How Dodging Class Led to a Rendezvous With an Asteroid

Olivia Billett

Revealed: The Secrets our Clients Used to Earn $3 Billion

Name: Olivia Billett

Title: Systems Engineer and Lockheed Martin Science Phase Lead for ORISIS-REx.

Education: B.S Physics and Astronomy from Yale. Master’s in Aerospace from Stanford University.

Superpower Skill: Multi-tasking, a standard requirement for systems engineer and a mommy

Hobbies: Traveling

Oliva Billett still laughes about the very first time she thought about a profession in science and engineering. She and 9 other leading physics trainees from her high school took part in an engineering competitors. “We had no idea what it was about,” stated Billett. “I said yes because we got out of school for a day.”

They did issue resolving in the early morning. In the afternoon, competitors organizers provided the groups a trunk lock and inquired to enhance it. “They would ask us if it rained, and this part of your trunk lock got rusted, how would you fix it,” stated Billett. “I loved it. I was exposed to engineering as a real-life problem-solving skill as opposed to a class.”

Today, Billett is a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin and the science stage lead for NASA’s very first asteroid sample return objective OSIRIS-REx. In 5 days, OSIRIS-REx will touch an asteroid called Bennu, recover a sample of pebbles and dirt, and provide that sample back to Earth in 2023 for research study. She is accountable for spacecraft operation near the asteroid Bennu and deals with the science and navigation groups to create and prepare science activities around the asteroid.

“I love the variety of my job. Our teams are generally small and fast-paced, which requires each of us to understand the entire system to ensure it will all work together, said Billett.”

Olivia Billett Visits Germany

Olivia Billett gos to Germany. Credit: Courtesy of Oliva Billet

Billett’s group handle issues nobody has actually come across previously, dealing with every one on the fly. 

“I’m often reminded of what a team sport engineering is,” stated Billett. “That’s not obvious when you’re choosing a path in college, but it’s clear to me every day at work. Our success is dependent on our ability to work as a team.”

Billett has actually dealt with numerous planetary orbiters, consisting of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix Mars Lander, the Juno Jupiter objective, and the MAVEN Mars aeronomy objective.

“I came to the mission with a lot of experience with deep-space operations and design,” stated Billett. “But that experience was almost in our way because Bennu is not a planet. Understanding how we were going to fly around it took a change in mindset.”

Due to the fragile dance the spacecraft need to carry out to remain in close distance to Bennu, the asteroid is a continuous hazard to OSIRIS-REx. In contrast, Billett states, the Mars orbiters are not at threat from Mars as soon as you get the spacecraft through the Mars Orbit Insertion burn.

OSIRIS-REx circles Bennu about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from its center, where the gravity force is just five-millionths of Earth’s gravity — hardly sufficient gravity to keep a spacecraft in orbit.

Solar radiation pressure or modifications in the spacecraft setup can quickly press the spacecraft out of Bennu’s orbit. Small burns can likewise put the spacecraft in a various orbit and on a various trajectory. That doesn’t occur when orbiting bigger, more huge items like moons and worlds and Billett states that needs a brand-new point of view.

The OSIRIS-REx trajectory can differ a lot that the objective operations group needs to have the ability to react a lot more quickly than other deep-space objectives do. Billett’s group needs to upgrade the spacecraft pointing for maneuver and science observations within 24 hours of each activity carrying out onboard. It’s an extremely quick turn-around the group does numerous times weekly. To guarantee they’re prepared if the spacecraft winds up in a variety of trajectories throughout a couple of weeks, her group routinely performs parallel analysis to make sure the spacecraft is constantly safe.

The navigation group fixes the spacecraft orbit utilizing “trim” maneuvers to push it in one instructions or another. They likewise have numerous contingencies on the table, prepared to go if a burn doesn’t occur.

Billett likes working carefully with science, something she has actually refrained from doing on previous area objectives. On other objectives, engineers fly the spacecraft, get the clinical information down, and pass it on to the researchers. The science groups take it and deal with it. While she sees it periodically at numerous quarterly science conferences or when documents come out. However, with OSIRIS-REx, the science of the asteroid is the objective.

“We have gotten to be much more plugged into the data that is coming down,” stated Billett. “That is so exciting for me as a space geek and science nerd.” 

Billett likes to take a trip. She has actually been to 6 continents, consisting of a year in Antarctica when she worked as a Research Associate at McMurdo Station in 2003 and remained over throughout the Antarctic winter season.

“It was an incredible experience, to say the least! It was beautiful and unique, and challenging in unexpected ways. The landscape was just stunning,” explained Billett. “I was expecting the dark and the cold, which were surprisingly manageable, but the isolation turned out to be the harder part to handle. But the relationship to the environment and the sense of community were amplified.”

Looking back at her youth, Billett states her household motivated her interest in science. Her mama was a medical professional, and her daddy was an engineer in the armed force. She did a great deal of jobs with her daddy around your house and the lawn. Those experiences taught her to be comfy leaping in and resolving issues.

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