Deborah Tomek, NASA

Building the future in space: On-orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM)
November 20, 2020


The National Space Strategy has directed NASA to lead the U.S. in On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM) in collaboration with the civil, defense, and intelligence space communities, and in robust partnership with private industry, academia, and appropriate international counterparts. The OSAM National Initiative, being led jointly by NASA and DoD, will help lay the groundwork for capabilities that can enable missions such as unprecedented scientific measurements from large telescopes unconstrained by fairing size, persistent platforms designed for modular instrument replacement, and enable sustainability in support of Artemis, and the mission objectives of our partners. These OSAM technologies create the opportunity to manufacture new structures and components, repair and repurpose structures on-orbit, expand the scale of scientific instruments, and extend the service life of on-orbit assets through refueling and resupply of critical components. 

OSAM is a critical enabler to building a future in space and OSAM capabilities are necessary tools in four key areas: 

Space Exploration: Advance our Nation’s human exploration ambitions, including the Artemis Program, as well as human activities around and on the surface of the Moon, Mars, and other planetary objects. 

Scientific Understanding: Usher in a new age of scientific discoveries by enabling large and complex on-orbit facilities, such as the next-generation large telescope to search for life-bearing planets. 

American Prosperity: Promote U.S. economic prosperity and leadership in space through the development of transformative technologies, mission concepts, and commercial offerings. 

National Security: Ensure strong and resilient national security space capabilities. The OSAM National Initiative will embark on defining a shared vision and strategy with distributed execution across pertinent partners and stakeholders. This will also involve studying future paths and varying business models, and more public-private models that can enable future paths enabled by OSAM such as infrastructure and logistics in support of NASA missions and objectives, as well as that of our partners and stakeholders. This government, industry, and academia-wide collective advancement of capabilities will enable bold new missions, previously considered untenable, and move space architecture - currently constrained by the ‘tyranny of the fairing’ and inability to ‘maneuver without regret’, towards a robust space ecosystem and economy; matching that of the terrestrial world in which we now live.


Deborah Tomek

Her career with NASA at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Ms. Tomek has over 22 years
of research and technical management experience at NASA, and Lockheed Martin, where she started as a co-operative education student prior to joining NASA. Throughout her career, Debi has served with distinction in numerous roles as researcher, principal investigator, Chief of Staff, and Program Manager of numerous inter- and intra-agency projects and programs. Debi’s early research in flight vehicle dynamic stability characterization was instrumental in the development of numerous flight vehicle aero-databases inclusive of the Joint Strike Fighter, F-18E, numerous sub-orbital flight test vehicles, Orion Crew Module, and the SLS Launch Abort System (LAS). During the Space Shuttle program, Debi led a re-entry team from Mission Control that was responsible for obtaining heat shield imagery and temperature data of the Orbiter as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Debi was responsible for overseeing this complex engineering program and led a large technical multidiscipline team spanning NASA, OGA’s, DOD, and international partners. Debi then served as the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Space Radiation manager for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Advanced Radiation Project manager for the Space Technology Mission Directorate leading teams in the development of passive radiation shielding systems, space weather forecasting codes, and integrated space vehicle hardware in support of long duration human space flight. Debi spent nearly four years in the  Administrator’s Suite at NASA Headquarters leading cross-agency technical capability assessments for the NASA Associate Administrator in support of the development of the Capability Leadership Model and a new Agency operating model. Upon her return from HQ, Debi served as Langley’s Chief of Staff working to promote, collaborate, and evolve projects and capabilities before becoming Deputy Director, then Director, of the Space Technology and Exploration Directorate. In this role, Ms. Tomek also led the pre-formulation of the National Initiative for On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM) which led to her current appointment as the Senior Advisor for OSAM and co-lead of the National Initiative. Ms. Tomek holds a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, AL, and a Master’s degree in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University in Washington D.C.