Annabelle Epplin selected for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Pathways Electrical Engineering Internship
Annabelle began a six-month NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Co-Op January 2022 in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a Pathways Electrical Engineering Intern working in the Environmental Test Engineering and Integration branch. This area is comprised of multiple testing groups in the fields of space simulation, structural dynamics, and electromagnetic interference (EMI). She conducted several EMI, electromagnetic compatibility, and magnetics tests on spacecraft, ranging from a small box-level test to a full self-compatibility test, and was exposed to a variety of interesting concepts and ideas.
EMI engineers at GSFC are responsible for a variety of tasks related to the EMI tests, including supporting personnel in selecting a test procedure, brainstorming ideas to safeguard that testing is optimized for each project, and ensuring that testing runs smoothly. Each GSFC project is unique, from the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope to the upcoming Earth/ocean-observing PACE satellite (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem). While testing is based on both predetermined NASA and military standards, tests can be adjusted to suit the design. The main EMI tests can be categorized into four groups: conducted emissions, conducted susceptibility, radiated emissions, and radiated susceptibility. Emissions testing consists of using hardware such as EMI test receivers and antennas (for radiated emissions) in combination with software such as EMC32 and TILE! to measure signals being produced by the DUT (device under test). The goal of emissions testing is to confirm that the DUT produces no signals that could interfere with other equipment on the spacecraft. Susceptibility testing includes delivering a known signal to the DUT and making certain there is no interference with the DUT performance.
Annabelle feels she has gained technical knowledge and problem-solving abilities that will benefit her as a student and researcher. She has learned about top-of-the-line hardware, comprising EMI test receivers, signal generators, oscilloscopes, antennas, and amplifiers, and gained practical experience with software, such as EMC32, TILE!, Python, and MATLAB. She has improved her soldering skills and, as of this report (with two months remaining for the internship), was prototyping a circuit for an upcoming test on a piece of spacecraft hardware. In preparation, Annabelle created a test procedure that provided the method and steps to be used during the test based on the project EMI plan provided. With the assistance of a technician, she was to help run the test.
With a variety of new engineering concepts under her belt, both from the EMI group and from project personnel, Annabelle feels she has gained confidence as an engineering student. She feels that she has become more independent as a future engineer and is grateful for the University of Illinois and the Grainger CEME Undergraduate Research and Leadership program for allowing her this experience.
This piece was excerpted from “NASA GSFC Co-Op Report,” Spring 2022, by Annabelle Epplin.
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