Tracy Drain’s job is to literally “go where no one has gone before.” Drain is systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. In this cellphone image, she stands with one of her childhood inspirations … Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura. The image was taken when Nichols visited JPL on Aug. 15, 2016, during the time when Tracy was the deputy chief engineer for the Juno mission to Jupiter.

So what exactly does a systems engineer do?

This is what Drain does in her own words: “When you think about a spacecraft and all the different parts that are necessary to make a spacecraft work, there are engineers who focus on designing/build each of those specific areas (like telecommunications, thermal, attitude control, etc.). But a systems engineer is responsible for knowing enough about all those things so that we can make sure they come together in acohesive flight system design that will accomplish the overall goals of the mission.

The things I do on a day to day basis change over the life cycle of a mission. Early on, you’re involved in developing the requirements, which are the rules the design has to follow so you can meet your mission goals. You work with people at all the different levels (project, spacecraft, subsystems like attitude control, etc.) to make sure all those rules are written properly to drive the design process. Then you participate in confirming that the design actually does meet those requirements by weighing in on which analyses and tests to perform. You work with the other engineers to review analysis and test results -and when some things inevitably don’t go exactly as planned, you work with the team to figure out what to do about it.

“Then after launch and during operations, we’re busy flying the spacecraft. I would help develop command products that would be sent to the spacecraft to do activities. It’s all about monitoring the information that’s coming down from the spacecraft, making sure it’s responding the way it’s supposed to, and if things go wrong, understanding what happened and helping the team get the spacecraft back on track.

“It makes for a very exciting, never-a-dull-moment kind of job!”

After leaving the Juno mission, Tracy became the deputy project system engineer on the Psyche mission, which is slated to launch in August 2022 to visit the asteroid (16) Psyche.

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Image Credit: courtesy of Tracy Drain

特雷西·德兰的工作就是“去没人去过的地方”。特雷西是美国国家航空航天局喷气推进实验室的系统工程师。在这张手机拍摄的照片中,她和儿时的灵感之一——《星际迷航》里的乌胡拉中尉——尼克尔斯站在一起。这张照片是尼科尔斯2016年8月15日访问JPL时拍摄的,当时特雷西是朱诺号木星任务的副总工程师。

那么系统工程师到底做什么呢?

这就是德兰用自己的话说的:“当您想到航天器以及使航天器正常工作所需的所有不同部件时,会有工程师专注于设计/建造每个特定领域(例如电信、热学、姿态控制等)。但是一个系统工程师有责任对所有这些事情有足够的了解,这样我们才能确保他们在一个完整的飞行系统设计中走到一起,从而完成任务的总体目标。

我每天执行的任务会在任务的整个生命周期中发生变化。在早期,您将参与制定需求,这是设计必须遵循的规则,以便您可以实现任务目标。您需要与各个级别的人员(项目,航天器,像姿态控制这样的子系统等)合作,以确保所有这些规则都被正确地编写来驱动设计过程。然后,通过权衡要执行的分析和测试来确认设计确实符合这些要求。您与其他工程师一起评审分析和测试结果—当某些事情不可避免地无法按计划进行时,您将与团队合作找出解决方案。

“然后在发射和操作期间,我们忙着驾驶宇宙飞船。我将帮助开发指挥产品,这些产品将被送往宇宙飞船执行任务。这一切都是为了监视航天器上传来的信息,确保它以它应该的方式响应,如果出了问题,了解发生了什么,帮助团队让飞船回到正轨。

“这是一项非常激动人心,永无止境的工作!”

离开“朱诺号”任务后,特蕾西成为了“赛姬号”任务的副项目系统工程师。“赛姬号”计划于2022年8月发射,前往小行星“赛姬号”。

查看黑人历史月图像画廊

影像来源:特雷西·德兰提供

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