About the Science Research and Project Division

The mission of the Science Research and Projects Division at Marshall Space Flight Center is to expand scientific knowledge and explore the Earth and our universe in support of National and Agency goals. We are comprised of NASA civil servants and colleagues working in alliance with academia, US federal agencies, and international partners to develop space, airborne, and ground-based capabilities to better understand our home planet and its space environment.

The Predictive Thermal Control (PTC) Project Featured on NASA SMD's Share the Science Website

Direct imaging of planetary systems around other stars to detect and characterize Earth-like planets that could sustain life requires telescopes that are larger and more stable than any previous telescope.

Because an Earth-like planet is 10 billion times fainter than its star, it is necessary to block nearly all of the star’s light before we can see the planet. The resulting glare will “hide” the planet.  To detect an Earth-like planet with a coronagraph requires a telescope whose optical quality is stable to better than 10 picometers per 10 minutes – which is about 1 million times smaller than the width of a human hair.

According to NASA Predictive Thermal Control (PTC) project lead, Philip Stahl (MSFC/ST10), “Picometers are very small, and measuring telescope stability to picometer levels is virtually impossible. Therefore, to predict on-orbit performance we perform STOP analysis – we model a telescope’s Structural Thermal Optical Performance based on its measurable physical properties.”

The PTC project team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has demonstrated technology to enable ultra-stable thermal control in large space telescopes.  MSFC and its industrial partner L3Harris of Rochester, NY designed, built, and integrated a 25-zone active thermal control system with a 1.5-meter Ultra-Low Expansion (ULE©) glass mirror. Since 2011, NASA’s Astrophysics Division has invested in mechanical and thermal technology to design, build and control ultra-stable telescopes.  Technologies developed by PTC and its precursor study – Advanced Mirror Technology Development (AMTD) – are under consideration for the Roman Space Telescope as well as several potential future missions.

To read the complete article, go to: https://science.nasa.gov/technology/technology-highlights/controlling-the-temperature-of-telescope-mirrors-to-search-for-earth-like-planets.

ULE Mirror at MSFC XRCF for Environmental Testing
ULE Mirror at MSFC XRCF for Environmental Testing
Thermal Assembly
Thermal Assembly
PTC Team Members at the XRCF
PTC Team Members at the XRCF

SRPD Scientist a Judge the International Science and Engineering Fair

SPRD Scientist, Phil Stahl (ST10) is virtually judging the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) on behalf of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). Of the many 1000s of projects from around the world, 22 were selected for virtual in-person interviews. Each year more than 1,800 ninth through twelfth graders earn the right to compete at ISEF by winning a top prize at a Society-affiliated local, regional, state or national science fair. Judging will take place from May 3-6, 2021 via video conferencing.

Two Papers Co-Authored by MSFC Scientists Published in the SPIE Journal of Astronomical telescopes and Instrument Systems (JAITS)

Two papers co-authored by MSFC scientists have been accepted for publication by the SPIE Journal of Astronomical Telescopes and Instrument Systems.  The first paper is "Habitable-Zone Exoplanet Observatory (HabEx) baseline 4-m telescope: systems-engineering design process and predicted structural thermal optical performance", by H. Philip Stahl (MSFC), Gary Kuan (JPL), William R. Arnold (MSFC/TBE), Thomas Brooks (MSFC), J. Brent Knight (MSFC), and Stefan Martin (JPL),  https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JATIS.6.3.034004.

You can read the article at: https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/journals/Journal-of-Astronomical-Telescopes-Instruments-and-Systems/volume-6/issue-3/034004/Habitable-Zone-Exoplanet-Observatory-baseline-4-m-telescope--systems/10.1117/1.JATIS.6.3.034004.full.

The second paper is "Method for deriving optical telescope performance specifications for Earth-detecting coronagraphs" by Bijan Nemati (UAH), H. Philip Stahl (MSFC), Mark T. Stahl (MSFC), Leah Sheldon (UAH), and Garreth J. Ruane (CalTech), https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JATIS.6.3.039002.

Read that article at: https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/journals/Journal-of-Astronomical-Telescopes-Instruments-and-Systems/volume-6/issue-3/039002/Method-for-deriving-optical-telescope-performance-specifications-for-Earth-detecting/10.1117/1.JATIS.6.3.039002.full.

