Intern Improves Compatibility Test Efficiency While Dreaming of Mars
By Danny Baird
September 1, 2020
This blog post was written prior to a reorganization of ESC’s projects and networks in support of the agency’s commercialization effort. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated and may contain broken links or outdated information. For more information about the reorganization, click here.
NASA intern Jamarius Reid has big plans for his future. Reid sees his NASA internship as a small step on that giant leap of a journey. He hopes to one day join the astronaut corps’ hallowed ranks and help NASA establish a sustained presence in deep space. This summer he began his journey with NASA, helping to integrate and automate radio testing procedures at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“I feel like the door is ajar, and it's up to me to walk through it,” said Reid. “I'm taking advantage of every opportunity I can.”
Reid holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in unmanned systems with a concentration in space operations from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He also serves in the U.S. Army Reserves as a signal support systems specialist for the 332nd Medical Brigade in Nashville, Tennessee.
“A part of how I got here is serving in the Army Reserves, where I work with radio frequencies,” said Reid.
That hands-on experience would prove invaluable to his internship. As a member of the 2020 Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Internship Project (SIP) cohort, Reid leveraged his know-how to improve radio testing procedures, which ensure that missions can communicate effectively with NASA networks.
Reid worked with fellow interns Diana Godja from George Mason University and Michael Yu from UCLA to develop the Test-set Automation and Integration of Laboratory Oriented Resources (TAILOR) system. TAILOR will lower test cost, improve test efficiency, and increase test repeatability by integrating multiple processes into one automated system.
Radio compatibility testing processes can be expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. Testing takes about three to eight weeks on average to plan, process, and report. That timeframe can increase based on mission requirements and the number of spacecraft that will undergo testing.
Each intern on the TAILOR team managed a different piece of TAILOR’s assembly. Yu created a web-based user interface that presents test information. Godja developed the application programming interface, which oversees the interactions between hardware and software systems. Reid administered the TAILOR application database, which can store and retrieve mission configurations and established mission data as parameters.
“Say we have a spacecraft that needs 20 different radio frequency configurations,” said Reid. “You can go into the repository I developed and easily upload that information to the compatibility test-set, automating a task that was previously done by hand.”
The TAILOR team worked under the mentorship of Jacob Barnes and Tyler Williams, two NASA communications professionals based at Goddard. They guided the interns as they developed a tool that will benefit missions communicating through NASA’s Near Earth Network and Space Network — both also based at Goddard.
After graduating with his master’s degree, Reid plans to pursue a doctorate. He is currently working on an application to join the Embry-Riddle Ph.D. cohort in 2021. There, he hopes to research navigation architectures that could support autonomous drones.
Beyond his academic future, Reid dreams of becoming an astronaut.
“I want to voyage as far as possible into space,” said Reid. “It's one thing to explore with rovers and different unmanned systems, but when you actually have humans that can do experiments and diligent research — that completely changes the game.”
As a member of the Artemis generation, Reid will see NASA land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface. One day, he might be one of the brave astronauts journeying to Mars or even deeper into the solar system.
“This is a dream come true — to be doing this internship,” said Reid, “but I know that the dream is not over. I still have a lot of work to do.”