MAY 2016 | 25 The engineers keep images of the astronauts who were selected to train to fly the first Starliner flight test posted on an office wall, reminding them of the human element involved in their work. They continue to refine two cameras and a processor that will work with lasers to track everything from the International Space Station to stars and algorithms for the Starliner, America’s newest space capsule. The crowning moment for the engineers will be watching the broadcast of the first Starliner flight that docks with the space station with a crew on board. “Of the things that will be shown on TV, we will be responsible for them, and it’s really cool to think about it,” said Matt Beckmann, Boeing Albuquerque chief engineer for VESTA. “I’ve tried to explain to friends and family what I do, but it’s not easy. They don’t understand laser stuff.” Bruce Stribling, Boeing Laser & Electro-Optical Systems engineer and Technical Fellow, who previously worked at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Maui, Hawaii, heads up another Boeing team that is preparing space situational awareness and advanced tracking technology, which is similar in purpose to what Starfire Optical Range is testing, yet different in approach. Stribling and lead engineer Steve Hanes work on a complicated optical assembly atop an elevated table that holds a wide assortment of intricate parts. They share a great sense of responsibility—their project carries national security implications. “Building a strong light processor is the secret sauce,” Stribling said. “That’s how we detect real targets in space.” Mark Skinner, Boeing Albuquerque senior scientist, moves in a different direction when it comes to Boeing tracking options. He pursues commercial customers for available space-awareness data, proposing that every new commercial satellite have access to this protection. Geosynchronous orbit is getting crowded, putting expensive assets at risk. Whereas space was once the exclusive domain of a handful of countries, more are developing technology and mulling space Photos: (From left) Ahead of a laser system test, Boeing engineers Bryan Crespin, left, and Teresa Neudecker check atmospheric conditions in Albuquerque; mechanical engineer Kurt Sorenson ensures the Compact Laser Weapon System is ready for rugged terrain.
Frontiers May 2016 Issue
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