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Rachael Collins

Rachael Collins
Senior, Aerospace Engineering
Concurrent Bachelor/Masters Program
Minors: Computer Science and AstroPhysics
Graduate Certificate:  Computer Engineering

When we last spoke, you were a sophomore and working with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).  What you are doing now?

I am still working at LASP, and I am working toward a five-year, concurrent bachelor/master’s degree in aerospace engineering.  Even though this is my fourth year at CU-Boulder, I am now considered a graduate student because of the number of credits that I have.  Because of that, LASP is paying my tuition, I got a raise, and I have had the opportunity to take on a new leadership role.  I am now helping with the development of operations, rather than just doing operations. 

I am responsible for the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) project, which will use Earth’s magnetosphere as a laboratory to study magnetic reconnection - a process potentially responsible for physical phenomena such as the auroras and solar flares.  MMS has four spacecraft with 13 instruments each.  I am in charge of all of these instruments, analyzing them and looking at how they interact.  It is my job to make sure that everything goes as planned.  I am also preparing for a launch next March and am hoping that I get to go to Florida for it. The leadership of MMS was more than I anticipated, but it has been really cool to be given the responsibility and to get to perform at such a high level.

What else are you working on?

I am currently doing my senior project in engineering.  We are working with Ball Aerospace, and I am the project manager for my group. We are building all aspects of a probe, including payload, communications system and power system.   This probe is the size of a basketball and is intended to be deployed onto an asteroid.  The purpose of our probe is to detect seismic waves from an explosive detonation and collect resulting scientific data.  We are currently in the proposal phase and making sure that it works.  If it works as planned, Ball will propose it to NASA.  I have really enjoyed this project because we will do all aspects of the engineering process from designing to building and testing.  We are making sure our project is what the customer wants, which is valuable before going into the real world.  I am excited to be working on a project for Ball, because it sets up a lot of contacts for after graduation.

When we last spoke, you were working a lot with the Kepler Satellite.  How is Kepler?

Kepler originally had four reaction wheels, but now it only has two that are working.  It needs to have three for us to be able to control it, so we are running into some issues.  We have been using thrusters to control it, but are now working to determine other uses and science opportunities, since we can’t fulfill the original mission.  We are also working with the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE), which lost power cells so the battery is dying.  Because of the low battery, we can only turn on the instruments during sunlit periods on the solar rays. It is really exciting to get to work on anomalies and anomaly resolution.

What are your plans for the summer?

I will be working at LASP this summer and preparing for the Magnetospheric MultiScale project.   We will also have new hires that I will help train.  It will be nice to be able to enjoy Boulder in the summer before pursuing a career next year.

What else are you doing at CU-Boulder?

I am the captain of my intramural ice hockey team, and we are dominating right now!  I have also been snowboarding a lot at Copper Mountain and Winter Park.

 

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