonathan Carman, left, deputy SpaceX Falcon 9 lead engineer, shakes hands with McCollum before he hangs the Crew-6 mission plaque. NASA/Charles Beason “It’s an honor to have people count on me to take on the role and have trust in me,” Carman said. “I learned that good coordination and teamwork is always a recipe for success.”
      The launch of Crew-6 was the first time a Crew Dragon capsule was reused for a fourth time. The mission also featured the first United Arab Emirates astronaut.
      “Both Dave and Jonathan have consistently gone above and beyond to meet the need and make sure that the crew has a safe flight to station,” said Lisa McCollum, Marshall’s CCP LVSO deputy manager.
      The second plaque hanging took place at HOSC on April 20 earlier this year. Ken Schrock, an avionics system engineer, hung the plaque for the Crew-3 mission, Patrick Mills, liquid propulsion systems engineer, hung the Crew-4 plaque, and Megan Hines, system safety engineer, hung the OFT-2 plaque.
      Schrock was selected for critically assessing autonomous flight termination system test products and analyzing their reports for the Crew-3 mission. He also monitors Falcon 9 fleet launches for any issues that could be applicable to other CCP missions.
      From left, Patrick Mills, liquid propulsion systems engineer, Megan Hines, systems safety engineer, and Ken Schrock, an avionics systems engineer, smile together after hanging their CCP plaques April 20.NASA/Charles Beason Mills was honored with a plaque hanging for his repair work on Falcon 9’s first stage booster for its fourth launch on the Crew-4 mission. After static fire, the team identified repairs that would be needed before flight. Mills played a key role in measuring the risk of the leaks caused. He led the team that decided patching them would be a suitable resolution preventing any spraying during the engine start up.
      Hines was recognized for her safety and mission assurance work on the OFT-2 mission. Due to most of the team being focused on the reused components in the Crew-4 mission, Hines coordinated all the OFT-2 safety and mission assurance work. During the mission she provided support on-console during the launch. The flight met all test objectives, completing the first docking of the Starliner to the space station.
      “I’m really proud of this team and how much work, heart and effort goes into each flight,” McCollum said. “It’s important for the folks across the agency and the public to know what our team is doing behind the scenes to make these missions happen.”
      Smith, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      National WWII Museum Brings Valor Outreach Event to Michoud Veterans
      By Heather Keller
      Veterans from the multi-tenant workforce at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility attended a panel discussion featuring two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Nov. 1 in Michoud’s Hero’s Way – a hall lined with the mission patches for every NASA mission, along with crew photos and mission details.
      When the National WWII Museum in New Orleans learned they would be hosting the week-long Medal of Honor Convention in 2023, they began exploring ideas for local Valor Outreach opportunities. Michoud’s beginnings as an aircraft factory producing C-76 and C-46 cargo planes in support of WWII, in addition to its current operations supporting the space program, as well as housing multiple government agencies, including U.S. Coast Guard Base New Orleans, made it a prime location for the event.
      From left, NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility Director Lonnie Dutreix, Maj. Gen. David Mize (Ret.), Col. Harvey C. “Barney” Barnum Jr. (Ret.), and Capt. Florent A. “Flo” Groberg (Ret.) participate in a panel discussion during a Valor Outreach event for veterans Nov. 1. NASA/Michael DeMocker “NASA Michoud is a foundation of the American space program and a marvel of scientific and engineering capability,” said event moderator and retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David Mize, who now serves as chairman of the Mayor’s Military Advisory Committee of New Orleans. “It is truly an underappreciated American jewel.”
      The event afforded a unique opportunity to the attendees to be with the “heroic unicorns of the U.S. military,” according to Mize, noting, “there are about 343 million people in the U.S. … 16.2 million living veterans … two million personnel on active and reserve duty,” yet there are only 65 living Medal of Honor recipients.
      The Medal of Honor recipients, retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg and retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Harvey Barnum, Jr., visited Michoud as part of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Valor Outreach Program. They spoke of their individual experiences serving the country in combat and in their civilian life following retirement. Topics of discussion included patriotism, leadership, and a comparison between the foreign affairs from WWII to today, among others. The pair fielded questions from the audience, which was exclusively made up of Michoud veterans, and those currently serving onsite at USCG Base New Orleans.
      Both panelists spoke on the weight of the medal, and the struggle of being celebrated as a war hero while their comrades gave the ultimate sacrifice.
      “The medal is not ours,” said Groberg, a veteran of the War on Terrorism. “We’re recipients of the medal. We’re a courier of the medal. There’s a story behind each and every one of our medals, that include many, many other people aside from us. Now we have a platform to tell those stories.”
      Groberg continued with the names of the four soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan on the day he earned his accolade, a personal mission he’s adopted to honor their memory.
      Freddie Grass, left, safety manager for Boasso Construction, visits with Mize and Barnum during a factory tour at Michoud. Grass has four Purple Hearts, while Mize has the Distinguished Superior Service Medal.NASA/Michael DeMocker Barnum, a veteran of the Vietnam War, spoke about the 365 Medal of Honor recipients who were alive when he was decorated in 1967. At that time there were honorees who served as far back as the Banana Wars of the 1890s, who became his mentors, and taught him the importance of being a caretaker of the medal. He compared the honor to a brotherhood, saying they have all become family.
      “Many of us go to the White House when a new recipient is awarded, and then we also gather at Arlington when we say ‘goodbye,’” Barnum said. “It’s the greatest fraternity that anybody could ever be a member of.”
      To Groberg and Barnum, the greatest honor is knowing that their peers nominated them for the recognition, though they noted one aspect where the society falls short. “We need a woman,” Groberg said. “We had some women that went out who walked the walk with us, they fought with us, they did some incredible work, and some of them didn’t come home.”
      Drawing on their experience, Groberg and Barnum urged their fellow veterans to talk about their experiences and recalled how opening up to those around them aided in both their physical and emotional recovery.
      When asked if they would do it all over again by a Michoud employee, both men agreed they would, without hesitation; however, when asked if they would ever consider going to space, they had a difference of opinion.
      “Not me,” Barnum said. “I’ve always wondered why people jump out of good airplanes.”
