SESDA Supports Another Successful Sounding Rocket Launch

August 30, 2021

Congratulations to the NASA GSFC and Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) teams on successful launches of two Black Brant suborbital sounding rockets on July 7 and 11, 2021. The twin rockets (named Dynamo-2) deployed identical latest technology payloads designed to measure DC electric fields, plasma density, currents, neutral winds, neutral density and temperature, and ion mass distributions. SESDA hardware and software engineers played vital roles in supporting the mechanical design, fabrication, assembly, integration and test (I&T) of the onboard instruments, and developing a ground-based magnetometer to monitor ionospheric dynamo region conditions.

SESDA Supports a Successful Sounding Rocket Launch

May 21, 2021

Image Credit: NASA Wallops/Terry Zaperach

Congratulations to the NASA GSFC and Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) teams on the successful launch of a Black Brant XII suborbital sounding rocket at 8:44 p.m. EDT on May 16, 2021. The rocket was launched from WFF and carried the KiNETic eXperiment (KiNet-X) which aims to study how energy and momentum are transported between different regions of space that are magnetically connected. SESDA hardware and software engineers played critical roles in supporting the mechanical design, fabrication, assembly, integration and test (I&T) of the onboard instruments, and developing decommutation software to read and decode the instrument telemetry stream.

SESDA Supports Mars Landing

April 5, 2021

The NASA audio program, based at Goddard, and led by SESDA staff (Katie Atkinson, lead) supported communications efforts for the Mars Perseverance landing in February. Staff worked with NASA HQ and Jet Propulsion Laboratory communications teams to plan, produce, and release a “Sounds of Mars” episode for the enterprise podcast, NASA’s Curious Universe. With this release, NASA debuted the first audio recording from Mars via NASA’s audio platforms. It is the first time recorded sounds from Mars were featured on any podcast.

The episode released in tandem with the Feb. 22 Mars Perseverance press conference from JPL, and featured the voices of Jim Green (NASA Chief Scientist), David Gruel (Perseverance EDL Camera Lead), and Erisa Stilley (Perseverance Systems Engineer). The final “Sounds of Mars” episode was featured on the front page on the Apple Podcasts page and garnered over 150k plays on Soundcloud in a week, breaking the record for most plays of a NASA podcast episode on

Additionally, throughout the month of March, NASA’s SoundCloud page received 5,000,000 listens and saw a surge in subscribers to the page. NASA’s SoundCloud now has 145k followers.”

Applying Machine Learning (ML) to Space Weather Prediction

A coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun (left) and the resulting solar storm colliding with Earth’s protective magnetic field, the magnetosphere (right). Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA scientists and University partners are applying Machine Learning (ML) techniques to study the internal structure of interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs). With the support of SESDA software developers, they are using neural networks to connect simulations and observed magnetic clouds to understand and predict the internal magnetic structure of interplanetary coronal mass ejections which is a crucial step towards improving space weather forecast capability.

High End Computer Networking Advances

December 11, 2020

This year’s High End Computer Networking (HECN) Super Computing 2020 (SC20) Wide Area disk-to-disk demonstration was to be performed over a 4x100Gb/s ESNet pathway that continues onto additional wide-area networks. Because ESNet was in the process of upgrading their network they were unable to provide this connection, however plans are to perform these tests in January 2021. The HECN team built another server this year which has several improvements over last year’s demo system: greatly increased I/O bandwidth using the AMD EPYC processor, with each processor having 128 lanes of PCIe Gen4, the PCIe Gen4 2x200G Ethernet NIC (using it as a 2x100G NIC to interconnect into existing infrastructure), and higher performance PCIe Gen4 NVMe drives. The previous server relied on multiple PCIe switches to expand the two X16 PCIe Gen3 paths from each processor to interconnects for the PCIe NICs and NVMe drives.

SESDA Scientist Helps Reveal Additional Strange Behavior from Betelgeuse

August 20, 2020

An image from the Heliospheric Imager aboard NASA’s STEREO spacecraft shows the star Betelgeuse, circled. For several weeks in 2020, STEREO was the only observatory making measurements of Betelgeuse because of the spacecraft’s unique position in space. Credits: NASA/STEREO/HI

The red giant star Betelgeuse has intrigued astronomers by showing unusual dimming over the past several months. Led by a SESDA scientist, a team of investigators from Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Naval Research Laboratory, and Rutherford Appleton Lab used observations from the STEREO spacecraft to confirm that Betelgeuse is dimming again. This finding is surprising as Betelgeuse typically goes through brightness cycles lasting about 420 days, with the previous minimum in February 2020. Hence, this dimming is happening unexpectedly early and is currently a mystery. The science team reported these observations via The Astronomer’s Telegram on July 28, 2020.

SESDA Supports ESA/NASA in First Returns of Solar Orbiter Data

July 16, 2020

Solar Orbiter spots ‘campfires’ on the Sun. Locations of campfires are annotated with white arrows.
Credits: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS,

Solar Orbiter is a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to obtain detailed observations of the polar regions of the Sun. It was launched in February 2020 from Cape Canaveral with a scientific payload of 10 different instruments. One of these instruments is the Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) spectrometer which was built with the support of SESDA staff at GSFC. The mission just released its first new images to the public, including the closest (48 million miles) pictures ever taken of the Sun. These high-resolution images reveal evidence of ubiquitous brightenings or “campfires” dotting the Sun. The SPICE instrument will play a crucial role in understanding the physical nature of these campfires by providing precise measurements of their temperature.

SESDA Communications Staff Support Solar Orbiter Launch, a Mission Taking Solar Science to New Heights

February 27, 2020

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying the Solar Orbiter, lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:03 p.m. EST, on Feb. 9, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

More than ten SESDA science writers, outreach and production staff travelled to Kennedy Space Center to help NASA communicate launch events to the public. Solar Orbiter, a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun, launched at 11:03 p.m. EST on Feb. 9, 2020, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. With a scientific payload of 10 different instruments — each complementing and supporting the others — Solar Orbiter combines high-resolution telescopes with measurements from the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft. Together the observations create a one-of-a-kind, comprehensive picture of the Sun’s inner workings and how they can affect the space environment further out in the solar system. During its mission, Solar Orbiter will journey out of the ecliptic plane — the belt of space roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator through which the planets orbit — to get a bird’s eye view of the Sun’s poles. This unprecedented perspective will allow Solar Orbiter to take the first-ever images of this region on the Sun.

SESDA Engineer Receives Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal

February 3, 2020

Congratulations to Tim Cameron in the Heliophysics Ionosphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere Physics (ITM) Laboratory on receiving an Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for his accomplishments in electrical engineering.

“This prestigious NASA medal is awarded to both Government and non-Government individuals for exceptional engineering contributions toward achievement of the NASA mission. This award is given for individual efforts for applications of engineering principles or methods that have resulted in a contribution of fundamental importance in this field or have significantly enhanced understanding of this field or have significantly advanced the state of the practice as demonstrated by an application to aerospace systems.”

SESDA Web Developer Implements Promising New Technology

WebGL is a relatively new cross-platform web standard for enabling low-level 3D graphics functionality directly within a browser. It is supported by all major browsers (Safari, Chrome, Edge, and Firefox) and allows for dynamic rendering of images. SESDA web developer Kirill Vorobyev recognized the intrinsic value of applying this technology to the Helioviewer visualization tool to stream user-selected movies of solar data and perform rapid on-the-fly image processing such as changing the user’s perspective. You can play with a beta version here.