NRL Hosts NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

09/09/2014 07:00 EDT - 85-14r
Contact: Daniel Parry, (202) 767-2541

NASA Administrator meets with NRL leadershipNASA Administrator Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden (third from left) is provided a tour of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) headquarters located in Washington, D.C. The tour's final stop included the laboratory's Thermal Fabrication and Test Facility 'clean-room' where NRL and NASA engineers complete testing on the final of four constellation Magnetospheric Multiscale satellites scheduled for launch in 2015. NRL's Director of Research, Dr. John Montgomery (left), hosted the tour along with Capt. Kay Hire, Captain in the United States Navy Reserve and NASA astronaut, and NRL's Commanding Officer, Capt. Mark Bruington.
(Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/Jamie Hartman)

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) welcomed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, on-board, August 4, to visit key space program facilities and meet with NRL team leads, scientists, and engineers assisting NASA in achieving its mission goals.

Arriving at NRL headquarters located in Washington, D.C., Bolden, accompanied by NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Charles Gay, and Heliophysics Division Director, Dr. Jeffrey Newmark was greeted by Director of Research, Dr. John Montgomery; Commanding Officer, Capt. Mark Bruington; and Capt. Kay Hire, Captain in the United States Navy Reserve and NASA astronaut.

NRL Vacuum Test Chamber - Big BlueThe first of four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission satellites arrived at the NRL Thermal Fabrication and Test Facility, Sept. 2013, to undergo a regiment of thermal-vacuum testing specifically designed to simulate the high vacuum and varying thermal conditions that the spacecraft will encounter while orbiting the Earth. Tests were conducted in the largest of three thermal-vacuum chambers located at NRL — measuring 5.5 meters in diameter and 9.75 meters in length. The MMS is a solar terrestrial mission comprised of four identically instrumented spacecraft that will use Earth's magnetosphere to study the microphysics of three fundamental plasma processes: magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence.
(Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/Jamie Hartman)

After a morning briefing, the group was provided a tour of NRL's Payload Checkout Facility, where thermal-vacuum tests recently concluded on the last of four newly developed NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission satellites. The MMS mission will use the four identical spacecraft, variably spaced in Earth orbit, to make three-dimensional measurements of magnetospheric boundary regions and examine the process of magnetic reconnection—improving our understanding of Earth's magnetosphere and our ability to better predict dynamic space weather events.

To fully ensure each spacecraft is functioning properly and is sufficiently optimized for operation in the harsh space environment prior to launch, NRL and NASA engineers working at the Naval Center for Space Technology's Spacecraft Engineering Department conducted thermal vacuum tests of spacecraft and spaceflight components in the Payload Checkout Facility. There, NRL operates three large thermal vacuum chambers that can simulate both the vacuum environment of space as well as the thermal cycling that occurs as the satellites orbit the Earth.

Concluding the tour at the facility's 'cleanroom,' co-developed by NASA and NRL and staging area for the suite of MMS spacecraft, the group was provided a first-hand look at the daily operations that support the pre-test preparation of each vehicle, including non-flight instrumentation installation and pre- and post-functional testing.

The NRL Spacecraft Engineering Department and the Space Systems Development Department, together comprising the Naval Center for Space Technology (NCST), cooperatively develop space systems to respond to Department of Defense (DoD) and national mission requirements with improved performance, capacity, reliability, efficiency, and life cycle cost.

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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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