      Groberg, a former Boeing employee said, “A hundred percent… this is the future …especially with ya’ll building the rockets. Count me in.”
      Following the panel discussion, the Medal of Honor recipients enjoyed a lunch with Michoud leadership, a small contingency of Michoud veterans, and USCG personnel. Finishing out the day, the WW II staff and Medal of Honor recipients enjoyed a tour of America’s rocket factory while engaging MAF veterans along the tour route.
      Keller, a Manufacturing Technical Solutions Inc. employee, works in communications at Michoud Assembly Facility.
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      Greg Chavers Named Strategic Architect, Integration Manager of Marshall’s Science and Technology Office
      Greg Chavers has been named as the strategic architect and integration manager in the Science and Technology Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
      Chavers is returning to Marshall following his role as Mars Campaign Office director in the Moon to Mars Program Office, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters from April to November 2023. In that role, he led risk reduction and technology development of systems that will lead to human Mars missions. The technologies are being demonstrated on the ground, in Low Earth orbit on the International Space Station, and will be demonstrated on the Moon on future Artemis missions.
      Greg Chavers, strategic architect and integration manager in the Science and Technology Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.NASA Before leading the Mars Campaign Office, Chavers was director of the Technical Integration Office at headquarters, starting in 2022. In that role, he led an office consisting of about 70 civil servants and more than 50 support contractors including senior leaders and executives that influence the investments of multi-billions of dollars across all human spaceflight destinations.
      In 2020, he was appointed assistant deputy associate administrator for the Human Explorations Office, Systems Engineering and Integration, also at headquarters. From 2019-2020, Chavers was deputy program manager for HLS (Human Lander Systems) at Marshall. He was formulation manager at headquarters for HLS from 2018-2019. In 2012, Chavers was named Lander Technologies project manager.
      He joined NASA in 1991 in the Systems Analysis and Integration Lab in Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. Chavers spent more than 20 years in the Engineering Directorate before transitioning to project management in Marshall’s flight projects office.
      A native of Flomaton, Alabama, Chavers received a bachelor’s degree in aerospace from Auburn University, and a master’s in astrophysics and a doctorate in physics from the University of Alabama.
      He and his wife of 33 years, Denise, live in Decatur. They have three children and two grandchildren.
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      Rocket Exhaust on the Moon: NASA Supercomputers Reveal Surface Effects
      Through Artemis, NASA plans to explore more of the Moon than ever before with human and robotic missions on the lunar surface. Because future landers will be larger and equipped with more powerful engines than the Apollo landers, mission risks associated with their operation during landing and liftoff is significantly greater. With the agency’s goal to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon, mission planners must understand how future landers interact with the lunar surface as they touch down in unexplored moonscapes.
      Landing on the Moon is tricky. When missions fly crew and payloads to the lunar surface, spacecraft control their descent by firing rocket engines to counteract the Moon’s gravitational pull. This happens in an extreme environment that’s hard to replicate and test on Earth, namely, a combination of low gravity, no atmosphere, and the unique properties of lunar regolith – the layer of fine, loose dust and rock on the Moon’s surface.
      To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video
      Researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center produced a simulation of the Apollo 12 lander engine plumes interacting with the lunar surface. This animation depicts the last half-minute of descent before engine cut-off, showing the predicted forces exerted by plumes on a flat computational surface. Known as shear stress, this is the amount of lateral, or sideways, force applied over a set area, and it is the leading cause of erosion as fluids flow across a surface. Here, the fluctuating radial patterns show the intensity of predicted shear stress. Lower shear stress is dark purple, and higher shear stress is yellow. (NASA/Patrick Moran and Andrew Weaver) Each time a spacecraft lands or lifts off, its engines blast supersonic plumes of hot gas toward the surface and the intense forces kick up dust and eject rocks or other debris at high speeds. This can cause hazards like visual obstructions and dust clouds that can interfere with navigation and science instrumentation ­or cause damage to the lander and other nearby hardware and structures. Additionally, the plumes can erode the surface under the lander. Although craters were not formed for Apollo-scale landers, it is unknown how much the larger landers being planned for upcoming Artemis missions will erode the surface and whether they will rapidly cause cratering in the landing zone, posing a risk to the lander’s stability and astronauts aboard. 
      To improve its understanding of plume-surface interactions, also known as PSI, researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have developed new software tools to predict PSI environments for NASA projects and missions, including the Human Landing System, Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, and future Mars landers. These tools are already being used to predict cratering and visual obscuration on upcoming lunar missions and are helping NASA minimize risks to spacecraft and crew during future landed missions.
      The team at Marshall recently produced a simulation of the Apollo 12 lander engine plumes interacting with the surface and the predicted erosion that closely matched what happened during landing. This animation depicts the last half-minute of descent before engine cut-off, showing the predicted forces exerted by plumes on a flat computational surface. Known as shear stress, this is the amount of lateral, or sideways, force applied over a set area, and it is the leading cause of erosion as fluids flow across a surface. Here, the fluctuating radial patterns show the intensity of predicted shear stress. Lower shear stress is dark purple, and higher shear stress is yellow. 
      These simulations were run on the Pleaides supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center over several weeks of runtime, generating terabytes of data. 
      NASA is showcasing 42 of the agency’s computational achievements at SC23, the international supercomputing conference, Nov. 12-17, in Denver, Colorado. For more technical information, visit: ​https://www.nas.nasa.gov/sc23.
      Used for this research, the framework for the Descent Interpolated Gas Granular Erosion Model, or DIGGEM, was funded through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program within NASA’s STMD (Space Technology Mission Directorate) in Washington, and by the Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume Surface Studies project that is managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center, also funded by STMD. The Loci/CHEM+DIGGEM code was further refined through direct support for flight projects within the Human Landing System program funded by NASA’s ESDMD (Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate) in Washington as well as the Strategy and Architecture Office in ESDMD.
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      I am Artemis: Eric Bordelon
      As a child, Eric Bordelon had posters of the space shuttle in his room. Now, he takes photos and video for NASA as a multimedia specialist at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. Known as NASA’s Rocket Factory, the site is where structures for NASA’s Apollo, shuttle, and now, NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft are produced for Artemis missions.
