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Samantha Kenyon "Space-Based Instrumentation and Technology Development"

10:00 am
Friday, March 1, 2024
270 NCB Hall
Faculty Host:  Dr. Rakesh Kapania

Abstract:  Understanding the science needs, engineering decisions, and challenges to overcome for satellite operations is crucial for mission success. Academic research laboratories play a unique and important role in spacecraft instrumentation and hardware development, frequently in partnership with industry and/ or other academic institutions. These partnerships often lead to the development of new technologies, and the progression from early technology readiness levels (TRL) to advanced, most notably from TRL 1 to 6. This talk will address the unique role academic environments can play in spacecraft design by examining hardware development for two specific missions. (1) The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission seeks to detect gravitational waves in space through use of a gravitational reference sensor like the inertial sensors used in earth geodesy missions like the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and its counterparts. The operational and design considerations for these inertial sensors have been validated through modeling and ground testing methods and will be discussed. (2) Technology development has been undertaken for testing an Electron-Multiplying CCD (EMCCD) camera in a CubeSat form factor. The camera can perform UV spectroscopy to measure nitric oxide concentrations in the upper atmosphere via stellar occultation in polar nighttime conditions. The work being done at Virginia Tech to verify success of the science mission and advance the TRL of the instrumentation will be discussed, as will future work that is necessary to develop and prove the capabilities of these technologies. 

Bio:  Samantha Parry Kenyon is a research associate in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech. She is a member of the Center for Space Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech (Space@VT) and an affiliate faculty member in the Virginia Tech National Security Institute (VT-NSI). Her research focuses on developing space instrumentation for both science and defense-focused missions, designing and testing satellite hardware, and developing space-based networking and optical communication systems. She has worked on hardware development for multiple missions, including the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), the CubeSat Laser Infrared CrosslinK (CLICK), the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), and the Europa Lander concept. She holds M.S. (2018) and Ph.D. (2021) degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Florida, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering (2012). She was selected to participate in Aerospace Corporation’s UPLIFT seminar series, has been featured as an early career spotlight in the NASA Heliophysics Technology 2023 Annual Report, and is an AIAA and AAS member.