When something is easy, we joke and say “it isn't rocket science.” For one UAF student however, rocket science is no laughing matter.
Jon Klein is a masters student in Electrical Engineering at UAF. In 2012, he took part in an internship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Managed by Caltech – and funded by NASA – the laboratory specializes in designing and operating robotic spacecraft. JPL also runs the Deep Space Network (DSN), a worldwide network of radio transceivers that are used to communicate with deep space probes. (Click photo for rest of story)
At JPL, Klein interned with the Radio Science Systems Group. As part of the group, Klein worked on a feasibility study concerning the use of CubeSats for interplanetary radio science applications. A CubeSat is a miniaturized satellite that is often built using off-the-shelf commercial electronics. Students and staff at the Alaska Space Grant Program have worked with developing CubeSats since 2009.
In addition to interning with the radio group, Klein also worked with the Communications Ground Systems Group. As part of their group, he worked on creating a potential new beam waveguide antenna. Such antennas transport signals between transmitters or receivers and a movable satellite dish by means of a beam. Rocket science, indeed.
The engineering requirements of deep space probes sometimes demand unconventional technologies uncommon in other fields, Klein said. As part of the internship, he was exposed to cutting edge science and engineering, gaining experiences unavailable elsewhere.
Interns in the radio group had the opportunity to sit in the control room and watch Deep Space probes during real-time operations. One such day included the chance to see DSN's antennas receive a signal from the Casini probe as it flew behind Saturn's rings. That event helped better map the structure of the planet's rings.
JPL also held weekly seminars for interns that showcased research happening around the lab. These seminars helped keep interns and staff up-to-date on the progress made by the lab's multiple research groups.
The interns were also invited to attend general technical talks. “I got to attend many talks about the landing and operation of the Curiosity rover,” said Klein. His intern group was also fortunate enough to be in the control room for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity landing.
Klein praised the internship program, adding that is was “very well run” by JPL and Caltech.
“Being an intern at JPL was a great experience,” he said.
Name: Jon Klein, Graduate Student
Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Major: Electrical Engineering
Funding Period: 2012