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Kenneth Smith

Risk Manager and Project Engineer, The Aerospace Corporation

Kenneth Smith is a Risk Manager and Project Engineer for NASA's Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and Human Surface Mobility (HSM) Program at The Aerospace Corporation. He has an extensive background in various aspects of NASA missions, including making contributions to material testing, dynamics testing, analysis and flight safety. Kenneth has been involved with Commercial Crew, the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, the Gateway Space Station, fundamental research and sounding rockets and has worked at a wide variety of NASA facilities, including NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Glenn Research Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center, NASA Johnson Space Center and NASA Wallops Flight Facility. He has played a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for the long-term vision and strategy of both NASA and its partners. While Kenneth was working at SpaceX, he was developing and testing the Crew Dragon. His contributions and creative problem solving led directly to SpaceX keeping their timeline for the first human flight from American soil since the Space Shuttle, and he was personally honored as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2017 and the AIAA & Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties in 2018 for the achievement.

During his time working on the Gateway Space Station, Kenneth served with a team that ran loads analysis on Gateway and presented the data to international and commercial partners. He ran many different types of loading analysis, including docking events, berthing, Intravehicular Activity (IVA), Extravehicular Activity (EVA), exercise and plume impingement from docking vehicles such as the Human Landing System (HLS), Orion and others. Kenneth also built the foundations of a loading event that was missing, known as Self-Impingement, which occurs when the Attitude Control System (ACS) performs orbital corrective maneuvers. He designed the code, created deliverables and detailed how to perform correct maneuvers. Without his work, the project would have required a late-stage rework and analysis before completion. Kenneth also made key contributions during a Wind Induced Oscillation study, in which he worked closely with research engineers, design engineers and technicians to gauge the susceptibility of different commercial launch vehicles, such as the Falcon 9, to wind induced oscillations. Kenneth and his team were awarded the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) Group Achievement Award for their success in 2020.

Outside of working hours, Kenneth dedicates his time to education and outreach. He founded the Arkonauts Rocket Design Team in 2014, which focuses on educating university students in the fundamentals of rocket science and also on outreach efforts for K-12 students. He put out challenges to local schools to develop a research plan for a payload that they could investigate flying on the Arkonauts designed rocket, with the winning proposals having the chance to perform their research during an actual flight. Kenneth has given STEM outreach talks across in-person the world, including in Russia, the UAE, Switzerland and Armenia, as well as numerous online talks. He served as an ambassador for the Virginia Air and Space Museum and as the Outreach Chair for NASA’s Pathways Cross Exchange (PAXC). Kenneth has organized national outreach events with other national groups, such as the Girl Scouts of America, and currently tutors students for free through his own online platform after starting out as a tutor for IDEAs (Increasing Diversity in Engineering Academics).


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