Heather Koehler, NASA Engineering Safety Center

Management of the Flight Mechanics Technical Discipline within the NASA Engineering Safety Center
September 23, 2022


The NASA Engineering and Safety Center's mission is to perform value-added independent testing, analysis, and assessments of NASAʼs high-risk program and projects to maximize safety and mission success. The NESC engages proactively to help NASA avoid future problems. NASA has established Technical Discipline Teams with membership from NASA Centers, industry, academia, and other government agencies. The purpose of the Technical Discipline Teams, led by NASA Technical Fellows in each discipline, is to provide ready expertise for technical evaluation and consultation products in the form of written reports that include solution-driven, preventative, and corrective recommendations. The Technical Fellow also advocates for and advances the Discipline by identifying and implementing new ideas, methods, or processes that directly contribute to the Agencyʼs Programs and Projects. The Flight Mechanics discipline broadly includes Trajectory Design and Analysis, Flight Performance and Analysis, Flight Mechanics Testing and Flight Operations, and Modeling and Simulation for Flight, covering a range of vehicle types including aircraft, spacecraft, parachutes, balloons, launch vehicles, entry, descent, and landing/deorbit, decent, and landing and debris and spent stages. Currently, the NASA Flight Mechanics Technical Fellow is leading or contributing to risk-reduction activities for several manned spaceflight programs, scientific missions, and discipline enhancing activities to improve discipline analysis products.


Heather Koehler

He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering (AE) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). He is also the ERAU representative to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). He obtained his BSc and MSc degrees in AE from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Spain. He graduated with his Ph.D. in Astrodynamics and Space Applications in the multi-body dynamics research group under the supervision of Dr. Kathleen C. Howell at Purdue University. He also worked as Space Technology Engineering at Satlantis LLC prior to his Ph.D.