Systems Engineering Seminar

Building the Future: Assessing In-Space Assembly of Future Space Observatories

Presented by:
Dr. Nick Siegler - NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program, JPL/Caltech

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 - 10:00am
Building 3 Auditorium (GSFC)


With continuing advances in robotics, rendezvous and proximity operations, relatively cheaper commercial launch systems, and autonomy, the prospect of assembling and servicing future large-aperture telescopes in space seems increasingly feasible. As scientific productivity often depends upon a high power of the aperture, without a paradigm change in how large optical systems are deployed, major advances in future space astronomy will be severely limited within a very few decades by the limited sizes of launch vehicle fairings. Some even smaller-aperture concepts are constrained by the lift capacity even the most powerful launch vehicles under consideration. However, advances in the capabilities of robotics, the availability potential robotic arms and astronauts on site at the NASA Gateway habitat, and lower-cost medium-lift launch vehicles offer the opportunity for assembly of very large-aperture observatories. We will discuss in this session the current status of assessments of future space telescope assembly that are being developed for the upcoming Decadal Survey, including proposed technology development and ongoing engineering design studies. We welcome a wide-ranging discussion of the applications of space assembly to achieve multiple goals.


Dr. Nick Siegler is an astrophysicist and the Chief Technologist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. With collaborators from all over the country he helps identify and mature technologies needed to enable possible future NASA missions to look for evidence of life on planets outside of our solar system. He helped found the NASA Starshade Technology Development Activity and is now facilitating a new state-of-the-art space coronagraph testbed and a study on the benefits of in-Space Assembled Telescopes. He is currently co-chairing a NASA-chartered study on in-space assembly. Dr. Siegler received his PhD and Masters in astronomy from the University of Arizona, a masters in international business from the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, and a bachelors in chemical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Dr. Siegler is an example that it's never too late to chase your dreams. At the age of 33 he left an international career in chemical manufacturing working for a subsidiary of the large consumers goods company Unilever and went back to school to become an astrophysicist, his boyhood dream. The journey took him nine and a half years from re-starting as an undergraduate at Harvard University concentrating in physics to finally completing his PhD in 2007.


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