      Bordelon joined the NASA team in 2007 working with the external tank program for the space shuttle at Michoud. One of Bordelon’s favorite aspects of the job is being a part of the storytelling involving Michoud’s rich history, including documenting the facility transition from the Space Shuttle Program to the SLS Program.
      Eric Bordelon, a multimedia specialist at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, stands in front of a weld confidence article that forms part of the liquid oxygen tank for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket’s future exploration upper stage.NASA/Steven Seipel “Many people don’t realize that Michoud has been around since the 40s and NASA has been here since the 60s,” Bordelon said. “A part of my job I really love is meeting and taking photos of the people working behind the scenes on the rocket. They’re turning bolts, welding, spraying foam, and are artists in their own way. One of my goals is to learn what each of these people do, so I can help tell their stories.”
      Bordelon grew up in Destrehan, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, and initially dreamed about being a sound recording engineer. He attended Loyola University New Orleans where he studied music business but soon after went to work for a print shop. During his time there, he met several photographers and soon picked up a new hobby: photography. He purchased his first digital camera in 2005 and started taking photos around New Orleans. When the job at NASA opened, he decided to see if that hobby could turn into a career.
      Fast forward to 2022: That young boy with space posters on his wall grew up to be a part of the Artemis Generation. Though he had been capturing how rockets came together for years at Michoud, Bordelon had not seen a launch. That changed in 2022 with Artemis I. Not only did Bordelon watch his first launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, but he also photographed and documented it for NASA.
      “I watched this powerful rocket’s core stage be built at Michoud,” Bordelon said. “When I first saw the SLS rocket fully assembled with Orion atop, sitting on the launch pad ready for its inaugural flight for Artemis I, I had to pause, take a minute, and revel in just how amazing it was to be a small part of that.”
      During Artemis I launch activities in 2022, he captured a stunning photo of the Sun behind the SLS rocket as a Florida storm rolled in. The photo – with its purple, pink, and orange hues – was selected for one of NASA’s “Picture of the Year” awards.
      Read other I am Artemis features.
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      Arkansas City Welcomes Marshall to Discuss 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
      The contiguous United States will see only one total solar eclipse between now and the year 2044, and the citizens of Russellville, Arkansas, are ready.
      On Monday, April 8, 2024, the Moon will pass between the Sun and Earth, providing an opportunity for those in the path of the Moon’s shadow to see a total solar eclipse, including the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona. With more than 100,000 tourists expected to visit Russellville for this rare experience, elected officials and industry leaders hosted a team of NASA experts from Marshall Space Flight Center to discuss educational outreach opportunities.
      More than 1,000 people attended a free solar eclipse presentation in Russellville, Arkansas, featuring experts from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Oct. 30.Joshua Mashon “Having NASA involved elevates the importance of this eclipse and amplifies the excitement for our community,” said Russellville Mayor Fred Teague. “We are thankful for the rich discussions and insight provided by NASA, and we look forward to hosting them again during the April eclipse.”
      Due to the length of the eclipse totality in Russellville, NASA is planning to host part of the agency’s live television broadcast from the city, as well as conduct several scientific presentations and public outreach events for visitors. Additional factors for selecting Russellville included access to a large university, and proximity to Little Rock – the state’s capital – to engage media outlets and key stakeholders representing industry and academia.
      The day-long Oct. 30 visit helped NASA learn how the city is preparing for the massive influx of tourists and news media personnel. Christie Graham, director of Russellville Tourism, explained the city’s commitment to the eclipse and how their planning processes started more than a year in advance.
      “Months ago, we created our solar eclipse outreach committee, consisting of key stakeholders and thought leaders from across the city,” Graham said. “We’ve developed advanced communication and emergency management plans which will maximize our city’s resources and ensure everyone has a safe and memorable viewing experience.”
      Adam Kobelski, a solar astrophysicist with Marshall, shares tips to safely view a total solar eclipse. Many U.S. cities, including Russellville, Arkansas, are planning watch parties to view the April 2024 total solar eclipse.Joshua Mashon This visit also provided NASA an opportunity to share important heliophysics messaging with the public, including the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers. To learn how best to interact with local students, Marshall team members met with the Russellville School District Superintendent Ginni McDonald and Arkansas Tech University Acting Interim President Russell Jones.
      “Leveraging the eclipse to provide quality learning opportunities will be a valuable and unforgettable experience for all,” McDonald said. “Our staff enjoyed discussing best strategies and look forward to sharing NASA educational content with our students.”
      The team also discussed internship opportunities available for students to work at NASA centers across the nation, as well as how to get involved in NASA’s Artemis student challenges, sophisticated engineering design challenges available for middle school, high school, college and university students.
      “Our university serves nearly 10,000 students, many pursuing a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees, including mechanical and electrical engineering, biological and computer sciences, nursing, and more,” Jones said. “It is important our students learn of the many unique opportunities available with NASA and how they can get involved.”
      Following the NASA public presentation about the April 2024 total solar eclipse, Kobelski chats with guests interested in learning more about NASA and heliophysics.NASA/Christopher Blair The agency’s visit concluded with a free public presentation at The Center for The Arts, where more than 1,000 attendees gained insight on the upcoming eclipse from Dr. Adam Kobelski, a solar astrophysicist at Marshall. Following the presentation, Marshall team members participated in a question-and-answer session with audience members of all ages.
      Overall, the visit proved valuable for everyone with NASA team members remarking how enthusiastic and prepared both Russellville and the university are to support the eclipse event.
      “It was a refreshing reminder of the public’s excitement for the science we conduct at NASA,” Kobelski said. “This experience established my overall confidence in their readiness to successfully host a quality viewing experience for everyone.”
      The April eclipse is part of the Heliophysics Big Year, a global celebration of solar science and the Sun’s influence on Earth and the entire solar system. Everyone is encouraged to participate in solar science events such as watching solar eclipses, experiencing an aurora, participating in citizen science projects, and other fun Sun-related activities.
      Cities across the nation are planning eclipse watch parties and other celebrations to commemorate the event. Weather permitting, the April 2024 total eclipse will be visible across 13 states, from Texas to New York.
