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Jet Propulsion Laboratory

jet propulsion laboratory, jet propulsion laboratory address
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in La Cañada Flintridge, California and Pasadena, California, United States

The JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology Caltech for NASA The laboratory's primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions It is also responsible for operating NASA's Deep Space Network

Among the laboratory's current major active projects are the Mars Science Laboratory mission which includes the Curiosity rover, the Cassini–Huygens mission orbiting Saturn, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Dawn mission to the dwarf planet Ceres and asteroid Vesta, the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, the NuSTAR X-ray telescope, and the Spitzer Space Telescope They are also responsible for managing the JPL Small-Body Database, and provides physical data and lists of publications for all known small Solar System bodies

The JPL's Space Flight Operations Facility and Twenty-Five-Foot Space Simulator are designated National Historic Landmarks


  • 1 History
  • 2 Location
  • 3 Employees
  • 4 Education
    • 41 Internships and fellowships
    • 42 Museum Alliance
    • 43 Educator Resource Center
  • 5 Open house
  • 6 Other works
  • 7 Funding
  • 8 Peanuts tradition
  • 9 Missions
  • 10 List of directors
  • 11 Team X
  • 12 Controversies
    • 121 Employee background check lawsuit
    • 122 Coppedge v Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • 13 See also
  • 14 References
  • 15 Further reading
  • 16 External links


The control room at JPL

JPL traces its beginnings to 1936 in the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology GALCIT when the first set of rocket experiments were carried out in the Arroyo Seco Caltech graduate students Frank Malina, Qian Xuesen, Weld Arnold, and Apollo M O Smith, along with Jack Parsons and Edward S Forman, tested a small, alcohol-fueled motor to gather data for Malina's graduate thesis Malina's thesis advisor was engineer/aerodynamicist Theodore von Kármán, who eventually arranged for US Army financial support for this "GALCIT Rocket Project" in 1939 In 1941, Malina, Parsons, Forman, Martin Summerfield, and pilot Homer Bushey demonstrated the first JATO rockets to the Army In 1943, von Kármán, Malina, Parsons, and Forman established the Aerojet Corporation to manufacture JATO motors The project took on the name Jet Propulsion Laboratory in November 1943, formally becoming an Army facility operated under contract by the university1234

During JPL's Army years, the laboratory developed two deployed weapon systems, the MGM-5 Corporal and MGM-29 Sergeant intermediate range ballistic missiles These missiles were the first US ballistic missiles developed at JPL5 It also developed a number of other weapons system prototypes, such as the Loki anti-aircraft missile system, and the forerunner of the Aerobee sounding rocket At various times, it carried out rocket testing at the White Sands Proving Ground, Edwards Air Force Base, and Goldstone, California A lunar lander was also developed in 1938-39 which influenced design of the Apollo Lunar Module in the 1960s4

In 1954, JPL teamed up with Wernher von Braun's rocketeers at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, to propose orbiting a satellite during the International Geophysical Year The team lost that proposal to Project Vanguard, and instead embarked on a classified project to demonstrate ablative re-entry technology using a Jupiter-C rocket They carried out three successful sub-orbital flights in 1956 and 1957 Using a spare Juno I a modified Jupiter-C with a fourth stage, the two organizations then launched the United States' first satellite, Explorer 1, on February 1, 195823

MSL mockup compared with the Mars Exploration Rover and Sojourner rover by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on May 12, 2008

JPL was transferred to NASA in December 1958,6 becoming the agency's primary planetary spacecraft center JPL engineers designed and operated Ranger and Surveyor missions to the Moon that prepared the way for Apollo JPL also led the way in interplanetary exploration with the Mariner missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury2 In 1998, JPL opened the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA7 As of 2013, it has found 95% of asteroids that are a kilometer or more in diameter that cross Earth's orbit8

JPL was early to employ women mathematicians In the 1940s and 1950s, using mechanical calculators, women in an all-female computations group performed trajectory calculations910 In 1961, JPL hired Dana Ulery as their first woman engineer to work alongside male engineers as part of the Ranger and Mariner mission tracking teams11

JPL has been recognized four times by the Space Foundation: with the Douglas S Morrow Public Outreach Award, which is given annually to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to public awareness of space programs, in 1998; and with the John L "Jack" Swigert, Jr, Award for Space Exploration on three occasions – in 2009 as part of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Team12, 2006 and 2005


