Dave Larsen Credit: NASA
NEN, white sands ground terminal, NSN, ACCESS, Profile 

Employee Spotlight: Dave Larsen

July 19, 2017

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 Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated and may contain broken links or outdated information.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.

Dave Larsen, new to the Near Earth Network at Goddard Space Flight Center, is inspired by NASA’s mission for furthering scientific and space discovery. “NASA’s mission captures the imagination of everyone because it attempts to answer the basic questions about the Earth, our solar system and the universe. The NEN serves as a vital link in ensuring that this mission is met. I consider it an honor to be a part of the NEN as we help to achieve these goals.”    

Dave Larsen joined the NASA Goddard team over 28 years ago after working as a consultant in the DC area for three years. With a degree in civil/structural engineering, Dave was always interested in building design and construction. With a downturn in the economy, Dave learned of a job at NASA in the Facilities Engineering Division. He applied for the position and was offered the job. Unsure if NASA was the right fit for him, Dave accepted the position with the idea that if he was not enthralled after a few years, he would return to private industry. But Dave soon realized that NASA and its mission were a great fit for him. During his career at NASA, he and his teammates have been instrumental in the design and construction of most of the East Campus, including buildings 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 36.

Early in Dave’s career he provided facilities support to the Near Earth Network, previously the Ground Network, and several of the NASA tracking stations worldwide. It was here that he gained a strong interest in the networks and their mission of supporting both manned and unmanned spaceflight. During this time, Dave lived in New Mexico and served as the resident engineer for the construction of the Data Interface Facility at the White Sands Ground Terminal (WSGT). After returning to Goddard, he became more involved in the facilities work at the Greenbelt campus while still occasionally supporting efforts for the networks. Now after 28 years at NASA, he is returning to the NEN full-time as the deputy project manager. At 53 years old Dave is ready to take on a whole new set of challenges with his new team. He describes the NEN as a family with each part working in collaboration and cooperation with each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide real-time communications to the customers. Even though Dave provided support to the networks previously, he is excited to be challenged each and every day with new opportunities to serve as the deputy project manager for the NEN. 

He said, “This job is compelling; it constantly keeps you coming back. It’s never just a job; there’s always a new challenge.”

Dave, along with NEN project manager David Carter, is responsible for the real-time operations of the NEN’s ground stations. They make sure that each station is functioning properly and is meeting the customer’s needs.

The NEN supports multiple missions including Aqua, Aura, Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), Landsat 7, Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and MetOP, just to name a few. The NEN supports missions that help further our knowledge about Earth and the universe surrounding it. These missions communicate vital information for the Science Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.  

The next exciting initiative for the NEN is the development of the Ka-band network. The Ka-band network will provide high data rate downlinks for upcoming missions such as NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR). The Ka-band network will be the first high data rate low-Earth orbit (LEO) to ground service at 26 GHz frequency for NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). By December 2020, Dave hopes to have the network up and running to support future missions. The network will build new antennas and ground stations in Chile, Norway and Alaska.