WHS grad had role in Webb space telescope project

David Kouchnerkavich (second from right) and family.

Wayland High School graduate David Kouchnerkavich (Class of 1997) has had a role in the recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which scientists hope brings views of the earliest period of the universe.

The son of Keith and Vicki Kouchnerkavich of Wayland, worked for the contractor that acted as primary integrator for the observatory segment, what the space-bound portion is formally denoted as (with the other two being the Ariane 5 Launch Vehicle and the Ground [Control] segments).

“During my three and a half years on the project, I worked in the Observatory Systems Engineering group as primary author of the Observatory Specification, the top-level requirements document for the project’s space segment.

Enter,” said Kouchnerkavich, who now lives in Torrance, Calif.

“The spec documented the requirements necessary for the observatory and its elements (i.e., the spacecraft (including sunshield), the telescope, and the science instrument package) to achieve the science goals and objectives for the entirety of the mission.

“With the responsibility for the development and maintenance of that document came coordination with a variety of technical experts both within the company, and external to it (most notably in the form of systems engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).

Part of that effort was ensuring that the observatory-level requirements were allocated properly to the aforementioned constitute elements.”

Kouchnerkavich has been living out west for nearly two decades after his Wayland High School days. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

“I was also responsible for developing and reporting two of the observatory’s technical performance measurements (TPMs) on a quarterly basis to our customers at NASA Goddard, specifically the observing efficiency estimate (for the observatory), and its estimated performance lifetime, relative to the requirements pertaining to each, respectively.

“Observing efficiency is a measure of how much time is spent performing the primary science mission of observing astronomical targets of interest (e.g. exoplanets, far away galaxies, quasar, etc.) relative to its total time orbiting the second Lagrange.

Lifetime is simply the determination of how long the mission of the JWST Observatory will last once its commissioning activities are completed, relative to the required five-year mission, and the goal for the mission of 10 years.

“One final act that I performed for the program, prior to moving on to another project within the company, was to write a unique requirement rationale for all of the observatory-level requirements within the specification. Basically, this means that I developed the language specific to each requirement as to why it existed in the observatory specification. This involved an assessment of top-level mission requirements, as well as fully comprehending why each observatory requirement was allocated to the segments in the way that was documented with the spec, and recording it for posterity.”

He said his contributions to the project occurred between August 2003 and January 2007.

1 Comment

  • So many of us who watched David grow up knew he was destined, at the very least, to be part of something this marvelous. Who knows what greater things he will be part of, or where his intelligence and talents will take him?

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