Research rockets on display at JPL

When founded, JPL's site was a rocky flood-plain just outside the city limits of Pasadena Almost all of the 177 acres 72 ha of the US federal government/NASA owned property that makes up the JPL campus is today located in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, California,13 on the northwest border of Pasadena, with a Pasadena address 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91011, which is also the official mailing address The city of La Cañada Flintridge, California was incorporated in 1976, well after JPL attained international recognition with a Pasadena address There has been an occasional conflict between the two cities over the issue of which should be mentioned in the media as the home of the laboratory


A 1960s advert, it reads:
"When you were a kid, science fiction gave you a sense of wonder Now you feel the same just by going to work"

There are approximately 5,000 full-time Caltech employees, and typically a few thousand additional contractors working on any given day NASA also has a resident office at the facility staffed by federal managers who oversee JPL's activities and work for NASA There are also some Caltech graduate students, college student interns and co-op students


The JPL Education Office serves educators and students by providing them with activities, resources, materials and opportunities tied to NASA missions and science The mission of its programs is to introduce and further students' interest in pursuing STEM science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers14

Internships and fellowshipsedit

JPL offers research, internship and fellowship opportunities in the summer and throughout the year to high school through postdoctoral and faculty students In most cases, students must be US citizens or legal permanent residents to apply, although foreign nationals studying at US universities are eligible for limited programs Interns are sponsored through NASA programs, university partnerships and JPL mentors for research opportunities at the laboratory in areas including technology, robotics, planetary science, aerospace engineering, and astrophysics15

In August 2013, JPL was named one of "The 10 Most Awesome College Labs of 2013" by Popular Science, which noted that about 100 students who intern at the laboratory are considered for permanent jobs at JPL after they graduate16

The JPL Education Office also hosts the Planetary Science Summer School PSSS, an annual week-long workshop for graduate and postdoctoral students The program involves a one-week team design exercise developing an early mission concept study, working with JPL's Advanced Projects Design Team "Team X" and other concurrent engineering teams17

Museum Allianceedit

JPL created the NASA Museum Alliance in 2003 out of a desire to provide museums, planetariums, visitor centers and other kinds of informal educators with exhibit materials, professional development and information related to the upcoming landing of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity18 The Alliance now has more than 500 members, who get access to NASA displays, models, educational workshops and networking opportunities through the program Staff at educational organizations that meet the Museum Alliance requirements can register to participate online19

The Museum Alliance is a subset of the JPL Education Office's Informal Education group, which also serves after-school and summer programs, parents and other kinds of informal educators20

Educator Resource Centeredit

The NASA/JPL Educator Resource Center, which is moving from its location at the Indian Hill Mall in Pomona, Calif at the end of 2013,21 offers resources, materials and free workshops for formal and informal educators covering science, technology, engineering and science topics related to NASA missions and science

Open houseedit

A display at the Open House on May 19, 2007

The lab has an open house once a year on a Saturday and Sunday in May or June, when the public is invited to tour the facilities and see live demonstrations of JPL science and technology More limited private tours are also available throughout the year if scheduled well in advance Thousands of schoolchildren from Southern California and elsewhere visit the lab every year22 Due to federal spending cuts mandated by budget sequestration, the open house has been previously cancelled23 JPL open house for 2014 was October 11 and 12 and 2015 was October 10 and 11 Starting from 2016, JPL replaced annual Open House with "Ticket to Explore JPL", which features the same exhibits but requires tickets and advance reservation24

Other worksedit

In addition to its government work, JPL has also assisted the nearby motion picture and television industries, by advising them about scientific accuracy in their productions Science fiction shows advised by JPL include Babylon 5 and its sequel series, Crusade

JPL also works with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate DHSSTD JPL and DHSSTD developed a search and rescue tool for first responders called FINDER First responders can use FINDER to locate people still alive who are buried in rubble after a disaster or terrorist attack FINDER uses microwave radar to detect breathing and pulses25


JPL is a federally funded research and development center FFRDC managed and operated by Caltech under a contract from NASA In fiscal year 2012, the laboratory's budget was slightly under $15 billion, with the largest share going to Earth Science and Technology development26

