SSPD

Meet the Team

The spirit of innovation still runs deep among the entire division. The passion to challenge the status quo of "One and Done" missions burns as bright as ever. SSPD will carry on the skunkworks environment of SSCO and Hubble servicing missions to position the United States as the global leader in in-space robotic repair, upgrade and disposal.


SSPD group photo March 2011

SSPD group photo 2016

Team Interviews

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Preston Burch

Associate Director of Flight Projects, Satellite Servicing Projects Division
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Preston Burch

Associate Director of Flight Projects, Satellite Servicing Projects Division


What kind of work do you do as the Associate Director of Flight Projects?
I'm responsible for the overall success of the division. This requires my cognizance and some level of involvement in everything that happens in SSPD; programmatic performance (meeting our commitments to our stakeholders), planning of schedules and budgets, program requirements definition, organization and staffing, contractor performance, adherence to federal and NASA/center regulations, acquisition of new work, and avoiding and solving all types of problems. The job requires constant communication with the SSPD organization, center management, NASA Headquarters, our contractors, our stakeholders, and the media. That's it in a nutshell.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of this job is two aspects. The first is (and I know this may sound trite, but it's true), I get to work with really bright people who share the same passion I have for the aerospace business. Second, working in aerospace is the most fun and interesting thing a person can do, and we get paid for it! Rockets, satellites, space travel, science, engineering; it is absolutely the coolest stuff. The facilities we have at our disposal are the best in the world for enabling us to do what we do. All of this makes coming to work every day a real joy. We are all incredibly lucky to be a part of the great adventure of space exploration.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
I became interested in rockets and space travel as a little boy when I was in fourth or fifth grade (back in the early 1950s). My parents gave me a book on the subject and it fired an interest that has stayed with me ever since. When I graduated from college, I went to work for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation (as it was then known) working as a thermal vacuum test engineer on the Apollo Lunar Module. It was incredibly exciting in many ways, not the least of which was we were in a Space race to the moon! When I found an opportunity to come work for NASA directly in 1991, it was a very easy decision for me.
Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
I graduated from Garden City Senior High School in Long Island, NY, in 1961. I received a bachelor degree in physics from Adelphi University in Garden City in 1966.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
My degree in physics gave me the broad technical underpinnings to be able to understand and solve a wide variety of technical problems. When you're in college, your whole career is ahead of you and it's difficult to predict where the journey will take you. A broad technical foundation gives a potential opportunity to go in a wide variety of directions. People used to say that one doesn't "use" ninety percent of what is learned in college. While there may be some truth in that, what is more true is that most of the knowledge and skills one needs to perform a job are in fact learned on the job. I doubt that anyone in Satellite Servicing took a college course in that subject, but here we are doing it every day!
What made you want to work in satellite servicing? (i.e., what interests you most about it?)
I'm attracted to working in satellite servicing because it is probably the most interesting and challenging work to be done in the field of spaceflight, and we are doing pioneering work in this emerging technology field. We have the opportunity to change the way we explore space and to make space more accessible by lowering the cost for access and operating in space through the servicing of space assets. This, coupled with the potential of dramatic cost reductions in launch costs through reuse will change the face of space exploration.
How long have you been at NASA?
My involvement with NASA goes back to 1964 when I won a NASA research fellowship for my last two years of undergraduate studies. I worked as a NASA contractor for roughly half of my professional career, and I've been a NASA employee for 26 years.
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Frank Cepollina

Chief of Special Operations
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Frank Cepollina

