As the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft maneuvered within 65 meters of asteroid Bennu last month, engineer Chris May was making sure it performed the mission safely — from his basement.
Chris is part of the Lockheed Martin Operations team, which typically operates eight spacecraft from its specialized office just outside Denver. With the recent stay-at-home orders spanning across the nation, May and his colleagues quickly adjusted the way they work to ensure the critical operational milestone — known as Checkpoint rehearsal — wasn’t interrupted.
“I can query spacecraft telemetry from here, I can check all the thermal data I need to, and I can generally make sure that the spacecraft stays safe. Right from home,” said May.
While May was at home, his teammate Sierra Gonzales was on-site at the Mission Support Area. Donning a mask and practicing social distancing, she helped keep the team connected throughout the test. Sierra did most of her preparations virtually and was one of very few employees present at the site during the event.
Next up for the team is Matchpoint rehearsal, where OSIRIS-REx will once again practice maneuvering to the sample collection site and hovering before it returns to orbit. Later this year, the spacecraft will perform the full Touch and Go maneuver, collecting actual samples from the surface of Bennu. The samples will depart in 2021 with sample return in 2023.
In true “necessity breeds ingenuity” form, our Avionics and Aircraft Modernization Team, used all facets of remote connectivity to perform a critical Navy program upgrade for the C/KC-130T Hercules this past month.
Working alongside our NAVAIR customer, the team performed a remote assessment of the latest Avionics Obsolescence Upgrade software configuration. Typically an in-person task, observation of the test was performed virtually via GoPro cameras and Skype webcams set up in the simulator cockpit.
The live feed provided a full view and understanding of system responses from the cockpit’s multi-function displays to Naval engineers. The success of this remote assessment was critical for determining if the software addresses high-priority challenges.
As Integration and Test Lead on the Precision Strike Missile program, Jonathan Ehmer typically supports flight tests in person. But with the team dealing with a myriad of home situations, the program restructured to a smaller team and adjusted roles.
“It meant a lot to me that our leadership did not insist that anyone travel if they felt uncomfortable for any reason,” Jonathan said. “Many of us have high-risk family members or are high risk ourselves. Even if it was just a matter of personal principle, Lockheed Martin was sensitive to our personal situations.”
With Jonathan back-at-home – and another capable team member filling his position in the field – he contributed in other ways, preparing and leading weekly customer reviews, and extensive mission planning in preparation for the PrSM flight test.
Thanks to the program’s mentoring philosophy, selfless teamwork, and Jonathan’s remote leadership, the PrSM team completed a third successful flight test. Those who stepped into new roles to conduct this mission gained new and valuable experience, showcasing their leadership talents and technical versatility.