Betsy Congdon graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and a minor in political science. She works on the Solar Probe Plus Thermal Protection System, which is the shield that protects the spacecraft from the heat of the sun.
Because of the extreme environment and the mass constraints on the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft, materials are being used in new ways. Congdon is the materials test lead for the thermal protection system: "It has been fun and challenging to design tests and find equipment that can simulate the heat of the Sun in the vacuum of space. We have used a plasma lamp at Oak Ridge National Labs to test thermal conductivity, simulated the acoustic environment of launch with speakers, developed a new bonding method that can survive 1,400°C for the shield, and put a vibration load on systems of materials among other things."
Congdon is also working on developing a ceramic coating for the front surface of the shield that has the right optical properties to cool down the whole system even further.
Before coming to APL, Congdon worked for the Laboratory as an intern – twice. The first time she was part of the NASA/APL intern program working for the Civil Space Business Area. The second time she was an APL intern working on the Juno/JEDI instrument and designed the sensor assembly for the instrument.
Congdon is currently working on an M.S. in mechanical engineering from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis based on the coating adhesion work that APL is doing for Solar Probe Plus with the Whiting School.