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Meet: Tim Gallagher

Mars Pathfinder, Camera Control Electronics Designer
Lockheed Martin, Colorado


My Involvement With Mars

About three to four years ago while working on an instrument package going to Saturn's moon Titan, I was asked to join the Mars Pathfinder team because of my previous experience with imaging electronics. This was to be a fast-paced design proving NASA's quicker, simpler and cheaper philosophy for the next generation of small spacecraft systems.

The Imager For Mars Pathfinder (IMP) design, as quoted from the Mars Pathfinder forum at http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov/mpf/sci_desc.html#IMP "...is a stereo imaging system with color capability provided by a set of selectable filters for each of the two camera channels." Please refer to the Web page above for a more detailed description of the science packages. Note that there are two main parts of the Pathfinder: the instruments or payload such as the IMP and rover Sojourner, and the spacecraft that delivers the payload to Mars. The design, launch and control of a spacecraft is very different from the development of an instrument package. The IMP system is basically along for the ride and hopefully after a successful journey and landing on Mars, it will start sending back pictures.

Our design interfaces included a Charge Coupled Device (CCD) and an IBM computer system used to control the taking of pictures (images). A CCD converts light (photons) to an electrical signal, which after processing, forms a picture. Basically, we built the electronic modules in-between.

After studying the CCD and IBM interfaces we started the design in earnest. To save space and cost it was decided to use Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) circuits such as a Memory Multi-Chip Module (MCM) and a field-programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The Memory MCM could hold multiple pictures allowing the IBM computer to read out the images at its leisure while performing other critical tasks. The Gate Array was engineered to contain many smaller control circuits inside which saved space, weight and costs.

After designing the system we built a prototype or working model and started integration testing. It is necessary to test new hardware and software together to work out all the bugs (things that don't quite work right). The IMP interface software was developed by University of Arizona engineers. The software controlled the sequence necessary for imaging and the movement of the camera motors and filters.

We had a lot of fun designing and testing the camera system. It was really interesting taking pictures in the lab for the first time knowing that in the near future it will be on Mars returning snapshots of that alien terrain.

Now my involvement with Mars is just like yours - I am anxiously awaiting the July 4th (or 5th) landing of the Pathfinder this year and the first pictures sent back. Just before the Pathfinder arrives at Mars I will become more nervous (as nearly everyone involved will, especially those at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) because our time is at hand.

As a side note to planetary exploration, l have a story about a good friend named Larry Padgett. Larry has worked on an instrument package going to Saturn's moon Titan for the past six years. The launch date of this vehicle is set for later this year (see DISR section below). The spacecraft will take about eight years to get to Saturn before it can start sending information back to Earth. By that time Larry will have spent 15 years of his life waiting to see if his designs worked! This is what planetary science is all about!

My Career Journey

I've had several previous engineering jobs at Lockheed Martin.

Zenith Star: Part of the so-called "Star Wars" effort to design a very large space-based laser system with accuracy abilities equivalent to lighting up a basketball on the top of the Empire State Building from Denver, Colorado! The final laser would have been as large as a Greyhound bus and in space it would have been visible as a small speck on a clear night to the unaided eye. My job entailed integrating many Reduced Instruction Set (RISC) processors and development of the math library.

Flight Telerobotic Servicer: The robotic arm that was planned to help build the Space Station and relieve the astronauts of many dangerous tasks. It was very interesting to learn the control algorithms necessary to move an object in three-dimensional space. My job was to integrate the hardware and software systems.

Brilliant Pebbles: Another "Star Wars" idea that relied on many small "pebbles" (file-cabinet-sized satellites) to release a kinetic kill vehicle toward a hostile missile target. The kill vehicle would destroy missiles by impacting them, equivalent to firing a bullet to hit another bullet. My job was to design the first prototype of the controller system between the booster and the kill vehicle.

Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR): An instrument package for the Cassini mission heading toward Saturn. The DISR is part of the Huygens Probe, which will descend into the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan and make imaging and spectral observations. My job was to design and develop both the CCD and infrared imaging simulators and the payload interfaces. Cassini is scheduled to launch later this year.

Imager For Mars Pathfinder: As described at the beginning of this page.

Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS): To quote Lockheed Martin, "The Multi-Service Launch Systems Program provides an effective and efficient launch service for a variety of different payloads, at great savings to the American taxpayer." Basically, it converts Minuteman II missiles from a wartime mission to a peacetime one instead of destroying them. My job was to design the software to control the missile's booster, nozzles and payload interface. MSLS had its first launch last year, which was very successful.

Data Link Formatter: A very high-speed state-of-the-art data handler system. Taking in up to 4.8 Gbps (billion bits per second), it can queue (keep track of), format, control and route data to an output system as needed. Attached to this is a 500 Gbit memory system (imagine having 4000 times more memory for your home computer!). My job was to architect the system and support the program in an advisory position.

My Current Job

I'm now working on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. This is a study program to develop a new family of cost-effective, highly responsive launch vehicles. We are involved in a competitive run-off for America's next generation of space launchers. The challenge for this program is to rapid-prototype and demonstrate system designs along with keeping costs to a minimum without sacrificing safety or system capability. My job is to lead the power controller hardware and software design.

For further information about Lockheed Martin products and services please refer to http://www.lmco.com/closer.html or for contact information such as employment opportunities go to http://www.lmco.com/contact/

For further information about Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO go to http://harpo.ast.lmco.com/

How I Became an Engineer

In high school I wanted to be a veterinarian and even worked occasionally at an animal hospital next door to our house. However, by the time college arrived I didn't know what to do. Because of a low draft number (less than 100) on my 18th birthday in 1969, and the escalation in Vietnam, I joined the Air Force (my father had been in the Air Force during World War II). After a tour in Vietnam in the early 70s (working in a field hospital which was just like the TV show "M*A*S*H"), I wisely transferred to the Electronic Computer Repair field. The military provided excellent technical schooling both in electronics and computers and gave comprehensive on-the-job training. After spending some very productive and entertaining years in the Air Force, I joined Westinghouse (Baltimore) to finish my Electrical Engineering degree at University of Maryland (College Park). Over 11 years ago my family and I decided that Denver, Colorado was a great place to live. At that time Lockheed Martin (formally Martin Marietta) was hiring a lot of engineers and it didn't take long for me to get an offer and then accept it. Since then I have stayed put and finished a Masters in Engineering from University of Colorado (Boulder).

It was pure chance that I became an engineer. After Vietnam I really wanted out of the medical field and one of the few openings in the Air Force at that time was for Electronic Computer Repair. While attending electronics classes in my new field I discovered that I had an aptitude for it and thus my career started. Before the Air Force classes the only electrical thing I knew was how to screw in a light bulb!

Family Items

I am married to Van (pronounced Young) and we have a teenage daughter named Kim. Kim would really be mad if I didn't mention her name a few times in my bio - so Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim, and Kim!

Kim, 16 years old, currently attends Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado. She enjoys playing competitive softball in the summer (her second year at it) and for the school as well. We enjoy watching Kim play and during the summer our vacation is going to softball tournaments.

We have a pet cockatiel named Christina who is very smart and can be quite a troublemaker.


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