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Ames Early Career Team Wins $2.5 Million Early Career Initiative STMD Award
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Ames Early Career Team Wins $2.5 Million Early Career Initiative STMD Award

The NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has selected two teams of Agency technologists to participate in its $2.5 million Early Career Initiative (ECI) program. An Ames team including Intelligent Systems Diagnostics & Prognostics researcher Dr. Wendy Okolo, and led by early career researcher and Principal Investigator Dr. Sarah D’Souza from Code AA, won one of the two awards out of eighteen down-selected Agency-wide submissions. The core team of Ames and Johnson Space Center early career researchers proposed an “Autonomous Guidance and Control System for Deployable Entry Vehicles (DEVs)” to develop the guidance and control architecture that will enable maneuvering and precision landing of DEVs.

This work will bring together five early career NASA employees and seasoned NASA mentors to deliver an integrated guidance and control methodology for a deployable entry vehicle, based on analysis-directed prototyping of a functional ground test vehicle. The two-year project will also involve external partners at the University of California at Davis on the vehicle system design and entry aerodynamic and aeroheating; as well as the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for systems engineering, requirements development, and overall monitoring.

BACKGROUND: STMD created the ECI to encourage creativity and innovation among early career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions. ECI enables a highly collaborative, joint-partnering work environment between the best and brightest NASA early career technologists and leading innovators in industry, academia, and other government organizations. The program gives early career civil servants an opportunity to propose and lead a project from beginning to end. ECI defines “early career” as civil servants who received their latest degree in the last five years.

Each project must include hands-on development and testing of a technology with the potential to enhance or enable future missions. Each project must also adopt a project management methodology that has been successful in other industries or organizations, and can be explored as an alternative method of managing technology development projects within NASA. Finally, each project must engage a highly qualified external partner that brings an element of technical or programmatic excellence and innovation to the project.

The other awardee was "Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR)," led by Principal Investigator Anne Meier at the Kennedy Space Center, with external partner Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, for experiment consulting, design and fabrication work, and a suborbital test flight.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

TEAM: Sarah D’Souza (PI, Code AA); ARC TEAM: Ben Nikaido (Code AA), Wendy Okolo (Code TI), and Brandon Smith (Code TS)


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