News

Former SOFIE manager has name inscribed on rocket

By Charles Geraci
The Herald Journal
April 26, 2007

Contributed by Andrew Shumway, Space Dynamics Laboratory

Embedded in the emotion surrounding another successful launch of a USU instrument into space was the death of Brandon Paulsen, who presided over the NASA project for two years. Faced with metastatic melanoma, Paulsen died in 2005 — an abrupt end for a 32-yearold aspiring engineer who had already accomplished much in the aerospace industry. While friends and family clapped Wednesday as the spacecraft carrying the instrument reached orbit, some also cried, remembering the passion Paulsen brought to the project.

In addition, Paulsen served as project manager for an astronaut safety device Paulsen that was successfully installed on the International Space Station. “He had a real knack for seeing the big picture,” recalled Jason Wooden, a friend and senior mechanical designer for USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory. “He was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.” Paulsen joined SDL while finishing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Utah State and was hired full time in 1998. He served as the first program manager for the Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment (SOFIE) for about two years, ending in January 2005.

The SOFIE instrument — which is designed to measure the composition of the mesosphere — will attempt to determine what causes noctilucent clouds. These night-shining clouds have been observed during the last 10 years in lower latitudes such as Utah and Colorado, and scientists will study whether the cloud formations could be linked to global warming.

One of three instruments aboard a spacecraft, which Wooden says is about the size of a dishwasher, SOFIE will now orbit Earth for at least the next two years with an aluminum plaque that bears Paulsen’s name attached.

“We wanted to have some tangible evidence of his involvement in the program,” Wooden said. “We came up with this idea of memorializing him in a small way — a piece of aluminum that would go into space.”

Several of Paulsen’s family members attended a launch party at the laboratory building in North Logan Wednesday. His four children each received a replica of the plaque.Embedded in the emotion surrounding another successful launch of a USU instrument into space was the death of Brandon Paulsen, who presided over the NASA project for two years. Faced with metastatic melanoma, Paulsen died in 2005 — an abrupt end for a 32-yearold aspiring engineer who had already accomplished much in the aerospace industry. While friends and family clapped Wednesday as the spacecraft carrying the instrument reached orbit, some also cried, remembering the passion Paulsen brought to the project.

“It is a great honor for our family that there’s a memorial for Brandon on the SOFIE instrument,” his wife, Jolyn Paulsen said. “It has brought a lot of excitement and happiness to our home. It has really uplifted our spirits.”

© 2007 The Herald Journal