TDM Bridge Builder: Daniel Herman, Solar Electric Propulsion System Lead
by Shannon Ridinger for MSFC News
Huntsville AL (SPX) May 09, 2018
When it comes to NASA's Solar Electric Propulsion project, Daniel Herman helps lead the charge.
As an experienced electric propulsion team lead at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, he was a natural choice for the SEP project's electric propulsion system lead, providing technical oversight for all activities tied to the project - an alternative to using conventional chemical systems to send spacecraft to distant destinations and resupply remote science outposts anywhere in the solar system.
He's also the project's alternate contracting officer's representative, aiding development and oversight of all contract requirements and ensuring project contractors are meeting their commitments.
Finally, his role includes mission concept formulation; he developed the electric propulsion system and mission concepts for NASA's reference spacecraft to help guide contractors in developing their innovative solar electric propulsion solutions.
A native of Troy, Michigan, Herman received dual bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2000 and then earned his master's degree and doctorate, both in aerospace engineering, in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
In 2005, he completed his doctoral thesis work, got married and joined Glenn as a contractor in quick succession; he became a full-time NASA employee in 2009. His first major task was helping develop the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion engine.
As life demonstration test lead for the engine, Herman spent five years operating the thruster in a vacuum chamber simulating the space environment. That milestone, he jokes, may qualify him as the world's most experienced electric propulsion test engineer.
Today, he makes his home in Cleveland with his wife Kajal and their two children. He recently discussed the Solar Electric Propulsion project and his hopes for the promising flight technologies it could offer in the years ahead.
What do you find most exciting about this project?
The electric propulsion system we're developing started in 2012 with an in-house effort at Glenn and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. We anticipate the robust system will be flexible to meet NASA's evolving needs - that is pretty exciting!
How do you hope your contributions will impact NASA's TDM goals?
I hope my contributions - and those of my combined Glenn, JPL and contractor team - allow NASA to complete and demonstrate its plan for Mars exploration and evolve the technologies needed to expand the boundaries of human reach well beyond Earth and the Moon.
What's the payoff you're most excited to see?
Are there things most people would be surprised to learn about you?
What's one thing you would tell young people pondering STEM careers?
The Solar Electric Propulsion project is sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed by NASA's Glenn Research Center.
Note: Technology Demonstration Missions "Bridge Builders" are team members at NASA centers and partner organizations who help take various groundbreaking, cutting-edge technologies from concept to flight readiness - bridging the gap to help NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, the agency and the aerospace community enable rewarding new missions in space.
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An advanced space engine in the running to propel humans to Mars has broken the records for operating current, power and thrust for a device of its kind, known as a Hall thruster. The development of the thruster was led by Alec Gallimore, University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering and the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. Hall thrusters offer exceptionally efficient plasma-based spacecraft propulsion by accelerating small amounts of propellant very quickly using electric a ... read more
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