Hello! Welcome to the HST Systems Verification Group (SVG) at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center. I'd like to take this opportunity to give you an idea of what I do as a
member of the HST Team and a little background that led me to working with the Systems
Verification Group. I joined the SVG and started working on Hubble Space Telescope in the
Spring of 1992 a year an three quarters before the First Servicing Mission. I'm a System
The System Verification Group supports the coordination and execution of the Servicing
Mission Ground System tests called the "SMGTs" for short. The SMGTs test how all the
hardware to be flown on a Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission will work WITH the
Ground System. The Ground System is the network of software and computers at Goddard
Space Flight Center that interface with Johnson Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Flight
Center, the Science Institute, the Shuttle (Orbiter) and the "HUBBLE" short for Hubble
Space Telescope. These tests include hardware whether it is an Orbital Replacement Unit
(ORU) or an Orbital Replacement Instrument (ORI) and simulators that simulate the
hardware. Orbital Replacement Units are hardware such as the RGA (Rate Gyro Assembly) or
the FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor)
The RGA is a system of six mechanical gyroscopes, complete with electronics, that are
used to measure the motion of HST. When HST is commanded to maneuver to observe different
targets, such as planets or galaxies, the gyroscopes sense the rate of the moving
telescope, and report that information to the pointing control system. Only four of the
six gyros are required to control the vehicle, as the remaining two are designated as
spares (in case of gyro failures).
The FGS is a system of three electronic sensors, that are used to search and lock onto
desired guide stars, to provide pointing information to HST. While HST is pointing at a
specific target (star, galaxy), the gyros, in conjunction with the FGS, maintain a
pointing accuracy of 0.007 arc-sec, such that if the HST were in Los Angeles, it could
hold a beam of light on a dime in San Francisco, without the beam straying from the
In other words the RGAs and FGS work together to keep HUBBLE looking (pointing) at the
same place in space while the telescope is going around (orbiting) the earth . The
Orbital Replacement Instruments for the upcoming 1997 Second HST Servicing Mission are
the STIS and the NICMOS. STIS is the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and NICMOS is
the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.
STIS will be used as a "Faster Black Hole Finder". STIS will measure the mass of
objects and the velocity at which they are spinning. Objects that are determined to be
spinning extremely fast but appear to have no mass at all are believed to be black holes.
NICMOS will be used to detect (see) what is inside or behind large masses of dust that
are in outer space. The Universe is made up of three basic groups - Gas (Hydrogen and
Helium), Dust (All the other elements) and energy (Light). When Stars die they explode.
That explosion causes huge masses of dust to be dispersed. These dust masses keep us from
seeing what is inside of them and what is behind them. In just the same way a flashlight
can not reveal what is inside or behind a cloud of dust or smoke. Using a kind of
invisible light, infrared, NICMOS instead determines that there is something inside or
behind the dust mass by detecting (measuring) the heat given off by it. This is similar
to how night vision binoculars aid a soldier to "see" an enemy in the dark or how an
energy specialist can photograph heat loss from a house.
The use of these scientific instruments allow scientists to study parts of outer space
that they can't see. These scientists are trying to answer questions about how the
universe works and these instruments will help them to do that.
The people in my group, the System Verification Group along with other specialized
HUBBLE personnel test the hardware or instruments with the ground system to make sure
that when a command is sent to the hardware or instruments via the Ground System
interfaces that the hardware or instrument responds the way it has been planned, designed
and built to function. If the hardware does not respond as expected (like it should)
during the test the testers know that it must be investigated to see whether it is a
problem with the hardware, a problem with the commands and/or a problem with the Ground
Testing starts off with the very elementary: Can the hardware or instrument be turned
ON and OFF with the ground system? On earth we are able to turn a switch or push a button
to turn something on or off such as the TV. You could think of the TV and HUBBLE hardware
or instruments as similar and the TV remote control and the HST Ground system as similar.