Chief of Special Operations


What kind of work do you do as Chief of Special Operations of the Satellite Servicing Projects Division?
Our work is to advance technology so that humans or robots can efficiently repair satellites in orbit. That means keeping expensive satellites running longer and smarter so that they can produce more data for less money.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Being able to talk everyday with all the doers, workers and planners. The best part is being able to talk and converse with them, understand their problems, and try to pull the roadblocks away so that they can keep on going.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
I grew up on a farm, and my job was to keep the tractors running and plowing the fields. I liked the work, but I thought it was much more fun and interesting to figure out why the tractors broke and try to fix them. As a kid I was also very much interested in building and flying model airplanes. When I went to college, the space race had just broken out, which stirred my interest in the technology and process of building rockets. That is what eventually brought me to NASA. I first went to work for a rocket building company called Aerojet General in Sacramento CA, and then I came East in the military. While I was on the east coast, I met a group of NASA people who were also doing engineering work. They told me that jobs were coming open if I was interested-and I was. The next thing I knew, I went from the west coast designing rockets to the east coast designing and working on spacecrafts at Goddard.
Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
I went to high school at St. Mary's College Prep in Berkley, California. I graduated from the University of Santa Clara in California with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
Practical life. It began by thinking of how we do transportation in the ground. If something breaks, we usually fix it-we don't just throw it away. To me, it was astounding that we would just throw satellites away on orbit. It seemed that we should find a way to fix these satellites for economic and cost reasons, and for the scientific benefits we could derive. I wanted to find a way to fix and upgrade satellites, and in the early days, it was harder to do. Then the shuttle came along and it became easier to do, especially with the astronauts. With the shuttle going away, we now have to take everything we've learned in terms of building these special servicing tools for astronauts and convert those tools so that robots can use them. So it's kind of been an evolutionary step. This process started with our desire to get more out of our scientific and application satellites then we first thought we could get. With the shuttle, we wanted to prove that these servicing concepts could work, and with the astronauts, we wanted to show what these concepts would produce. So that helped. We had 11 shuttle-based servicing missions. With the shuttle going away, we took our greatest experiences working with astronauts and converted those tools to work with robots. In that cycle of life, we have evolved from the very rudimentary mundane process of building and throwing satellites away after a couple of years, to the point where like Hubble, we could be able to get a satellite to work for 20 to 25 years.
How long have you been at NASA?
I have worked for NASA since March 1963. I have worked for the government since March 1960.
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Benjamin Reed

SSPD Deputy Division Director
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Benjamin Reed

SSPD Deputy Division Director

What kind of work do you do as SSPD Deputy Division Director?
Keep the troops doing meaningful work.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Watching individual ingredients combine to produce a perfectly balanced stew. To orchestrate separate subsystem design, fabrication and tests, such that they subsequently come together and function as an integrated unit is a thing of beauty.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
The thought of being a single individual who could make a meaningful difference on the Hubble Space Telescope was beyond the wildest dreams of a country boy from North Carolina, but when the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance.
Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
West Charlotte Senior High, and The Catholic University of America where I earned a B.S. in chemistry.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
It probably isn't hard to imagine how my courses in physics, chemistry and math proved essential to my effectiveness as a NASA engineer. What was not intuitive to me was how important my education in both written and spoken English would be to my continued success. Bright, clever and hardworking engineers must convey their insights to others effectively, or they are of little use.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
The ability to 'turn around' the fate of an existing satellite is incredibly compelling. Rather than accepting the fact that a legacy satellite (one that wasn't designed with servicing in mind) had an unsuccessful deployment, or out of propellant, or faulty/outdated detectors, satellite servicing allows one to challenge and possibly change that paradigm.
How long have you been at NASA?
I started with NASA in 1998. I spent the first twelve years as the lead materials engineer for the Hubble Space Telescope, and the most recent years as the deputy project manager for the Robotic Refueling Mission.
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Hsiao Smith

Deputy Division Director for Technical
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Hsiao Smith

Deputy Division Director for Technical

What kind of work do you do as the SSPD Deputy Division Director for Technical?
I use my flight hardware development and management experience to guide the SSPD team to solve problems as they arise.
What is your favorite part of the job?
The excitement of seeing hardware and software we worked on for years operating successfully in space.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
I didn't even know Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) existed until my high school counselor gave me an application for a summer position. I am so grateful for this job offer that truly set the path of my career. The experience working at GSFC that summer made me decide to be an engineer.
Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
I went to Parkdale High School. I next went to the University of Maryland College Park, where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Then I went to the University of Maryland University College for a Masters of Science in Engineering Management.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
My technical classes gave me the fundamental knowledge for designing hardware. Working on teams in class projects taught me that everyone has something to contribute. As a manager, it is my job to enable each person to contribute their best.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing? (i.e., what interests you most about it?)
My first experience with satellite servicing was on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Flight Systems and Servicing Project. What interested me most was working on flight hardware from initial design through launch then extravehicular activities and post launch operations. This gave me a wide perspective on satellite servicing. It was an amazing experience to see all the pieces fit perfectly together, and HST is continuing to make science discoveries. Now, SSPD is continuing the legacy of servicing with the development of new technologies for the next era of servicing with astronauts and robots.
How long have you been at NASA?
I have been at Goddard Space Flight Center working on flight projects for over 30 years. With so many challenging opportunities, I can't imagine working anywhere else. This is a great place to work.
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Garry Gaukler

Division Business Manager
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Garry Gaukler