Congratulations to our 2020 Agency and Center Honor Award Winners

Patrick N. Gatlin: Early Career Achievement Medal

Tyson B. Littenberg: Early Career Achievement Medal

Renee C. Weber: Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal

Michael S. Briggs: Exceptional Public Service Medal

Brian D. Ramsey: Exceptional Service Medal

Andrew L. Molthan: Equal Employment Opportunity Medal

Chandra Source Catalog 2.0 Team: NASA Group Achievement Award

Collect Earth Online Team: NASA Group Achievement Award

SERVIR Synthetic Aperture Radar Handbook Team: NASA Group Achievement Award

The Cumulus Team: NASA Group Achievement Award

Chandra Observatory Operations Control Center Team: NASA Group Achievement Award

Jessica A. Gaskin: Silver Achivement Medal (Individual)

Cindy G. Upton: Silver Achievement Medal (Individual)

Lori A. Schultz: Certificate of Appreciation Honor Award

Genevieve D. Vigil: Certificate of Appreciation Honor Award

Advanced Microwave Precipitation Radiometer Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

Chromospheric Layer SpectroPolarimeter-2 (CLASP2): MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer CDR Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

IXPE Mirror Module Assembly Design Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

Lunar Regolith Field Experiment Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

Michael R. Zanetti: Marshall Innovation Award

Dr. Walt Petersen Selected as Fellow of the American Meteorological Society

Dr. Walt Petersen, Deputy Division Manager of Marshall's Science Research and Projects Division, was notified that he has been selected to be a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).  The AMS is a professional science society that serves the global community in its mission to advance atmospheric and related sciences, technologies, applications, and services for the benefit of society.  Only 0.2% of AMS members are selected as Fellows of the AMS.  The award ceremony will take place during the AMS Annual Meeting in January 2021.

“Advanced UVOIR Mirror Technology Development for Very Large Space Telescopes" paper accepted by the SPIE Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems.

The SPIE Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments and Systems (JATIS) has accepted for publication “Advanced UVOIR Mirror Technology Development for Very Large Space Telescopes.”  The paper surveys the accomplishments of the 6-year AMTD study to mature technologies required to enable 4-meter or larger mirrors for UV/optical/infrared space telescopes.  AMTD used a science-driven systems engineering approach.  Potentially the most impactful result of the study was defining the 10 pm per 10-minute wavefront stability specification to enable coronagraphic science.  Additionally, AMTD successfully demonstrated a process to make substrates as large as 1.5 m and as thick as 40 cm by stacking multiple core elements and low-temperature-fusing them together.  AMTD developed the new Arnold Mirror Modeler tool. For the first time, AMTD used x-ray computed tomography to construct an ‘as-built’ model of the internal structure of a 1.5 m ULE® mirror.

Congratulations to our 2020 TIP Awardees!

The Science Research and Projects Division wants to congratulate our 2020 TIP awardess.

Michelle Hui's research, "Pulse Shape Discrimination for Gamma-ray Detection on SmallSat" was selected.

​Linda  Krause's research, "Charge Analyzer Responsive to Local Oscillations (CARLO)" was selected.

​Ken Kobayashi's research, "EUV Non-Occulting Coronagraph CubeSat" was selected.

Patrick Champsey's research, "ESCAPE Mirror Module Assembly Development" was also selected.  

SRPD Assistant Manager, Michael Goodman, Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

On January 8, 2020, Michael Goodman received the Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award in Bethesda, MD. This award is issues by the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) and recognizes outstanding service to the community by individuals who have demonstrated leadership, dedication, and a collaborative spirit in advancing the field of Earth Science information. The ESIP organization recognized Mr. Goodman's early leadership of ESIP, his excellent work in climate and disaster research, his extensive field support, and his contributions to the ESIP community.

Michael Goodman with ESIP Executive Director, Erin Robinson
Michael Goodman with ESIP Executive Director, Erin Robinson

Congratulations to our 2019 Agency and Center Honor Award winners!

Dan Irwin: Outstanding Leadership Medal

Caleb Fassett: Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal

Ernest Wright: Director's Commendation Honor Award

Andrew Molthan: Exceptional Service Medal

Jordan Bell: Early Career Public Achievement Medal

Ashutosh Limaye: Exceptional Achievement Medal

Emily Berndt: Early Career Achievement Medal

Chandra Integrated Acquisition Team: NASA Group Achievement Honor Award

SWEAP Solar Probe Cup Test Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award


Timothy Lang: Certification of Appreciation Honor Award

High-resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

Amy Winebarger: MSFC Innovation Award

Laurel Rachmeler: Director's Commendation Honor Award

Analysis and Review of NASA's Common Metadata Repository Team: MSFC Group Achievement Honor Award

Todd Berendes: Research and Technology Award

Patrick Gatlin: Research and Technology Award

Manil Maskey: MSFC Innovation Award

Chris Hain: Research and Technology Award

Colored Solar Flare
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