Bonnie Kramer Credit: NASA
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Bonnie Kramer: Creating the Artemis Launch Communications Segment

By Kendall Murphy

November 17, 2022

On November 16, 2022, the Artemis I mission launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The Artemis I mission is the first-ever test flight of the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft. Now, on its 25-day journey to the Moon, the Artemis I mission is receiving comprehensive communications and tracking services from NASA's Near Space Network and Deep Space Network. The Exploration and Space Communications (ESC) division celebrates this major accomplishment and those who dedicated years of hard work to ensure the success of Artemis I.

One of the people behind the Near Space Network's Artemis support is Bonnie Kramer.

Bonnie Kramer, a systems engineer for the Advanced Communications Capabilities for Exploration and Science Systems (ACCESS) project, developed the Launch Communications Segment (LCS) and helped facilitate its transition to operations. The LCS system is a key part of the Near Space Network's support to the Artemis missions.

"I have always loved space," said Kramer. "If you can't go to space, you might as well work on spacecraft! This is my passion and being a part of the LCS project from start to finish was incredible."

In 1989, Kramer received her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with a minor in math from Virginia Tech University. After graduation, she began her career in the Naval Research Laboratory's Space Systems Division and worked on over 11 different spacecraft projects. After 13 years, Kramer joined NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as a systems engineer for the Near Space Network.

For over 12 years Kramer remained with the Near Space Network and developed the LCS - from conception to completion. She led the design and implementation of this state-of-the-art multi-station remote control launch and landing antenna system. Built in parallel with the Artemis missions' requirements, this system consists of three stations: the Kennedy Uplink Station and Ponce de Leon Tracking Station in Florida, and the Bermuda Tracking Station in Bermuda. These three stations collect data from the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft and send that data to Artemis mission controllers who are tracking and commanding the mission.

During initial phases of the Artemis I launch, the Kennedy Uplink Station and Ponce De Leon station provided uplink and downlink communications services. While in the final phases of ascent, the Bermuda station received high-data-rate telemetry from the SLS rocket while Orion communicated via the Near Space Network's constellation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.

"We designed the LCS system so that the three stations just look like one for the end user - Artemis mission controllers. In this way, they get all the information they need about the rocket and spacecraft without needing to know which station is doing what," said Kramer. "Additionally, the LCS system can be used similarly for future missions, Artemis or any others."

While each LCS antenna is remotely controlled from Wallops Flight Facility's global monitoring control systems, Kramer and the LCS engineering teams were at the Kennedy Uplink Station for the Artemis I launch. There, they were the key personnel on-console for the duration of the launch and Orion separation. Kramer's flight and ground experience on LCS has enabled Kennedy to become a successful multi-user spaceport for Artemis and more. Now, the system can provide critical links and the modern infrastructure needed for the future NASA exploration missions.

Kramer's ground station experience does not stop with LCS. The Near Space Network has multiple ground stations located around the globe supporting NASA and non-NASA missions. Recently, Kramer performed systems engineering work for a test site in Virginia and helped perform backend upgrades for the McMurdo station in Antarctica.

Outside of work, Kramer enjoys coaching soccer, spending time with her family, and being by the water.