      Learn more about the 2024 eclipse.
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      NASA Project Manager Helps Makes Impact in Southeast Asia with SERVIR
      By Celine Smith
      “As the seedlings were placed in the water, I felt a moment of déjà vu,” NASA scientist Tony Kim said. “I was taken back to when I was a child playing in similar fields in South Korea. It felt like I was meant to be there bringing space to village with satellite data.”
      As he looked at rice fields while visiting Bhutan in September 2023, Kim savored the chance to do something meaningful across Southeast Asia and also in his native country. Having seen his childhood home turn from rice fields to a city, Kim knows the importance of sustainably using the land.
      Tony Kim in South Korea’s Songdo Central Park standing in front of the statue “Cruising Together” created by Han Jeong-ho.NASA/Tony Kim In Bhutan, Kim and research partners are identifying rice paddies, estimating crop production, predicting shortages, and gauging the health of each harvest. He represents NASA as an international project manager for SERVIR, a partnership between NASA and USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development). It is a flagship program for Earth Action in NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, created in 2005 and rooted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
      SERVIR – which means “to serve” in Spanish – aids more than 50 nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in their efforts to address issues like food and water security, droughts, and the negative effects of climate change. SERVIR assists regional, national, and local institutions by using NASA satellite data, models, and products to manage resources sustainably.
      NASA and USAID launched its SERVIR Mekong hub in 2015 at the ADPC(Asian Disaster Preparedness Center) in Bangkok, Thailand. The hub has been renamed SERVIR Southeast Asia as of this year. Other SERVIR hubs are in the Himalayas, West Africa, and the Amazon.
      In addition to Bhutan, Kim also traveled back home to Seoul, South Korea – nearly 20 years since his last visit – to represent SERVIR Southeast Asia. “When I went back to Korea, I felt like a kid going back in time,” Kim said.
      Kim, back row fifth from the right, pictured with other attendees during the 2023 PEER (Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research) Bhutan Symposium where Bhutanese scientists funded by USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development). present their research. Kim’s presentation was, “Advancing STEM in Bhutan through Increased Earth Observation Capacity.”Royal Society for Protection of Nature Bhutan The USAID RDMA (Regional Development Mission for Asia), which funds SERVIR Southeast Asia requested Kim’s presence for a meeting with Korean leaders. He discussed the value of NASA satellite data for environmental decision-making with the Korean Ministry of Environment and USAID RDMA, as well as opportunities for collaboration to solve water issues in the Indo-Pacific region and natural resource management in the Lower Mekong sub-region.
      “Korea recovered from war in the 1950’s and developed very quickly as a powerhouse for technology products. Now Korea is helping other developing countries in Asia,” Kim said. “I am so proud of my home country and my adopted country (through NASA) helping people around the world to use satellite data in productive ways.”
      Kim was eight years old in 1974 when his family moved from the southern edge of Seoul to the suburbs of Chicago. “Our parents immigrated to the United States to give us the opportunity to better ourselves through education,” he said. After high school, he went to the University of Illinois, where he pursued a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. After graduation, he joined Marshall as a propulsion engineer, testing cryogenic fluid management techniques for advanced rocket propulsion systems.
      From there, Kim’s 33-year NASA journey led him through a variety of roles. He served in 1992 as an operations controller for two Spacelab missions. In 1996, he led an operation team for the International Space Station Furnace Facility. From 1998-2001, he was a payload operations manager for space station science payloads.
      Tony Kim, SERVIR Science Coordination Office project manager, International Flagship Program for Earth Action.NASA Marshall selected Kim to study at Auburn University in 1997, where he earned his master’s degree in material science. Afterwards, Kim attended the International Space University. Then, he led the ALTUS Cumulus Electrification Study, where an uninhabited aerial vehicle was used to study lightning during a thunderstorm.
      Kim was selected in 2003 for the NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program to teach a design engineering course at Texas A&M in Kingsville for one year. He spent the next year at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Kim returned to Marshall as a deep throttling rocket engine technology manager and then deputy manager for advanced nuclear thermal propulsion technology development.
      In 2016, Kim served as deputy program manager for Centennial Challenges, NASA’s premier, large-prize program. Kim worked with Bradley University and Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois, to conduct NASA’s 3D-printed Habitat Challenge.
      “SERVIR was the only organization that could have taken me away from Centennial Challenges,” Kim said.
      Kim and his wife, Sonya, live in Huntsville, Alabama, and have three grown children. He said the lessons his parents imparted remain as true today as when he was a small child.
      “They taught us to work hard, keep your commitments, and care about what you do and the people you do it with,” he said. “If you do those things, you’ll find success.”Smith, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      Juno Finds Jupiter’s Winds Penetrate in Cylindrical Layers
      Gravity data collected by NASA’s Juno mission indicates Jupiter’s atmospheric winds penetrate the planet in a cylindrical manner, parallel to its spin axis. A paper on the findings was recently published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
      The violent nature of Jupiter’s roiling atmosphere has long been a source of fascination for astronomers and planetary scientists, and Juno has had a ringside seat to the goings-on since it entered orbit in 2016. During each of the spacecraft’s 55 to date, a suite of science instruments has peered below Jupiter’s turbulent cloud deck to uncover how the gas giant works from the inside out.
      NASA’s Juno captured this view of Jupiter during the mission’s 54th close flyby of the giant planet on Sept. 7. The image was made with raw data from the JunoCam instrument that was processed to enhance details in cloud features and colors.Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik CC BY NC SA 3.0 One way the Juno mission learns about the planet’s interior is via radio science. Using NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas, scientists track the spacecraft’s radio signal as Juno flies past Jupiter at speeds near 130,000 mph, measuring tiny changes in its velocity – as small as 0.01 millimeter per second. Those changes are caused by variations in the planet’s gravity field, and by measuring them, the mission can essentially see into Jupiter’s atmosphere.
      Such measurements have led to numerous discoveries, including the existence of a dilute core deep within Jupiter and the depth of the planet’s zones and belts, which extend from the cloud tops down approximately 1,860 miles.
