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Posted on Sep 9, 2013

In 2008 I returned to school at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and earned a degree in physics. I had the great opportunity to create  scientific visualizations for research teams that I worked with at UMBC and  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


This brief animation illustrates the orientation of a small satellite. I created a lo-res scale 3D model of the satellite and produced the animation using AGI STK software. A sun sensor on the craft determines the position of the sun. The sensor output data was used to calculate positional Euler angles representing the satellite’s orientation. I produced the animation using sample data gathered from rooftop tests and from pre-calculated routines that would maintain the craft in constant alignment with a chosen target such as the sun or earth. The resolution of the film was limited by the lab PC and the trial-version options of AGI STK.


This was produced for the NASA team developing The Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry (BETTII) at Goddard Space Flight Center. A crucial part of the telescope is the fringe tracker unit (FTU) that monitors the alignment of the two optical paths from the two primary mirrors on the interferometer. The image received at the CCD is filtered to a narrow bandwidth (~120 nanometers) and sent through a prism to produce a dispersed pattern of light across ~30 pixels. Relative brightness between pixel regions is monitored to determine the optical path difference (OPD) between the two paths. A Matlab program simulates the predicted image data at the fringe tracker CCD. The point spread functions (Airy discs or spots) of each wavelength are simulated at every 2 nanometers to reproduce the 120 nm spectrum. The program outputs a .fits data file of pixel intensity values in a 3D matrix: x and y dimensions correspond to the spatial pixel dimensions of a region on the CCD and the z direction corresponds to changes in OPD. The animation below file is a screen capture of the DS9 .fits viewer as it cycles through the data matrix through an OPD of ±4 times the central wavelength. This work was included in a paper  published in the SPIE (Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers) journal in 2012.