2022 Robert H. Goddard Awards Credit: NASA

Comm and Nav Community Members Take Home 10 Goddard Awards

By Kendall Murphy

September 15, 2022

This summer, the Communications and Navigation Community received 10 Robert H. Goddard awards, recognizing six individuals and four teams at the center-level for their outstanding work achieved over the past year. Our community members won in multiple categories, including leadership, engineering, professional administrative, new opportunities, and outreach. The community continues to exceed expectations with their hard work and unwavering dedication to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center initiatives. Read below to learn more about our winners!

La Vida Cooper won for her outstanding strategic leadership of the Goddard Communications and Navigation (C&N) Line of Business, ensuring all efforts directly support the goals and priorities of the agency and center. Her tireless efforts fund unique developmental projects that fill technology gaps, answer White House-level requests, and further Goddard's role as a C&N leader. Cooper is devoted to making Goddard's C&N community a robust place for technology innovation and keeping the center at the forefront of communications and navigation.

Tom Gitlin, won for his leadership in establishing the Mission Engagement Working Group (MEWG) team for the Commercialization, Innovation, and Synergies (CIS) office. Recently retiring from his 38-year career with Goddard, Gitlin led the effort to restructure the entire process for how missions request Near Space Network services and created and refined the MEWG's strategic plan and charter. Additionally, he provided a seamless approach to interfacing with new missions and assisted with their concept and design processes.

Javier Ocasio-Perez won for his leadership as the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) integration and testing (I&T) manager leading up to and during its launch. Ocasio-Perez led a large multi-disciplinary, cross-country team of engineers in the I&T of both the LCRD flight payload and the ground segment. He efficiently planned, managed, and executed all LCRD's I&T phases, and played a crucial part in the design and implementation of the payload's secure I&T facility — a first at Goddard. These efforts culminated the successful launch of the mission on December 7, 2021.

Rich Morrell won for his dedication, perseverance, and commitment to ensuring accurate and completed customer interface documents within multiple projects. As lead technical engineer for the Advanced Communications Capabilities for Exploration and Science Systems (ACCESS) project, he ensures all documents requiring approval meet the team's quality expectations, which includes assessing, tracking, and reporting configuration control board readiness. He also leads technical interchanges with the Near Space Network, the Flight Dynamics Facility, NASA Communications (NASCOM), and customer missions, and captures mission operations concepts, requirements, and technical protocols that are necessary for proper delivery of space relay and direct-to-Earth communications services.

David Shefsky won for his engineering leadership of ACCESS development projects like the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), the Space Test Program Satellite 6 Antenna and Ground Equipment (SAGE), and the Near Space Network Initiative for Ka-band Advancement (NIKA). Shefsky installed a TDRS ground antenna and upgraded modems and user services in preparation for Artemis I support and implemented an optical ground station that will communicate with Artemis II, and his engineering expertise used for SAGE and NIKA exemplified his dedication to ACCESS, NASA's mission, and to the engineers on his team.

Professional Administrative:
Jonathan Dornblaser won for his demonstration of scheduling skills by going above and beyond his required roles to spearhead scheduling for ACCESS' Lunar Exploration Ground System (LEGS) team. LEGS will be critical to the success of NASA's Artemis program, providing needed and enhanced direct-to-Earth communications capabilities to lunar missions. Dornblaser manages the team's schedules, assisting with presentations, and supporting a complex series of implementation studies to evaluate various options on how the sites can meet the lunar requirements.

New Opportunities Captured:
The CIS Capabilities Studies Team won for their support and excellence to the acceptance, approval, and release of the NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the CIS office's capability studies program (CSP). The CSP is uniquely designed to identify future technology needs and create a pipeline of innovation by engaging industry and academia to pursue short term studies on enhanced communication and navigation performance. The release of the CIS BAA is advancing NASA's commercialization efforts and will inform activities as the Near Space Network and Space Communications and Navigation program office work to create an interoperable space communications and navigation ecosystem.

The Near Space Network Advanced Planning Team won for their work supporting NASA in new business opportunities and mission design, demonstrating flexibility and knowledge in formulating technical solutions, and founding and streamlining the process for providing timely and more accurate mission services cost estimates for scientific proposals. The team quickly established the new vision of the Near Space Network; helped found the CIS office's MEWG; developed the Near Space Network Brochure, User Guide, and online questionnaire; and formulated a process for formalizing and documenting the on-boarding of new science missions.

The LCRD Launch Communications Team won for their communications and outreach support leading up to the NASA payload's launch. For over a year, the team created written and multimedia products, executed an engaging social media plan, and coordinated numerous outreach events for LCRD. Despite the limitations presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, this team more than accomplished its goal to inspire the public about NASA's immense technological capabilities and educate them about the vast benefits of optical communications.

Professional Administrative:
The Near Space Network Project Management Organization Team won for their support in developing strategies and solutions and providing enhanced project management resulting in process efficiencies and an improved work environment. The team established an efficient configuration and control board and risk management process for the new organization; stood up and organized the Near Space Network SharePoint site to maintain all configuration and data management items for the project; developed a new agreement abstract to guide the technical team; established an executive leadership team process; and worked with the technical team in creating a new in-house cost estimate for new network customers.