Employee Spotlight: Todd King
May 15, 2017
From developing instruments that determine the chemical breakdown of Mars samples to enabling the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) to observe particular stars and galaxies, Todd King’s rich background has led him to a new role as LEMNOS project manager for future optical communications activities.
Todd began his career at Goddard about 18 years ago, doing materials analysis for spacecraft and later researching cryogenic cooling using magnetic fields.
Early in his career, he developed a novel way to test microshutters aboard the Webb telescope’s Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument. The microshutters are tiny – about the width of human hair – and very delicate. Functioning like certain telescopes on Earth, they will target light from distant objects by opening specific shutters as needed while blocking out other light sources, so they must operate reliably in cryogenic temperatures. Because they are too fragile to handle, Todd innovated and carried out the idea to test the microshutters using magnetic fields.
Todd then went on to manage several mass spectrometer instrument projects to characterize materials within given samples for NASA missions, including for the Lunar Atmosphere Dust and Environment Explorer (LADEE). While working with LADEE, he received his first “exposure” to optical, or laser, communications as another payload on the mission, the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD), was developed to demonstrate high-rate laser communications technology from the moon.
Now, Todd works closely with optical communications. In his new role as the LEMNOS project manager, he will establish laser communications and navigation systems for NASA missions. Todd said he is happy to be working on the first stages of a very promising technology.
“I’m excited to help establish Goddard as a center of excellence for spaceflight comm and nav,” Todd said. “I like to push myself out of my comfort zone, and trying to establish the LEMNOS system certainly offers that.”
Before coming to Goddard, Todd served the Peace Corps in Nepal for around three years, first working as a general science teacher in a rural village and then setting up a children’s volunteer program to educate the public about native wildlife. He met his wife, who also served the Peace Corps, in Nepal, and they now have three children, whom Todd says he thoroughly enjoys chauffeuring.