Beth Sholes Honored by Society of Women Engineers with Resnik Challenger Medal
Principal Propulsion Engineer Beth Sholes at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has won the prestigious Resnik Challenger Medal. The Society of Women Engineers established this medal in 1986 to honor Dr. Judith A. Resnik, NASA mission specialist on the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle flight of January 26, 1986. The medal is awarded “only as merited for visionary contributions to space exploration.”
The award recognized Sholes for her propulsion analysis and design on several unique missions: CloudSat, which is an Earth-observing satellite that successfully flew in close formation with five other satellites; Deep Impact, which was the first spacecraft to reveal a comet’s interior; and, most recently, the Kepler Space Telescope.
As Kepler’s propulsion engineer, Sholes performed a complex analysis of the telescope’s originally proposed cold-gas system and demonstrated that a hydrazine propulsion system should be used instead. She proved that hydrazine could be successfully used without contaminating the sensitive optics and would meet the spacecraft’s tight volume and mass constraints. Sholes designed a propulsion system that maintains Kepler’s stability and pointing accuracy, necessary for its job of constantly observing 100,000 stars.
Sholes currently works on the Kepler mission by analyzing data transmitted from the spacecraft to determine propellant usage and by monitoring the system to ensure proper hardware performance.
Sholes believes in the value of education outreach, and that she can inspire girls to pursue science and technology careers by sharing her work on space missions. She puts this belief into action by volunteering at public science events at venues such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She also spends her free time pursuing her love of rock climbing, and recently completed her 17th climbing trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
Sholes officially received the medal at the SWE annual conference on Nov. 5, in Orlando, Florida.
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