What happens if a rocket veers off course toward a populated area? Or NASA loses tracking data and doesn't know where the vehicle is? Lisa Valencia, Engr '93 (MS), is part of the team at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida that prepares for those possibilities. As project manager for the Autonomous Flight Termination System, she helped develop technology that mounts onto a rocket and makes flight termination decisions using data from navigation sensors. If the software determines that the rocket needs to be destroyed, the onboard hardware sends a signal to destruct, or to the fuel cutoff valves for thrust termination. "There's nothing easy about this," she says of the work she's been doing for over 25 years. "But I love pursuing great technological advancements that benefit our country."
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