Peanuts traditionedit

There is a tradition at JPL to eat "good luck peanuts" before critical mission events, such as orbital insertions or landings As the story goes, after the Ranger program had experienced failure after failure during the 1960s, the first successful Ranger mission to impact the Moon occurred while a JPL staff member was eating peanuts The staff jokingly decided that the peanuts must have been a good luck charm, and the tradition persisted2728


These are some of the missions partially sponsored by JPL:29

  • Explorer program
  • Ranger program
  • Surveyor program
  • Mariner program
  • Pioneer 3 & 4
  • Viking program
  • Voyager program
  • Magellan probe
  • Galileo probe
  • Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2
  • Deep Space 1 & 2
  • Mars Global Surveyor
  • Mars Climate Orbiter
  • Cassini–Huygens
  • Stardust
  • Mars Odyssey
  • Mars Pathfinder
  • Mars Exploration Rover Mission
  • Spitzer Space Telescope
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  • Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment GRACE
  • CloudSat
  • Phoenix spacecraft
  • Ocean Surface Topography Mission OSTM/Jason-2
  • Orbiting Carbon Observatory
  • Mars Science Laboratory
  • Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
  • Shuttle Radar Topography Mission

List of directorsedit

  • Theodore von Kármán, 1938 – 1944
  • Frank Malina, 1944 – 1946
  • Louis Dunn, 1946 – October 1, 1954
  • William Hayward Pickering, October 1, 1954 – March 31, 1976
  • Bruce C Murray, April 1, 1976 – June 30, 1982
  • Lew Allen, Jr, July 22, 1982 – December 31, 1990
  • Edward C Stone, January 1, 1991 – April 30, 2001
  • Charles Elachi, May 1, 2001 – June 30, 201630
  • Michael M Watkins, July 1, 201631 – present

Team Xedit

The JPL Advanced Projects Design Team, also known as Team X, is an interdisciplinary team of engineers that utilizes "concurrent engineering methodologies to complete rapid design, analysis and evaluation of mission concept designs"32


Employee background check lawsuitedit

Main article: NASA v Nelson

On February 25, 2005, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 was approved by the Secretary of Commerce33 This was followed by Federal Information Processing Standards 201 FIPS 201, which specified how the federal government should implement personal identity verification These specifications led to a need for rebadging to meet the updated requirements

On August 30, 2007, a group of JPL employees filed suit in federal court against NASA, Caltech, and the Department of Commerce, claiming their constitutional rights were being violated by the new, overly invasive background investigations34 97% of JPL employees were classified at the low-risk level and would be subjected to the same clearance procedures as those obtaining moderate/high risk clearance Under HSPD 12 and FIPS 201, investigators have the right to obtain any information on employees, which includes questioning acquaintances on the status of the employee's mental, emotional, and financial stability Additionally, if employees depart JPL before the end of the two-year validity of the background check, no investigation ability is terminated; former employees can still be legally monitored

Employees were told that if they did not sign an unlimited waiver of privacy,35 they would be deemed to have "voluntarily resigned"36 The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found the process violated the employees' privacy rights and issued a preliminary injunction37 NASA appealed and the US Supreme Court granted certiorari on March 8, 2010 On January 19, 2011, the Supreme Court overturned the Ninth Circuit decision, ruling that the background checks did not violate any constitutional privacy right that the employees may have had38

Coppedge v Jet Propulsion Laboratoryedit

On March 12, 2012, the Los Angeles Superior Court took opening statements on the case in which former JPL employee David Coppedge brought suit against the lab due to workplace discrimination and wrongful termination In the suit, Coppedge alleges that he first lost his "team lead" status on JPL's Cassini-Huygens mission in 2009 and then was fired in 2011 because of his evangelical Christian beliefs and specifically his belief in intelligent design Conversely, JPL, through the Caltech lawyers representing the laboratory, allege that Coppedge's termination was simply due to budget cuts and his demotion from team lead was because of harassment complaints and from on-going conflicts with his co-workers39 Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige issued a final ruling in favor of JPL on January 16, 201340

See alsoedit

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory Science Division
  • Mars rovers
  • NASA DEVELOP at Jet Propulsion Laboratory


