Spaceflight Division, Engineering Directorate

NASA Ames Research Center

Virtual Exhibit Booth:

April 27: 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM PDT / 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT

April 28: 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM PDT / 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT

April 29: 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM PDT / 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT

Sally Cahill

Division Chief

Sally Cahill is the chief of the Engineering Directorate’s Spaceflight Division at NASA Ames Research Center. She has 20+ years of experience managing aerospace programs and projects and has been at NASA since 2003. Sally earned her Ph.D. in applied science-engineering through the joint Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-University of California, Davis doctorate program. She also holds an MBA from Santa Clara University.

Mark Mallinson

System Engineer, Integration and Test Manager

Mark Mallinson is the systems engineering, integration and test (SEIT) lead for the Spaceflight Division. Mark’s background includes systems engineering and mechanical engineering for small spacecraft and International Space Station payloads, including the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT), and WetLab-2. He holds a Master of Science in mechanical engineering degree from San Jose State University.

Ben Bradley

Spaceflight Projects Manager

Ben Bradley is the spaceflight projects manager for the Spaceflight Division. He oversees project managers working on small spacecraft projects through all mission phases including initial formulation, development, integration test, delivery and operations.

David Mauro

Mission Design Center Lead

David Mauro is a KBR senior engineer and manager working as a contractor for NASA Ames Research Center since 2010. At Ames, David leads the Mission Design Center, whose goal is to assess how potential future robotic missions can explore the solar system. He is a graduate of the Italian Naval Academy with 14 years of professional military experience as an officer of a Marine rifle assault company. He holds degrees in engineering, naval and maritime science and space studies. In addition to several military medals, commendations, and NASA group awards, David is also the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal.

Laura Plice

Flight Dynamics Lead

Laura’s 30 years of experience in flight dynamics contribute to Ames’ focus on cis-lunar missions, low planetary orbits, and multi-satellite relative motion. Laura was the flight dynamics lead on Ames’ Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission from 2008 to 2014.  She holds a Master of Science in aerospace engineering degree from the University of Michigan, where her mentor was the late Professor Harm Buning, whose many students of orbital mechanics included Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts. 

Figure 1: Click the image for more information

OUR MISSION:  Deliver innovative cost-effective missions from concept design through mission development, hardware design, development, test, integration, execution, and operations.

WHO WE ARE: Located at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, our expertise focuses on cost-effective spaceflight missions:

  1. Mission Design
  2. Flight Dynamics
  3. Systems Engineering, Integration & Test
  4. Spaceflight Projects

WHAT WE DO:  Our focus ranges from concept development and Pre-Phase A mission concepts, to “bigger” small satellite missions, technology and instrument development, and rapid development innovative CubeSat missions.

Sampling of Current Spaceflight Projects

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BioSentinel is the sole biological experiment set to fly on the Artemis I mission.  

Objective: Development of a biosensor to detect and measure the impact of space radiation on living organisms over long durations BEYOND low-Earth orbit.

Launch Date: Late 2021

Figure 3: Click the image for more information

TechEdSat is a series of technology demonstration missions that pairs college and university students with NASA researchers to evaluate new technologies for use in small satellites, or CubeSats.

Objective: Develop ways to bring small payloads from orbit back to Earth by advancing entry, descent, and landing technologies for CubeSats.

Launch Date: The next TechEdSat mission launches in September 2021.

Figure 4: Click the image for more information

The CLICK mission will demonstrate technology to advance the state of the art in communications between small spacecraft as well as the capability to gauge their relative distance and location. CLICK is comprised of two sequential missions.

Objective: CLICK A is a risk reduction mission that will test out elements of the optical communications with a single 3U spacecraft. CLICK B/C will demonstrate full-duplex optical communication crosslink between two 3U’s as well as demonstrate precision ranging capability between the spacecraft.

Launch Date: CLICK A will launch no earlier than December 2021.

Figure 5: Click the image for more information

V-R3x is a swarm of small satellites developed to demonstrate the next generation of communication and navigation technology.

Objective: Launched on January 24 to low-Earth orbit, the V-R3x mission consists of three 1U CubeSats conducting a series of demonstrations to prove the ability to take high-precision data on spacecraft distance, send data from one spacecraft to the other at high data rate, coordinate radiation measurements using onboard sensors, and keep track of the orientation and formation of all 3 spacecrafts. Additionally, V-R3x launched on March 12 on a high-altitude balloon to evaluate V-R3x’s advanced swarm communications by forming a mesh network between multiple spacecraft and ground stations.

Launch Date: Launch complete

Figure 6: Click the image for more information

PACE is designed to aggressively shorten conventional technology testing timelines for early-stage technologies.

Objective: PACE strives to fly as many technologies as possible and efficiently connect payloads to both suborbital and orbital flight tests that increases the likelihood of a technology being selected for a space exploration mission.

Launch Date: Multiple launches, next launch summer of 2021

The MDC possesses full, end-to-end mission design capability with sophisticated analysis in a collaborative concurrent design environment.  Areas of service include:

  • Concept Maturity Level (CML) progression
  • Spacecraft design and trade studies
  • Feasibility assessments
  • Proposal support

The FD team provides full orbital mechanics support in all mission phases from design, systems engineering, and project management to spaceflight mission and operations. The activities that are supported include:

  • Trajectory design
  • Orbital analysis
  • Navigation
  • Maneuver design
  • Propulsion assessment
  • Orbit determination

Learn More

The NASA Ames Spaceflight Division can partner with any university, company, or government agency for different spaceflight missions. To learn more contact us @

For more information on the Spaceflight Division click here.

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