      To determine the location and cylindrical nature of the winds, the study’s authors applied a mathematical technique that models gravitational variations and surface elevations of rocky planets like Earth. At Jupiter, the technique can be used to accurately map winds at depth. Using the high-precision Juno data, the authors were able to generate a four-fold increase in the resolution over previous models created with data from NASA’s trailblazing Jovian explorers Voyager and Galileo.
      “We applied a constraining technique developed for sparse data sets on terrestrial planets to process the Juno data,” said Ryan Park, a Juno scientist and lead of the mission’s gravity science investigation from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This is the first time such a technique has been applied to an outer planet.”
      The measurements of the gravity field matched a two-decade-old model that determined Jupiter’s powerful east-west zonal flows extend from the cloud-level white and red zones and belts inward. But the measurements also revealed that rather than extending in every direction like a radiating sphere, the zonal flows go inward, cylindrically, and are oriented along the direction of Jupiter’s rotation axis. How Jupiter’s deep atmospheric winds are structured has been in debated since the 1970s, and the Juno mission has now settled the debate.
      This illustration depicts findings that Jupiter’s atmospheric winds penetrate the planet in a cylindrical manner and parallel to its spin axis. The most dominant jet recorded by NASA’s Juno is shown in the cutout: The jet is at 21 degrees north latitude at cloud level, but 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) below that, it’s at 13 degrees north latitude.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/SWRI/MSSS/ASI/ INAF/JIRAM/Björn Jónsson CC BY 3.0 “All 40 gravity coefficients measured by Juno matched our previous calculations of what we expect the gravity field to be if the winds penetrate inward on cylinders,” said Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, the study’s lead author and a Juno co-investigator. “When we realized all 40 numbers exactly match our calculations, it felt like winning the lottery.”
      Along with bettering the current understanding of Jupiter’s internal structure and origin, the new gravity model application could be used to gain more insight into other planetary atmospheres.
      Juno is currently in an extended mission. Along with flybys of Jupiter, the solar-powered spacecraft has completed a series of flybys of the planet’s icy moons Ganymede and Europa and is in the midst of several close flybys of Io. The Dec. 30 flyby of Io will be the closest to date, coming within about 930 miles of its volcano-festooned surface.
      “As Juno’s journey progresses, we’re achieving scientific outcomes that truly define a new Jupiter and that likely are relevant for all giant planets, both within our solar system and beyond,” said Scott Bolton, the principal investigator of the Juno mission at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The resolution of the newly determined gravity field is remarkably similar to the accuracy we estimated 20 years ago. It is great to see such agreement between our prediction and our results.”
      NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.
      Read more about Juno.
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    • By NASA
      16 Min Read The Marshall Star for November 8, 2023
      Still Serving: Honoring Marshall, Michoud Veterans
      Many members of the workforce at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Michoud Assembly Facility served in the U.S. Armed Forces before beginning their NASA careers, and some are still serving in both capacities today.
      Their defense careers have been in a range of services, including the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard, and Reserves. Today, they continue to serve the nation through their work at NASA. As we approach Veterans Day, we pause to acknowledge their military service and hear their stories.
      Get to know some of our Marshall and Michoud veterans.
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      Marshall’s First Woman Director of Engineering Directorate Celebrates Retirement
      By Celine Smith
      Mary Beth Koelbl, the first woman to serve as director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, celebrated her retirement among Marshall team members and family Nov. 2. Koelbl retires after serving 37 years at Marshall.
      Marshall Associate Director, Technical, Larry Leopard gave a speech in honor of Koelbl’s impactful career. Both Leopard and Holder stressed how Koelbl’s personable character and great collaborative efforts made her career and teams successful.
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center Associate Director, Technical, Larry Leopard, right, presents Mary Beth Koelbl with bookends for her retirement. Encapsulated in them are flags that were flown in space.NASA/Celine Smith “Mary Beth has provided outstanding public service to not only engineering but to the center,” Leopard said. “She has been a standard for everybody to follow.”
      Appointed to the position in July 2019, Koelbl helped oversee Marshall’s largest organization, comprised of more than 2,000 civil servants and contractors responsible for the design, testing, evaluation and operation of flight hardware and software associated with space transportation and spacecraft systems, science instruments and payloads now in development at Marshall. The directorate provides critical support to NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) Program, which is managing the construction and testing of the world’s most powerful rocket.
      Don Holder was named new director of engineering after previously serving in the role of deputy director under Koelbl.
      “Mary Beth Koelbl’s positive attitude toward people and caring about their development has benefited the organization tremendously,” Holder said.
      Prior to this appointment, Koelbl was director of the Propulsion Systems Department from 2015 to 2019. In that position, she also served as NASA’s senior executive overseeing the agency’s chemical propulsion capability, leading work across multiple field centers to effectively develop, mature, and apply chemical propulsion capabilities in support of NASA’s missions.
      Throughout her NASA career, Koelbl has supported large, complex propulsion systems development and operations efforts for SLS, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and various planetary lander development activities. She also contributed to historic efforts such as the space shuttle main engine technology test bed, the Fastrac 60K engine, all shuttle propulsion elements, the Altair spacecraft, and the Ares launch vehicle upper stage and upper stage engine.
      Koelbl extends a thanks to her team members and fondly speaks about her career during her retirement celebration held Nov. 2 in the Building 4203 cafeteria.NASA/Celine Smith Koelbl joined Marshall in 1986 as an aerospace engineer in the Turbomachinery and Combustion Devices Branch. She was named deputy group lead of the Engineering Directorate’s Engine Systems Engineering Group in 2000 and group leader in 2003. In 2005, following a center wide reorganization, Koelbl was named branch chief of the Engine and Main Propulsion Systems Branch. She was promoted to division chief of the Propulsion Systems Division in 2011, and later that year was named to the Senior Executive Service position of deputy director of the Propulsion Systems Department. The Senior Executive Service is the personnel system covering most of the top managerial positions in federal agencies.
      “I have no plans of working after retirement because nothing could be better than this,” Koelbl said in her closing remarks at the reception.
