2015 Dinner Meeting Speaker
ENGINEER for the JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE
This presentation will give an overview of the James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) science and systems design and describe the progress made on its development, including some of the key engineering challenges facing this “first of its kind” mission. JWST will be NASA’s successor mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. With an aperture greater than 6 meters, it will observe first light objects in the nascent universe, the evolution of galaxies over cosmic history, star birth within our own galaxy, the processes for planet formation and evolution both in our solar system and in solar systems around other stars. Positioning at the Sun-Earth Lagrangian2 point (930,000 miles from Earth) will keep thermal sources such as the Sun and Earth in the same general direction so that their radiation can be shielded by a “tennis court sized” sunshield, allowing the payload to attain its required operating temperatures passively.
Mike Menzel is the NASA Mission Systems Engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope at the Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Mike has held this position since he joined NASA in June of 2004. His
involvement with the James Webb Project extends back to 1998 when he became the Chief Systems Engineer for
Lockheed Martin’s Pre-Phase A studies for the then Next Generation Space Telescope and later for Lockheed’s Phase A
James Webb Space Telescope contract. In 2001, he joined the Northrop Grumman James Webb systems engineering team.
In his role on James Webb, Mike oversees all system engineering efforts which include requirements formulation and
management, systems design and integration, and systems validation and verification. He has led numerous studies
which have contributed to the systems design and verification program. He wrote one of the first articles to layout a
verification program for the system, “A Strawman Verification Program for the Next Generation Space Telescope” in 1998
and led the Independent Verification Assessment Team, to evaluate the verification risks in 2003.
Prior to his involvement with James Webb, Mike was the Deputy Program Manager for the Hubble Space Telescope
(HST) Servicing Missions Group for Lockheed Martin. While in this position, he participated in system engineering
activities for the HST Orbital System Test (HOST), which flew on STS 95. Between 1995 and 1997, he was the Director
of Systems Engineering at Orbital Science Corporation (OSC) in Germantown, Maryland. Aside from the functional
management duties of this position he led several proposal efforts; among them, the successful GALEX Mission proposal
for the OSC spacecraft. Between 1990 and 1995, Mike was a Principal Member of the Technical Staff for Lockheed
Martin’s Astro-Space Division in East Windsor, New Jersey and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. While in this position, he
contributed to numerous system conceptual design studies, was the functional manager of the Sensor Systems Group
and developed and taught the Systems Engineering Training course for the Astro-Space Division. He was awarded the
Martin Marietta General Manager’s Award in 1993 for these efforts. Between 1981 and 1990, Mike was an antenna
engineer for RCA Astro in East Windsor New Jersey.
Mike received a BS degree in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technnology in 1981 and earned an
MS degree in Physics from Columbia University in 1986 while he was working for RCA.
During his career, Mike has held various positions as an adjunct college instructor for Astronomy and Physics.
He is an avid amateur astronomer and is a member of the American Astronomical Society. Mike also enjoys weightlifting
and has competed in several amateur power lifting events over