Division Business Manager

What kind of work do you do as "Division Business Manager"?
I see my job as planning, executing, and managing the business and administrative processes and procedures that enable the technical capabilities of the Satellite Servicing Projects Division. I work in multiple areas, including budgeting, workforce, Information Technology, facilities, as well as scheduling, configuration management, and procurements. My goal is to efficiently and effectively run the program planning and control functions to support the portfolio of the Division.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is seeing how the work that we do helps the technical community get their job done within cost and on schedule. I want to keep the technical team working on the technical aspects and not be distracted by the business/administrative functions that could prevent them from achieving the mission.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
I've always loved space travel and the space business. As a youngster, I watched Gemini and Apollo. Seeing Skylab and watching the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program with those first flights was incredible. The excitement of a rocket launch is amazing, and I take pride in knowing I had a small part of achieving the success.
Where did you go to college, and what degrees did you receive?
I earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics/Computer Science from Delaware State College where I graduated with honors.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
I've always been good with numbers and have been able to combine a good attention to detail with an ability to also see the big picture. My technical background provides me the ability to be able to bridge the gap of technical problems and the business process so we can obtain the resources needed to be successful.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
I think that re-using our national assets is a natural extension of maximizing our resources in these tight fiscal times. The Hubble Servicing Missions proved that we know how to fix and service, and this capability is an asset to NASA and our country. I love working on a great team that is pushing the boundaries of innovation.
How long have you been at NASA?
I started at NASA in 1990. I started working in Human Space Flight on the Space Shuttle and Space Station Freedom/International Space Station. I also spent several years working in the Mission to Planet Earth on the initial flagship missions that started earth science observations in the 1990s. I've been at GSFC the last 13 years of my career working in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Flight Projects Directorate on many different missions. I was on the Joint Polar Satellite System and Earth Science Projects Division prior to joining SSPD in 2017.
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Brent Robertson

Restore-L Project Manager
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Brent Robertson

Restore-L Project Manager

What kind of work do you do as "Restore-L Project Manager"?
I work with a team of engineers, scientists, technicians, business associates, and administrators to get spacecraft built and launched.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I enjoy working with a team where we all have a common goal of getting something to space. I particularly enjoy working on Goddard in-house efforts, and have been fortunate to work on missions such as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, Hubble Servicing Missions, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
One of my earliest memories is of my father waking me up to watch Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the Moon. I never lost the interest.
Where did you go to college, and what degrees did you receive?
I went to the University of Toronto, where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science. I then attended the University of Virginia, where I earned a Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
I was always interested in space and found I had an aptitude for math and science courses. In high school, I really enjoyed a team project to design a space balloon made of Mylar. The engineering courses I took in college were geared towards space and began to prepare me for working at NASA.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
I want to work on missions that push the limits of engineering and scientific endeavors. I want to work on something never been done before. Satellite servicing fits the bill!
How long have you been at NASA?
I joined NASA in 1994.
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Jill McGuire

RRM Project Manager
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Jill McGuire

RRM Project Manager

What kind of work do you do as RRM Project Manager?
I have the pleasure of managing multiple tasks-from large projects such as the Robotic Refueling Mission, to small tasks such as the research and development of new robotics tools and techniques needed for future NASA objectives.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Working as part of a team and seeing the results from many hours of hard work pay off in the form of a successful mission that applies real data to real life applications and students. For example, working on the Hubble Space Telescope program, it was a great moment when the first picture was released after a Servicing Mission. To know that you had a part in making that happen is very rewarding. Also, when you get the chance to look at the new science textbooks that students are using, and you know they have been updated with information learned by Hubble discoveries, it really makes you appreciate the wonderful opportunities we have at NASA to make a difference.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
The thrill of flying and space. I have always wanted to be an astronaut.
Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
I graduated from Apollo High School. Then continued my education with M.S. Applied Physics, Johns Hopkins University, M.S. Engineering Management, University of Maryland University College, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of North Dakota
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
I was fortunate to start my employment at NASA as a cooperative education student. Through the program, I was able to get real-time experience while going to school. This allowed me to understand how what we learn in school is directly related to the work that is done everyday at NASA. The best thing I can say to students is to never give up on your dream. If you want something, you need to be persistent and keep working hard. Someday your hard work will be noticed.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
I have always been drawn to challenging projects. After working on the Hubble Space Telescope program for over 10 years and witnessing firsthand the benefits of satellite servicing, transferring that knowledge to extending the life of other satellites is an exciting challenge.
How long have you been at NASA?
I started as a co-op student in 1992 and transferred full-time when I graduated in 1993. I have had the pleasure of working with the satellite servicing team since 1998, when I started working on the Hubble Space Telescope program.
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Brian Roberts

Robotic Demonstration and Test Manager
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Brian Roberts