      A native of Iowa City, Iowa, Koelbl earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1985 from the University of Iowa. She has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including a NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2018, NASA Leadership Medal in 2007, Space Flight Awareness Award in 2005, and Silver Snoopy in 1996.​​​​​​​
      Koelbl and her husband, Terry, who is also a NASA engineer at Marshall, reside in Madison with their three sons. She plans on enjoying her retirement by spending time with her children and grandchildren.
      “I’m surely going to miss the people at Marshall – they’re the best,” Koelbl said.
      Smith, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      Don Holder Named Director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate
      Don Holder has been named director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
      In his new role, Holder will be responsible for the center’s largest organization, comprised of more than 2,000 civil service and contractor personnel, leading the design, testing, evaluation, and operation of flight hardware and software associated with space transportation, spacecraft systems, science instruments, and payloads under development at the center.
      Don Holder, director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA He previously served as the Engineering Directorate’s deputy director.
      Holder joined Marshall in 1986 as a quality engineer supporting the Shuttle Propulsion Office. Since then, he has served in a multitude of technical leadership roles and has distinguished himself as a subject matter expert in ECLSS (Environmental Control and Life Support Systems). From 1989 to 1999, he served as a water recovery systems engineer supporting the development of water recovery technologies for the International Space Station.
      Holder supported the ECLSS Project in positions of increasing scope and responsibility, including ECLSS Design team lead, technical assistant, and assistant chief engineer from 2000 to 2008. 
      In 2008, Holder was assigned as a project chief engineer for the space station, providing leadership for Marshall-provided flight hardware. From 2011 to 2013, he served as chief of the Mechanical Fabrication Branch in the Space Systems Department where he led a workforce of engineers and technicians and managed the numerous facilities required to support Marshall’s manufacturing needs.
      Holder served as deputy chief engineer of the FPPO (Flight Programs and Partnerships Office) from 2013 to 2014 until being appointed to the Senior Level position of FPPO chief engineer in mid-2014 and subsequently Human Exploration Development and Operations chief engineer in 2017. He served as deputy director of the Space Systems Department from May 2019 to February 2021.
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      Lisa Bates Named Deputy Director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate
      Lisa Bates has been named deputy director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
      In her new role, Bates will be jointly responsible for the center’s largest organization, comprised of more than 2,000 civil service and contractor personnel, who design, test, evaluate, and operate flight hardware and software associated with Marshall-developed space transportation and spacecraft systems, science instruments, and payloads.
      Portrait: Lisa BatesNASA She was previously director of Marshall’s Test Laboratory. Appointed to the position in 2021, Bates provided executive leadership for all aspects of the Laboratory, including workforce, budget, infrastructure, and operations for testing.
      She joined Marshall in 2008 as the Ares I Upper Stage Thrust Vector Control lead in the Propulsion Department. Since then, she has served in positions of increasing responsibility and authority. From 2009 to 2017, she served as the first chief of the new TVC Branch, which was responsible for defining operational requirements, performing analysis, and evaluating Launch Vehicle TVC systems and TVC components.
      As the Space Launch System (SLS) Program Executive from 2017 to 2018, Bates supported the NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development as the liaison and advocate of the SLS. Upon returning to MSFC in 2018, she was selected as deputy manager of the SLS Booster Element Office. Bates also served as deputy manager of the SLS Stages Office from 2018 to 2021 where she shared the responsibilities, accountability, and authorities for all activities associated with the requirements definition, design, development, manufacturing, assembly, green run test, and delivery of the SLS Program’s Stages Element.
      Prior to her NASA career, Bates worked 18 years in private industry for numerous aerospace and defense contractors, including Jacobs Engineering, Marotta Scientific Controls, United Technologies (USBI), United Defense, and Sverdrup Technologies.
      She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She was awarded a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2013 and 2022 and has received numerous group and individual achievement awards. Bates and her husband, Don, reside in Madison and have four children.
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      Michoud Celebrates Family Day 2023 with Treats and No Tricks
      By Matt Higgins
      For the second consecutive year, NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility hosted Family Day, a day when team members can invite their families to visit “America’s Rocket Factory.”
      This year’s Family Day was Oct. 28.
      Thousands attend Michoud Family 2023 on Oct. 28 to observe Artemis production, interact with Michoud tenants, and enjoy Halloween festivities. NASA/Michael DeMocker “Family Day 2023 was a huge success,” said Michoud Director Lonnie Dutreix. “I enjoyed seeing the employees bring their families and seeing the looks of awe and smiling faces all around.”
      Family Day occurred the weekend before Halloween. Team members and their families had the opportunity to view the latest stages of production in the 43-acre factory, including the fully assembled core stage for NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for NASA’s Artemis II mission, and were treated to trunk-or-treat as they exited the factory. Michoud passed out candy and Moon Pies to trick-or-treaters of all ages. 
      “Family Day 2023 was an opportunity to build on last year’s success,” said Heather Keller, Michoud communications strategist and Family Day coordinator. “We even took advantage of the holiday weekend to include a trunk-or-treat for the kids.”
      NASA astronaut Stan Love, left, and astronaut candidate Jack Hathaway pose for pictures with a young attendee at Michoud Family Day. NASA/Michael DeMocker Mother Nature spared the heavy rains that occurred during Family Day 2022. The lack of rain and threatening skies allowed for more displays and attractions. There were food trucks outside the factory gates, and a Coast Guard Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter landed on the facility grounds. Attendees viewed the distinct orange and white helicopter up close, sat inside, and took pictures. NASA astronaut Stan Love and astronaut candidate Jack Hathaway took pictures with families in front of the SLS core stage for Artemis II in the Final Assembly area. 
      Michoud’s tenants, including its prime contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, set up booths and provided swag for those who passed by. Some tenants included interactive virtual reality displays and science experiments. 
      “With the addition of astronauts, a USCG rescue helicopter, food trucks, and emergency and heavy equipment static displays, there really was something for everyone,” Keller said.
      Attendees observe a liquid nitrogen demonstration at the Boeing table at Michoud Family Day. NASA/Michael DeMocker Prior to 2022’s celebration, Michoud Family Day hadn’t occurred since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and strong thunderstorms kept many people away in 2022. It meant that this year’s event was the first time many family members had seen Michoud in years and the first for many others. Organizers estimated more than 5,000 attended the event.