We can use the TV remote control to send a signal to turn the TV On and Off and do more
involved things like change channels, volume and switch back and forth from TV to VCR
mode. Hubble Space Telescope and the Ground System work much the same way. The Ground
System is used to send commands to Hubble Space Telescope's components (ORUs and ORIs) to
tell them to turn On and turn Off. More testing could included complex commanding which
would warm up or cool down an instrument and other commanding which executes very
sophisticated and specialized activities so that scientific data about space can be
captured and sent back to earth.
It takes many people to do the testing because the project and all its parts are so
complex and intricate. Because of its complexity good organization is key. Many parts
worked on by multiple teams must come together in a certain order by a specific time so
that the whole thing can be tested before launch. It requires real teamwork and good
organizational skills to make sure that all the people with the necessary expertise for a
given test have been involved in planning, executing and determining the success
criteria for the test. The feverish teamwork under strict deadlines, the camaraderie of
the group and the excitement of the mission make working for SVG on the Hubble Space
Telescope Project fun, exciting, and challenging.
I and my family's and contact with HST goes back way before 1992, however, as my
husband, Joseph Ryan has worked on the project since prior to initial launch.
Our family moved to Palo Alto California when Joe's work involved managing the
integration and testing of HST prior to shipment for launch. We have three children,
Kelly, Susan and Andrew. Kelly was a sophomore student at Loyola College in Baltimore,
Maryland studying biology and chemistry. She stayed there at school. Susan was a Junior
in Broadneck High School and Andy was in fourth grade at Broadneck Elementary High School.
They both moved to California with us. I was just graduated from University of Maryland
Baltimore County with a degree in Information Systems Management. That was 1985!
Only eleven years later but so much happened. Hubble had a very successful First
Servicing Mission and is now getting ready for the Second Servicing Mission. Kelly is now
a chemist and works for an Environmental Management Company in San Francisco where she
also volunteers at the Dr. Charles R. Drew Alternative Elementary school in Hunters
Point-Bayview area of San Francisco, California. Kelly is helping young students to learn
about environmental sciences. Susan is working on her PHD in Slavic Languages and
Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, California. She speaks Russian,
French and English and is studying Polish and German. Andrew is now a mechanical
engineering junior at Clemson University, South Carolina. He is an avid paddler (kayaks
on raging rivers), a down hill skier (groomed and back country terrain) and a
rock/mountain/wall climber (out in the state and national parks or at a climbing gym on a
simulated rock wall).
The whole family are downhill skiers, Joe and I especially like it because we can
still PLAY with our "kids" this way. Besides skiing I like to scuba dive and take
underwater pictures of the beautiful coral and fish. I've gone down to the U85 (a German
submarine) off the South Carolina Coast at 99 feet deep but usually like to dive from 35
to 60 feet deep because you can stay down so much longer. Additionally I like to do pen
and ink sketches, make hand built ceramic pots, play at playing the piano, speak publicly,
travel, bike, garden, study French, try to speak French, swim, sew, water ski, dine out,
exercise, go to live theater, rock climb, read everything from historical fiction to the
Popular Science magazine and do things with my family, friends and community from
pot-luck supper and volley ball games to sailing the Caribbean. My interests and needs
have taken me on a diverse educational journey. I started out studying pre-school
education, then fine arts and finally information systems management. I have a
Certificate in pre-school education, an Associate of Arts in Fine Arts and a Bachelor of
Arts in Information Systems Management. Likewise my career resulted from a multifaceted
life. I have been a receptionist, a private secretary, an order expediter, a trustee for
a waterfront protection agency, an Olympic volunteer, an artist, an art teacher, a public
school substitute teacher, an administrative assistant, a computer trouble shooter, a
proposal coordinator, a logistics manager, a software user trainer and now a systems
tester. I have been and still am a full-time wife and mom. I especially appreciate my
husband, my best friend for all his support in everything I've done and for all I'll do
in the future. Down-sizing in 1992 brought me to the HST Project and I'm now starting my
eleventh year with Lockheed Martin.
Perhaps the one thing that I have taken away from all of the jobs is how important it
is to communicate with people well. Communicating your own ideas well and listening to
and respecting the ideas of others in my job can mean the success of a test that might
otherwise have failed or it could save the government lots of money and it makes teamwork
a lot more fun.