HUMAN EXPLORATION AND OPERATIONS | SPACE TECHNOLOGY
Chic O’Dell notes he has always loved building everything from carpentry to electronics. “I find a meaningful catharsis when I have work,” says O’Dell, an Alaska resident since age 11. O’Dell – who is completing his first semester of a graduate degree in electrical engineering with a focus on embedded systems/communications systems – immersed himself in numerous cathartic activities in early 2018 through an internship at Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. O’Dell was assigned to work with the ES45 group, the Engineering Science department’s downlink and telemetry division, which supports Marshal project communications. O’Dell supported his mentor Todd Freestone -- a NASA Radio Frequency (RF) engineer in Space Launch System (SLS) GPS threat analysis, CATALYST partner support, and Lunar Pallet Lander (LPL) communications. O’Dell helped identify and define threats to SLS GPS systems, using RF lab GPS simulation tools to determine the interference thresholds that could prospectively jam the GPS receiver.
O’Dell combined the data on an overlay of the Kennedy Space Center to show a jamming threat range for SLS GPS while it’s sitting on the launch pad. For Astrobotic – a NASA Lunar CATALYST partner currently constructing a lunar rover – O’Dell assisted Freestone in reviewing technical documentation as Astrobotic approaches a Critical Design Review and conducting preliminary testing of its prospective software defined radio (SDR). O’Dell also worked with SWIFT, an SDR he says is becoming “very important as they are highly configurable and are becoming the new wave of communications technology.” He helped resolve hardware and software issues to produce a flight-ready unit that could prospectively be used by all CATALYST partners, LPL, Near-Earth Astroid Scout, and others. O’Dell also provided similar support to the LPL communications team among other projects.
O’Dell’s Alaska Space Grant program-funded opportunity to work on “real flight multibillion-dollar aerospace projects with a welcoming group of engineers” provided him with knowledge about the NASA engineering and design process, experience working and testing in a lab environment, and the ability to speak fluently about technical communications subjects he otherwise would not have had based solely on coursework, he says. The NASA Pathways program through which O’Dell executed his internship establishes paths to federal employment for students and recent graduates. O’Dell’s goal is to “design new and advanced electrical systems, optimize existing systems, and work towards defining standards for and implement technologies on the horizon.”
Name: Chic O'Dell, Graduate Student
Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Mentor: Marshal Space Flight Center
Funding Period: 2018