  1. ^ "Early Years" JPL 
  2. ^ a b c Koppes, Clayton 1982 "JPL and the American Space Program" New Haven: Yale University Press  Missing or empty |url= help
  3. ^ a b Conway, Erik M "From Rockets to Spacecraft: Making JPL a Place for Planetary Science" Engineering and Science pp 2–10 
  4. ^ a b Launius, Roger 2002 To Reach High Frontier, A History of US Launch Vehicles University of Kentucky pp 39–42 ISBN 0-813-12245-7 
  5. ^ Keymeulen, Didier; Myers, John; Newton, Jason; Csaszar, Ambrus; et al 2006 Humanoids for Lunar and Planetary Surface Operations Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Pasadena, CA: JPL TRS 1992+ hdl:2014/39699 
  6. ^ Bello, Francis 1959 "The Early Space Age" Fortune Retrieved June 5, 2012 
  7. ^ Whalen, Mark; Murrill, Mary Beth 24 July 1998 "JPL will establish Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA" Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA Retrieved 19 February 2013 
  8. ^ "NASA scrambles for better asteroid detection" France 24 18 February 2013 Retrieved 19 February 2013 permanent dead link
  9. ^ Women Made Early Inroads at JPL - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Jplnasagov Retrieved on 2013-07-21
  10. ^ 1 Archived November 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ http://pub-libjplnasagov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-697/Bibliography39-03_1961-1962pdf
  12. ^ 2dead link
  13. ^ 3 Local Agency Formation Commission for the County of Los Angeles
  14. ^ JplNasaGov "About Us - JPL Education - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Jplnasagov Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  15. ^ JplNasaGov "Student Programs, Internships & Fellowships at JPL - JPL Education - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Jplnasagov Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  16. ^ 0 <! 2013-08-20 "The 10 Most Awesome College Labs Of 2013 | Popular Science" Popscicom Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  17. ^ "Planetary Science Summer School" Retrieved May 14, 2008 
  18. ^ JplNasaGov 2012-05-23 "JPL Education - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Jplnasagov Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  19. ^ "About Us | Museum Alliance" Informaljplnasagov Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  20. ^ JplNasaGov "Inspire - JPL Education - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Jplnasagov Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  21. ^ JplNasaGov "Educator Resource Center - JPL Education - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Jplnasagov Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  22. ^ "JPL Open House" Archived from the original on January 18, 2009 Retrieved January 2, 2009 
  23. ^ "Open House At JPL Closed To Public Over Sequestration « CBS Los Angeles" Losangelescbslocalcom 2013-04-22 Retrieved 2014-04-30 
  24. ^ Ticket to Explore JPL Public Events
  25. ^ Cohen, Bryan "DHS staff members attend annual Day on the Hill" BioPrepWatch February 10, 2014 Retrieved 02-10-2014
  26. ^ http://wwwjplnasagov/annualreport/2012-reportpdf
  27. ^ "NPR All Things Considered interview referring to peanuts tradition" Retrieved January 3, 2009 
  28. ^ "Planetary Society chat log for Phoenix referring to peanuts tradition" Archived from the original on November 21, 2008 Retrieved January 3, 2009 
  29. ^ JPL "NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Missions" Jplnasagov Retrieved August 26, 2010 
  30. ^ "JPL Directors" JPL Retrieved August 26, 2010 
  31. ^ "News | Michael Watkins Named Next JPL Director" May 2, 2016 Retrieved August 24, 2016 
  32. ^ "JPL Team X" Jplteamxjplnasagov August 31, 2007 Retrieved August 18, 2010 
  33. ^ HSPD-12 and JPL Rebadging Overview HSPD12 JPL Retrieved on 2013-07-21
  34. ^ Overview HSPD12 JPL Retrieved on 2013-07-21
  35. ^ US Office of Personnel Management "Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions" PDF Retrieved August 26, 2010 
  36. ^ "Declaration of Cozette Hart, JPL Human Resources Director" PDF October 1, 2007 Retrieved August 26, 2010 
  37. ^ "Nelson v NASA -- Preliminary Injunction issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit" PDF Jan 11, 2008 Retrieved August 26, 2010 
  38. ^ National Aeronautics and Space Administration et al v Nelson et al, No 09-530 US January 19, 2011
  39. ^ "Former NASA specialist claims he was fired over intelligent design" Fox News March 11, 2012 
  40. ^ "Judge confirms earlier ruling, sides with JPL in 'intelligent design' case" La Canada Valley Sun January 17, 2013 

Further readingedit

  • Conway, Erik M Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016 405 pp

External linksedit

  • Official website

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