Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of five features introducing members of the IXPE team. The features will run weekly through Dec. 8.
By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
The Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization, is targeted for launch on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. IXPE will study changes in the polarization of X-ray light through some of the universe’s most extreme sources – including black holes, dead stars known as pulsars, and more – to help astronomers better understand these exotic cosmic phenomena.
Meet one of the key members of the launch team:
Name: Kelley Jones-McDowall
Official title: Launch Services Program (LSP) Senior Vehicle Systems Engineer (VSE)
Job responsibilities: I am the lead VSE for the SpaceX fleet. My job as the lead is to make sure we are on top of major changes and issues, and to strategically look ahead and figure out how we can better optimize ourselves as a team. In preparation for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and IXPE missions, I created and managed a system that helps the team keep track of fleet changes, risks, and issues. I also set up the tools and systems for DART and IXPE mission-specific activities. In addition, I work with the technical authorities to prepare the team and program to work with flight-proven boosters.
Time working for NASA: I started in 2008 as a summer intern at Kennedy. I was a co-op (now called a Pathways Intern) in spring 2009 and then began full-time in early 2013 in the fluid systems design group. I moved to LSP propulsion at the end of 2013, and became a VSE in 2017.
Degrees earned: Bachelor of Science in aeronautical/astronautical engineering with a minor in dance from Purdue University
Hometown: I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, lived in Los Angeles from ages 1 through 15, then moved to Muncie, Indiana. I lived in Indiana through the rest of high school and college. I then moved to Florida for my job at Kennedy.
Family: My husband, three children (6-year-old boy/girl twins and a 2-month-old boy), three fur babies (a dog and two cats), and my dad also lives with us.
Hobbies: Hiking with my kids. We like to find new trails with the All Trails app.
Fun fact: I met my husband playing rugby in Orlando.
Other key IXPE team members: