NASA Communications and Navigation Experts Win 20 Agency Awards
By Katherine Schauer
October 2, 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 Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated and may contain broken links or outdated information.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.
On September 28, 2020, the Communications and Navigation Community received 20 Agency Honor Awards, recognizing individuals and teams for their outstanding achievements over the past year. Our community members won in numerous categories, including leadership, engineering, public service, outreach, and more. Once again, the community has shown their outstanding capability across multiple efforts. Read below to learn more about our winners!
Outstanding Leadership Medal:
Bernie Edwards won for his record of excellence in the development of optical communications standards, which will benefit exploration and science missions for years to come. Bernie works with the Consultative Committee for Space Data Services to identify common needs across multiple international agencies to coordinate space communications policy, develop high-level procedures and other matters related to interoperability and space communications. These standards will have lasting impact and create efficiencies for developing optical communications technologies and missions.
Joel Parker won for his dedication to elevating the Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) community within the agency and around the world. Joel took the lead role for PNT policy and elevated it to a new level, drastically increasing the PNT portfolio. His expertise in Global Navigation Satellite Systems, policy, and diplomacy have made him an effective advocate for NASA’s PNT interests. Joel sets long-term goals for the navigation community, like increasing usage of the Space Service Volume, and has the strategic insight to set incremental goals that serve this long-term vision, like creating a unified PNT team at Goddard Space Flight Center.
Exceptional Service Medal:
Beth Keer won for her enthusiastic work within ESC’s Technology Enterprise and Mission Pathfinder Office, advocating for emerging technologies and securing new strategic partnerships to fulfill the agency’s future exploration goals. Her ability to effectively communicate a new technology’s benefits to strategic partners puts the agency on a path to efficiently advance the communications technologies needed for future exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Ron Miller, who recently retired as a civil servant, won for his exceptional service to the agency, spanning a lifetime of achievements. For the last nine years, Ron has dedicated his career to the Space Network. He was responsible for preparing missions to use the network, and interfacing with mission managers and other government agencies. He independently and expertly worked with executive leadership to help facilitate the network’s support of critical U.S. missions. Ron had to constantly evaluate how the network could maximize its capabilities to service missions with specialized requirements.
Frank Stocklin won for his sustained performance and positive impact to space communications, benefiting missions past, present, and future across the agency. Frank is one of NASA’s premier radio frequency (RF) engineers, providing critical link calculations to numerous NASA missions. As the RF Analysis and Integration Manager, he is known for his expertise and has analyzed RF links between NASA satellites and ground stations for over 50 years. His ability to establish optimal communications links is a key contributor to the near 100% proficiency of NASA’s Space Network and Near Earth Network.
Jonathan Wilmot won for his extensive effort in developing international standards to enhance the interoperability and reusability of flight software and hardware. As the Director for the worldwide Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems' (CCSDS) Spacecraft Onboard Interface Services Area, and Chair for the Application Support Services Working Group, his push for standardizing Electronic Data Sheets will lower costs, facilitate interoperability, and reduce the risks inherent in hand-written documentation. This technology will be instrumental to NASA’s ongoing success by reducing the risks and challenges of coordinating software and hardware interfaces across different users.
Exceptional Achievement Medal:
Paul Buchanan won for his dedicated leadership of the Space Exploration Network Services and Evolution (SENSE) procurement process. Paul served as the SENSE Source Evaluation Board chair, providing exceptional leadership to a large team of individuals tasked with evaluating competitive proposals for the new SENSE contract.
Early Career Achievement Medal:
Ben Ashman won for his advocacy for the usage of the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) in space. Just 5 years into his NASA career, Ben has become an internationally recognized expert in his field and an invaluable asset to the agency. As a highly valued member of the Positioning, Navigation and Timing policy team, Ben contributes to several initiatives regarding the use of GNSS in space. Additionally, he serves as a technical expert for the United Nations International Committee on GNSS and advocates for NASA’s interests in the Space Service Volume.
Peter Jacobs won for his outstanding service as public affair officer (PAO) for a wide variety of NASA disciplines. Though early in his career, Peter has left an indelible mark on the varied disciplines he supports, lending his expertise, creativity, and work ethic to NASA communications priorities. Most PAOs have a single overarching area they support. Peter has three: space communications and navigation, satellite servicing, and Earth science. Peter’s ability to balance the needs of these three customers and deliver impactful results is an extraordinary accomplishment.
