Charlie Blackwell-Thompson

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson is an American engineer. Blackwell-Thompson is the launch director for NASA's Exploration Ground Systems Program, based at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC).[1] She oversaw the countdown and liftoff of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft during its first flight test, called Artemis 1.[2]

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson
NASA Portrait (2017)
EducationB.S. Computer Engineering
Alma materClemson University
TitleLaunch Director for NASA's Exploration Ground Systems Program

Personal life and education edit

Blackwell-Thompson is a native of Gaffney, South Carolina, where she graduated from Gaffney High School.[3]

As a child, Blackwell-Thompson watched the Saturn V launches and was inspired by the idea of exploration the astronauts were doing.[4] Blackwell-Thompson earned her bachelor's degree of computer engineering from Clemson University in 1988.[1] She credits her high school physics teacher, Doc Wilson, for encouraging her to look into engineering.[2][5][6][3] Blackwell-Thompson visited a firing room in the Launch Control Center during her senior year at Clemson during her job interview; she wanted to work in that room.[7]

Blackwell-Thompson resides in Merritt Island, Florida, with her husband and three children.[1][8]

Career edit

STS-133 Assistant Shuttle Launch Director and lead NASA Test Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson watches the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery with Stephanie Stilson and Mike Leinbach

In 1988 she joined The Boeing Company as a payload flight software engineer at NASA KSC. She also worked as the lead in the Electrical Integration Office and the ground operations integration lead engineer for the Orbital Space Plane.[1]

Blackwell-Thompson began her NASA career in 2004 as a test director in the Launch and Landing Division.[1] She served as the qualified tanking test director for multiple space shuttle missions. She served as the chief NASA test director from STS-130 until program completion.[9] She also served as the assistant launch director for STS-133 and through numerous tanking tests. She served as the chief of Launch and Landing through the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP).[1] Blackwell-Thompson worked on planning efforts for launch operations in the Constellation Program.[1]

Exploration Ground Systems edit

Following the Space Shuttle's retirement, Blackwell-Thompson served as the Ground Systems Development Office's Test Management Branch chief.[1][4] She led an operations team that developed the plans, procedures and processes for integrated testing, launch and recovery operations.

Apollo launch engineer JoAnn Morgan speaks with Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the first female launch director, who will lead countdown and launch for NASA's Exploration Mission-1.
Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis I launch director, is seen in Firing Room One of the Rocco A. Petrone Launch Control Center as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard atop a mobile launcher rolls out of High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building for the first time to Launch Complex 39B, Thursday, March 17, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida

In 2016 she was named Launch Director for SLS/Orion.[10] She is the first woman to serve as a NASA launch director.[11][12][13][8][7]

On launch day, Blackwell-Thompson oversaw a launch team of 91 controllers, making the final determination for "GO." The team included veteran controllers from space shuttle processing and launches along with many newer engineers.[10][14] She also leads a Support Launch Team about 60 people in a second firing room.[5] She expects 30% of her team to be women engineers.[15]

In 2019, Blackwell-Thompson led the launch team in performing training simulations inside Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center. The exercises certify the team is ready for launch and can work through any type of issue in real-time.[16][17][18][19] On February 3, 2020, Blackwell-Thompson led the Artemis I launch team through a countdown simulation in Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center.[20][21] In November 2020 she led a cryogenic propellant loading simulation.[22]

In March 2021, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Blackwell-Thompson led the first exercise with the supporting NASA centers and the flight control team joining launch control to simulate launch together. She will lead another 12 additional simulations in 2021 prior to launch day.[23][24]

On November 16, 2022, she directed the successful launch of Artemis 1.

Patents edit

Blackwell-Thompson holds multiple patents related to launch vehicle interface standardization concepts and command and control methods and systems.[1]

External links edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Charlie Blackwell-Thompson". Kennedy Biographies. NASA. April 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b Cardona, Carolina (8 February 2021). "Over 30 years at Kennedy Space Center this engineer worked her way up to launch director". Click Orlando. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b Powell, Scott (21 October 2019). "Goucher visiting speaker has 'best job in the world'". Gaffney Ledger. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b "I Am GSDO: Charlie Blackwell-Thompson". NASA. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Episode 19: Launching Artemis". Rocket Ranch. NASA. 5 February 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Episode 28: Women in STEM - Stories of Challenge and Success". NASA. 18 March 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b Sullivan, Robert (8 March 2017). "Onward and Upward". Vogue. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  8. ^ a b Neale, Rick (10 October 2019). "NASA's first female launch director to lead countdowns during Artemis missions to the moon". Florida Today. USA Today. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Meet the STS-125 Launch Team". NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  10. ^ a b Siceloff, Steven (1 February 2016). "Blackwell-Thompson Named Launch Director for SLS/Orion". NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Space Pioneer JoAnn Morgan Guest Speaker for Women's History Month Event". NASA. 25 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  12. ^ Riddle, Lyn (13 October 2020). "Two South Carolina women lead NASA teams aiming for the moon and beyond". The State. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  13. ^ "From Apollo to Artemis: The woman putting boots back on the moon". cnet. 14 October 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  14. ^ DiTrolio, Megan (16 April 2020). "The Coolest Jobs at NASA Are Held by Women, Naturally". Marie Claire. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  15. ^ "NASA's first female launch director applauds increase in women involved in launches". 10 Tampa Bay. WTSP. 9 March 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  16. ^ Sempsrott, Danielle (December 2019). "A Look Back: End of year brings NASA closer to Artemis launches" (PDF). Spaceport News. NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Problem Solvers Prepare for Artemis Launches". NASA. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Kennedy Launch Team Performs Mission Countdown 'Rehearsal'". NASA. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  19. ^ Herridge, Linda (15 April 2019). "Launch Team One Step Closer to Certification for EM-1". NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  20. ^ "Simulations are 'Great Days' for NASA's Artemis I Launch Team". NASA. 20 February 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  21. ^ Cawley, Jim (23 April 2020). "NASA Test Directors Eagerly Await Artemis Launch". NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  22. ^ Herridge, Linda (20 November 2020). "NASA's 'Super Cool' Engineers Rehearse Rocket Fueling for Artemis I". NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Kennedy Prepares for First Flight of Rocket and Spacecraft for Moon Missions". NASA. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  24. ^ Heiney, Anna (8 April 2021). "NASA Certifies New Launch Control System for Artemis I". NASA. Retrieved 11 April 2021.