      For Dutreix, it marked one of the final major events of his tenure. He will retire in December.
      “It’s my last Family Day as director,” he said. “I’m going to miss it, but I’m proud of the family atmosphere we have at Michoud. The workforce looks out for each other, and we’re committed to seeing Artemis succeed.” 
      Higgins, a Manufacturing Technical Solutions Inc. employee, works in communications at Michoud Assembly Facility.
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      Watch Crews Add RS-25 Engines to NASA Artemis II SLS Rocket
      Artemis II reached a significant milestone as teams fully installed all four RS-25 engines to the 212-foot-tall core stage for NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.
      During Artemis II, the four engines, arranged like legs on a chair at the bottom of the mega rocket, will fire for eight minutes at launch, producing more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis II crew around the Moon.
      Boeing is the lead contractor for the SLS core stage. Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, is the lead contractor for the SLS engines. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the SLS Program and Michoud.
      For more information about SLS, visit https://www.nasa.gov/sls.
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      NASA Telescopes Discover Record-breaking Black Hole
      Astronomers have discovered the most distant black hole yet seen in X-rays, using NASA telescopes. The black hole is at an early stage of growth that had never been witnessed before, where its mass is similar to that of its host galaxy.
      This result may explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the universe formed.
      By combining data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a team of researchers was able to find the telltale signature of a growing black hole just 470 million years after the big bang.
      Astronomers found the most distant black hole ever detected in X-rays (in a galaxy dubbed UHZ1) using the Chandra and Webb space telescopes. X-ray emission is a telltale signature of a growing supermassive black hole. This result may explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the universe formed. These images show the galaxy cluster Abell 2744 that UHZ1 is located behind, in X-rays from Chandra and infrared data from Webb, as well as close-ups of the black hole host galaxy UHZ1.NASA/CXC/SAO/Ákos Bogdán; Infrared: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & K. Arcand “We needed Webb to find this remarkably distant galaxy and Chandra to find its supermassive black hole,” said Akos Bogdan of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) who leads a new paper in the journal Nature Astronomy describing these results. “We also took advantage of a cosmic magnifying glass that boosted the amount of light we detected.” This magnifying effect is known as gravitational lensing.
      Bogdan and his team found the black hole in a galaxy named UHZ1 in the direction of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, located 3.5 billion light-years from Earth. Webb data, however, has revealed the galaxy is much more distant than the cluster, at 13.2 billion light-years from Earth, when the universe was only 3% of its current age.
      Then over two weeks of observations with Chandra showed the presence of intense, superheated, X-ray emitting gas in this galaxy – a trademark for a growing supermassive black hole. The light from the galaxy and the X-rays from gas around its supermassive black hole are magnified by about a factor of four by intervening matter in Abell 2744 (due to gravitational lensing), enhancing the infrared signal detected by Webb and allowing Chandra to detect the faint X-ray source.
      This discovery is important for understanding how some supermassive black holes can reach colossal masses soon after the big bang. Do they form directly from the collapse of massive clouds of gas, creating black holes weighing between about 10,000 and 100,000 Suns? Or do they come from explosions of the first stars that create black holes weighing only between about 10 and 100 Suns?
      “There are physical limits on how quickly black holes can grow once they’ve formed, but ones that are born more massive have a head start. It’s like planting a sapling, which takes less time to grow into a full-size tree than if you started with only a seed”, said Andy Goulding of Princeton University. Goulding is a co-author of the Nature Astronomy paper and lead author of a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters that reports the galaxy’s distance and mass using a spectrum from Webb.
      Bogdan’s team has found strong evidence that the newly discovered black hole was born massive. Its mass is estimated to fall between 10 and 100 million Suns, based on the brightness and energy of the X-rays. This mass range is similar to that of all the stars in the galaxy where it lives, which is in stark contrast to black holes in the centers of galaxies in the nearby universe that usually contain only about a tenth of a percent of the mass of their host galaxy’s stars.
      The large mass of the black hole at a young age, plus the amount of X-rays it produces and the brightness of the galaxy detected by Webb, all agree with theoretical predictions in 2017 by co-author Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University for an “Outsize Black Hole” that directly formed from the collapse of a huge cloud of gas.
      “We think that this is the first detection of an ‘Outsize Black Hole’ and the best evidence yet obtained that some black holes form from massive clouds of gas,” said Natarajan. “For the first time we are seeing a brief stage where a supermassive black hole weighs about as much as the stars in its galaxy, before it falls behind.”
      The researchers plan to use this and other results pouring in from Webb and those combining data from other telescopes to fill out a larger picture of the early universe.
      NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope previously showed that light from distant galaxies is highly magnified by matter in the intervening galaxy cluster, providing part of the motivation for the Webb and Chandra observations described here.
      The paper describing the results by Bogdan’s team appears in Nature Astronomy, and a preprint is available online.
      The Webb data used in both papers is part of a survey called the Ultradeep Nirspec and nirCam ObserVations before the Epoch of Reionization (UNCOVER). The paper led by UNCOVER team member Andy Goulding appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The co-authors include other UNCOVER team members, plus Bogdan and Natarajan. A detailed interpretation paper that compares observed properties of UHZ1 with theoretical models for Outsize Black Hole Galaxies is forthcoming.
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
      Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
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      Lucy Discovery Highlighted on ‘This Week at NASA’
      NASA’s Lucy spacecraft got a surprise when it flew by asteroid Dinkinesh on Nov. 1 – the first of multiple asteroids Lucy will visit on its 12-year voyage. The mission is featured in “This Week @ NASA,” a weekly video program broadcast on NASA-TV and posted online.
      Images captured by Lucy revealed that Dinkinesh is not just a single asteroid, as was thought, but a binary pair. The primary aim of the Lucy mission is to survey the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, a never-before-explored population of small bodies that orbit the Sun in two “swarms” that lead and follow Jupiter in its orbit.
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th mission in NASA’s Discovery Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Discovery Program for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
      View this and previous episodes at “This Week @NASA” on NASA’s YouTube page.