Silver Achievement Award – Individual:
Lisa Cacciatore won for her remarkable support in representing NASA’s spectrum interests at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) in 2019. Lisa works tirelessly to protect NASA’s critical science data from interference. At the WRC, Lisa defended NASA’s use of certain radio frequency bands from the cellular telephone industry. Lisa’s contributions to the United States’ representation at the WRC helped to maintain essential protections for NASA’s missions, while at the same time enabling commercial telecommunications companies to provide enhanced commercial services.
Silver Achievement Award – Group:
The Human Space Flight Communications and Tracking Network (HSF CTN) won for their outstanding capability, technical acumen, and profound agility in providing human spaceflight missions with constant communications services. The HSF CTN is responsible for communications with the International Space Station, the upcoming Artemis missions, and the Commercial Crew Program. As NASA journeys into deep space with advanced science instruments and humans onboard, the need for robust communications services increases. The HSF CTN is a key component of this advancement. The team has proven their capabilities repeatedly with nearly flawless communications services.
The Near Earth Network Launch Communications Segment Development team won for their exceptional contributions to NASA crewed exploration initiatives. The new and cost-effective segment will provide launch communications support to many of the agency’s upcoming Artemis missions, tracking spacecraft from three ground stations as they launch from the Kennedy Spaceport.
The Optical Ground Station-2 (OGS-2) team won for their technical achievement in building the first NASA-owned optical communications ground station. OGS-2 will support the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). Bringing OGS-2 to life was an aggressive effort and the team was dedicated throughout the entire process, from concept to operations. The team overcame numerous technical and programmatic challenges, and now OGS-2 is ready to receive data from LCRD, which is set to launch in early 2021.
The LCRD team won for their tremendous effort over the last seven years in developing the payload and delivering it to Northrop Grumman in early 2020. The team successfully implemented a first-of-a-kind optical communications flight payload, which will advance data capabilities for NASA, the nation, and humanity. Just as going from dial-up to broadband transformed the internet and made high-resolution photos and streaming video possible, LCRD is part of similar revolution for space communications.
The LCRD Modem Instrument Recovery Team won for their intensive effort to mitigate an issue when they uncovered an anomaly during testing of the optical modem. Without the modem, LCRD would not be able to demonstrate the benefits of optical communications. In a spectacular display of commitment, the modem team, which had already been disbanded to work on other projects, came back and supported all activities until the issue was resolved.
The Policy and Strategic Communications (PSC) team won for their outstanding support of NASA objectives in space communications and navigation through outreach, workforce development, communication strategy, and digital media. Working closely with the Space Communications and Navigation program, the PSC team develops innovative internal and external products to educate a variety of audiences about space communications and navigation efforts across NASA. Their engagement has had both a national and local impact.
Group Achievement Award:
The LunaNet team won for their expertise in rapidly developing a strategic proposal for communications and navigation infrastructure at the Moon. The team successfully proposed a network-centric system that leverages the capabilities of disruption tolerant networking to create a terrestrial-like internet on the Moon. This network would be capable of providing missions with robust communications, navigation and science utilization services.
The Ka-Arraying Development team won for their creation of a high-rate, Ka-band antenna arraying system for NASA’s Near Earth Network (NEN). This innovative capability enables two or more NEN antennas to function as one larger antenna capable of receiving science data at higher data rates than they could individually. The benefits of this system include more data from missions in space and extensive cost savings, as the hardware required can be implemented on two or more antennas at any ground station.
The Space Exploration Network Services and Evolution (SENSE) Procurement team won for their dedication in analyzing proposals for the management, sustainment, and evolution of NASA’s space communications networks. SENSE is a 5-year, $1.8 billion procurement that replaced the previous contract and impacted thousands of NASA employees. The team evaluated proposals from several companies and analyzed their mission suitability, technical skillsets, past performance, and cost. Each member of the team played a critical role vital to the successful selection of the Peraton Company, which was announced as the winning contract in June 2019.
The LCRD Space Charging Mitigation Team won for successfully modifying the flight payload and overcoming technical geosynchronous orbit radiation environment challenges. The team developed a method to protect the payload from high-energy electrons and ions that could penetrate the satellite’s shielding materials. With only 90 days left until the U.S. Space Force’s need date, the team identified the risk areas, conducted environment analysis and engineering tests, designed charging mitigation hardware, built the hardware, and successfully installed and tested it on the flight payload.