Preparing Boys for Life

Dr. David Sternberg '08, NASA engineer, speaks at Gwinn lecture

Dr. David Sternberg ’08, a guidance and control systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, presented “Exploring the Solar System through Space Systems Engineering” at the annual William Edward Gwinn ’86 Memorial Lecture on April 13.

Sternberg first discussed the “great foundation” he established in his years at Haverford, including joining a flying club in Form I, which led to flying lessons and his first solo flight on his 16th birthday. He continued taking a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics classes throughout Upper School, building a solid knowledge base for his college and career experiences.

“The work I’ve done over the past 10 years since Haverford has owed itself largely to the excellent educational foundation that I got here,” he said.

After graduating from Haverford in 2008, Sternberg earned a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering and a Master of Science in space systems engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sternberg’s research at MIT focused on demonstrating different multi-satellite operations, as well as the verification and validation of enabling software and hardware for flight missions.

The work I’ve done over the past 10 years since Haverford has owed itself largely to the excellent educational foundation that I got here.

He discussed his work with the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellite) system at the MIT Space Systems Laboratory (SSL), which provides a safe and reusable zero gravity platform to test technologies for use in satellites. During his time with the SSL, he also worked on Halo, a structural attachment for SPHERES that provides six expansion ports, increasing the amount of hardware usable simultaneously on a SPHERES satellite.

Sternberg completed his Sc.D. in space systems engineering at MIT in 2017 and then joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He is currently working on the Lunar Flashlight and Mars Cube One (MarCO) missions.

According to JPL’s website, the Lunar Flashlight mission will map the moon’s south pole for volatiles, chemical elements and compounds with low boiling points, including ice and water, to better understand how these interact with the lunar surface.

The MarCO mission is part of NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, which will launch a lander to the Red Planet in 2018. The MarCO demonstration includes two communications-relay spacecraft which will provide NASA the ability to quickly transmit status information about the main InSight spacecraft as it cruises to, and lands, on Mars.

“The MarCO mission is the first time that CubeSats, these small, modular spacecraft, will have flown in deep space,” Sternberg said. “Space systems engineering is a challenging and fun career that requires technical focus, but the results of your work will be firsts, which is very rewarding.”

See Dr. Sternberg's full lecture on Vimeo >

About Dr. Sternberg
Dr. David Sternberg ’08 is a guidance and control systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Sternberg recently completed his Sc.D. in space systems engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), after earning a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering and a Master of Science in space systems engineering at MIT. Previously, he worked at Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, NAVSEA, and Boeing. He was awarded MIT’s Department of Aeronautics Best Graduate Teaching Assistant Award in 2017 and the Systems Engineering Team Award in 2012.