What do you do?
I inspect and review requirements for ground stations [facilities for communicating with satellites] that control space vehicles, mainly for tracking data relay satellites. The company I work for is contracted by NASA [the National Aeronautics and Space Administration]. I work in an office, but I do have to travel regularly to inspect or review activity at the ground stations being built.
I also oversee many small tasks related to building and designing the ground stations. I manage a number of teams that work on projects such as testing and simulation, software automation, and studying known problems in the systems.
“It’s not rocket science” describes something that’s not hard to understand. So…how difficult is rocket science?
It’s pretty complex! I’m currently testing new ground station software to make sure it works with existing satellite science missions. The ground stations communicate with 40 different satellite science missions, and they all have to interact with our new software and existing stations. We do multiple levels of testing, and I’m working on a level-6 test, which follows five other levels of testing.
When installing new software or hardware, we need to ensure that the ground stations meet the unique requirements of each of the 40 missions. In testing software, we have specific data rates [transmission speeds, or the number of bits of information transferred per second] and thermal parameters [temperature-specific measurements of heat conduction in the components], and if anything is out of place, the communications won’t happen. On the hardware side, cables have to be moved, fabricated, and tested with data flow.
All of this is part of a 2-year process, and it’s up to us to make sure everything is correct in order for the missions to succeed.
Vrushali Nerpawar, "Vrushalis Certification April 2020," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2020.