Robotic Demonstration and Test Manager
























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Bo Naasz

Systems Engineering Manager
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Bo Naasz

Systems Engineering Manager

What kind of work do you do as "Systems Engineering Manager"?
As Systems Engineering Manager, I dabble in all of Satellite Servicing's activities, working with an extremely diverse group of people and disciplines to help design and manage our complex engineering systems. A Systems Engineer's key role is coordination of different teams to ensure the key aspects of a project are considered and implemented into a coherent whole. I also serve as a bridge between Project Management and the engineering team at large, capturing requirements of a system, documenting design decisions, developing system test approaches, and generally using logical thinking to help make the overall system work.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Every day presents a new challenge, be it technical, financial, political, or personal. I learn something new every day, am challenged every day, and every now and then I help solve a major problem. My favorite problems are the ones that span the technical and programmatic disciplines - I've learned that a talented, diverse team of engineers can accomplish almost anything, and far more quickly than even they would believe possible. I hope I can continue to work on exciting, challenging, and fast paced efforts like the ones SSCO has initiated.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
I've been fascinated by space since I was a kid watching shooting stars and satellites in the clear South Dakota summer sky. As a young engineering student I thought the most exciting work was happening in space, and very much enjoyed to subjects of physics, statics, dynamics, and eventually astrodynamics and spacecraft design. I decided to earn a Master's degree in Aerospace engineering, and worked with some great engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center on my Master's Thesis.
Where did you go to college, and what degrees did you receive?
I earned both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
As an engineer and problem solver, a solid understanding of the basic principles of math and science is crucial - the toolbox I use every day to explore a problem and build the intuition needed to chart a solution. "Basic principles" are those things that you learn, and usually fail to recognize their importance while you are learning them. So the other key aspect of my education was undergraduate and master's thesis research, which taught me the discipline to tackle problems so large they often take months to solve. I learned to face these huge challenges by turning them into a series of small problems, and tackling them one at a time.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
In college, and the first few years of my time at NASA I focused on the design, determination, and control of the relative motion of space vehicles for applications such as spacecraft formation flying - a concept for creating large synthetic telescope by flying science satellites in close formation. After the Columbia accident and temporary grounding of Space Shuttle, NASA started working a concept to robotically service the Hubble Space Telescope. I became involved in the concept for autonomous rendezvous and capture of the Hubble at that time. When Shuttle completed its safe return to flight, and the fourth Hubble servicing mission was re-instated as a crewed mission, I was fortunate to stay on a be a part of that historic mission. I think the Hubble servicing missions are some of the most important and awe-inspiring things ever done by human kind in space (did you know that the farthest humans have been since returning from the moon is Hubble?), and I believe in a future where valuable space assets can be refueling, repaired, and repurposed just like every other highly valuable vehicle the government and industry produce.
How long have you been at NASA?
13 years
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Kelvin Garcia

SSPD Integration and Test Manager
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Kelvin Garcia

SSPD Integration and Test Manager

What kind of work do you do as "SSCO Integration and Test Manager"?
I am responsible for the integration and test of SSCO flight systems, such as the Robotic Refueling Mission. I lead a multi-disciplinary team with the goal of bringing together all of the various system elements into a functioning system, performing functional and performance testing of the system, and assuring the system survives and performs in its intended launch and space environments. The outcome is a system that is certified for flight.
What is your favorite part of the job?
The favorite part of my job is working day-to-day with a great team of highly skilled and capable engineers and scientists. And then, when the job is complete, it is gratifying to see the successful operation of the flight hardware in space and its contributions to NASA objectives, the scientific and engineering community, industry, and humankind.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
NASA is synonymous with world-class engineering and science. I wanted to be a part of NASA in order to contribute in some way to pushing the boundaries of science and technology. I have found that opportunity in spades.

Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
I went to high school at Takoma Academy in Takoma Park, MD. I went to the University of Maryland in College Park, MD and received a BS in Mechanical Engineering.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
Although I am not strictly applying mechanical engineering in my day-to-day job, the curriculum provided a broad knowledge in engineering principles that I do try to apply every day. Additionally, I participated in the cooperative education program that partnered with NASA. It eased the transition to working at NASA and also helped with my schoolwork in seeing engineering applied to the real world.
What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?
Pushing the boundaries of what is possible in harsh space environments, and being part of a "first" in on-orbit robotic refueling/servicing are two reasons I was very interested in being part of the team. Also, another major reason was that this same team has a track record of success with many other "firsts", i.e. Hubble servicing, which I had the privilege to be a part of for Servicing Mission 4.
How long have you been at NASA?

I have been with NASA since 1995.
























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