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    • By NASA
      5 Min Read Deploying and Demonstrating Navigation Aids on the Lunar Surface
      – PROJECT
      Lunar Node-1 (LN-1)
      NASA is developing lunar navigation beacons to be deployed on spacecraft or the lunar surface to aid in localization and help future space vehicles determine position, velocity, and time to high accuracy.
      The Lunar Node-1 payload in the test chamber at the Deep Space Network’s  Development and Test Facility (DTF)-21 radio frequency (RF) compatibility testing lab. The large block seen in the image is the antenna hat used to collect RF energy for ground testing and integration. “Are we there yet?” is a constant question on any journey. As humanity expands its presence on, near, and around the Moon, new systems are needed to provide navigation signals similar those provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS) on Earth. To enable this capability, NASA is supporting research on a range of sensors, architectures, and techniques for providing reference signals to help spacecraft and humans find their way.
      Lunar Node 1 (LN-1) is an S-band navigation beacon for lunar applications that was recently designed and built at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). As part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, this beacon is scheduled to be delivered to the Moon’s surface on Intuitive Machine’s NOVA-C lunar lander on the IM-1 mission in early 2024.
      The Lunar Node-1 flight payload installed on the Intuitive Machines NOVA-C lander for the IM-1 mission. The payload is mounted near the top deck of the vehicle to provide a clear field of view for its antenna back to Earth. Image Credit: Intuitive Machines/Nick Rios During this mission, LN-1’s goal will be to demonstrate navigation technologies that can support local surface and orbital operations around the Moon, enabling autonomy and decreasing dependence on heavily utilized Earth-based communication assets like NASA’s Deep Space Network demonstrate these capabilities, LN-1’s design leverages CubeSat components as well as the Multi-spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System (MAPS) algorithms, which enable autonomous spacecraft positioning using navigation measurements. In addition to demonstrating the MAPS algorithms, LN-1’s radio will also be used to conduct pseudo-noise (PN)-based, one-way, non-coherent ranging and Doppler tracking to provide alternate approaches and comparisons for navigation performance. To provide a real-time solution similar to GPS, but in the lunar environment, multiple references must be in view of users at the same time. As this future lunar communication network is deployed, LN-1 hardware and capabilities could be part of a much larger infrastructure.
      Over the course of the transit to the Moon from Earth and during its the nominal lunar surface operations, LN-1 will broadcast its state and timing information back to Earth. Once it lands on the lunar surface, the payload will enter into a 24/7 operational period, and will also provide a navigation reference signal back to Earth.  To validate LN-1 capabilities, DSN ground stations will be used to capture measurements and measure performance. Upon reception of the LN-1 data, high-accuracy packet reception timestamps will be used (along with atmospheric data for induced delays) to assess a ranging observation. This data will be captured during multiple passes to compute a navigation state of the payload during the mission. The LN-1 team is also partnering with other NASA researchers to collect Very Long Baseline Interferometry observations of the navigation signals as an independent truth reference.
      Concept of Operations. This diagram shows the dual data paths being exercised by the LN-1 payload. The primary operational command and data handling is done through a hardwire connection between the payload and the host lander. Using its onboard transmitter, LN-1 will transmit its navigation signals independently, providing the lander’s current time and state information via both a reference one-way PN solution as well as the transmission of MAPS packets. The compact size of the LN-1 payload can be seen in the LN-1 CAD models in the figures below. The primary LN-1 structure is approximately 175x220x300 cm in volume with a mass of approximately 2.8 kg. The dominating feature of the design is the large top surface, which is a radiator. The hot environment on the lunar surface, combined with the heat generated by the LN-1 radio while transmitting, require the LN-1 design to incorporate a radiator to dissipate heat during operation so that a clean interface with the host vehicle will be maintained. While the LN-1 payload is not designed to survive the lunar night, it uses a modular design that could be integrated into a variety of host vehicles; if adequate power generation/storage were provided, the design may be able to offer long-term operation at any lunar landing site.
      Interior views of LN-1. These images provide a look inside the payload showing the primary components: radiator hat, antenna mount adapter, SWIFT SL-X transmitter, FPGA-based controller board, and power conditioning electronics. LN-1 successfully passed vibration, electromagnetic interference testing, and thermal vacuum testing at Marshall Space Flight Center in 2020 and 2021. After completion and delivery of the LN-1 payload, testing with the planned operational ground stations began. This testing included RF compatibility testing between the DSN and the LN-1 payload as well as tests of the data flows between the DSN and MSFC’s Huntsville Operations Support Center. Performed at the DSN’s Development and Test Facility (DTF)-21 facility in early 2021, these tests successfully verified RF compatibility between DSN and the LN-1 payload. Specifically, the tests showed that the DSN can receive S-band telecommunication signals in all the planned operational modes required to process telemetry and ranging data from LN-1.
      LN-1 Principal Investigator, Evan Anzalone, performing RF Compatibility Testing at DTF-21. This testing was important to characterize the stability of the one-way ranging tone and demonstrate integration with the DSN ground network for flight operations. The LN-1 team is currently setting up the flight spare with a flight-matching radio and is preparing to conduct another round of testing to capture long-term stability data with ground receivers to demonstrate improved capability with improved clocks and signal generation algorithms. In the future, this new technology and the MAPS algorithms demonstrated by LN-1 could enable autonomous navigation for lunar assets. As NASA invests in communication and navigation infrastructure around, near, and on the Moon, the LN-1 team continues to develop future iterations of the navigation beacon to support broad lunar surface coverage. The team is currently maturing the capabilities of the payload in preparation for continued laboratory assessments and field demonstrations using updated navigation signals as defined for LunaNet. Three key capabilities will be the focus of the development of a follow-on payload to LN-1:
      Demonstration of inter-spacecraft navigation, providing support to operational vehicles in lunar orbit by acting as a fixed ground reference The capability to survive the lunar night onboard the payload to demonstrate technologies needed for a long-term navigation beacon Maturation of signal to match the Augmented Forward Signal standard as defined in the LunaNet Interoperability Specification for integration, operation, and compatibility with other planned NASA assets and infrastructure PROJECT LEAD
      Dr. Evan Anzalone and Tamara Statham, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)
      NASA-Provided Lunar Payloads Program
      View the full article
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