JPL DESCANSO - Deep Space Communications and Navigation Center of Excellence

Design & Performance Summary Series


Jim Taylor

Jim Taylor received a B.S. degree, magna cum laude, from Stanford University (Stanford, California) in 1961, with a major in electrical engineering. He received an M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1962. He began his career at the RCA Space Center in New Jersey, working with the communications systems of early Earth-orbiting weather and defense satellites. Inspired by the work being done in deep-space communications as reported in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's JPL Space Program Summaries, Jim joined the JPL Telecommunications Systems Section in 1970.

Jim has made a career in flight operations telecommunications analysis. Beginning with the Mariner Mars mission in 1971, he became centrally involved in planning and assessing capabilities for communications links between spacecraft and the Deep Space Network (DSN). He has pursued a special interest in the effects of solar interference on radio communications between the Mariner, Viking, Galileo, and Deep Space 1 (DS1) interplanetary spacecraft and their supporting ground stations. His work in this area on the Galileo project enabled the timely return of Galileo probe data stored on the orbiter during the short period between probe entry and the onset of solar conjunction.

For DS1, Jim assessed a safe-mode condition hours before the prime mission's asteroid encounter, allowing the flight team to "rescue" the encounter. Several months later, he established the critical-timing and uplink criteria for a special "ground-in-the-loop" activity to reestablish three-axis pointing control in the face of a failed onboard star-tracker.

Jim set up the flight telecom team for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) in 2003 and helped bring the new concept of "communications windows" to maturity for both Rover-to-DSN X-band communications and UHF relay communications with the Mars orbiters. On the Deep Impact (DI) mission, the challenge for Jim's small telecom team was to ensure successful S-band communications between the flyby and impactor spacecraft during the last 24 hours to comet impact while maintaining the X-band links with the DSN. On Dawn, the challenge on the day of initial contact with the DSN was to predict when and at what levels the signals from a low gain antenna pointing alternately toward the Earth and away from the Earth would be available. On the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), Jim has had a major role in the development of the DSN keywords file for surface operations. This file is an input to station automation software to control uplink and downlink operations with minimal intervention by the project mission controller or the station operator.

Jim is a Principal Engineer in the Communications Systems and Operations Group of the JPL Flight Communications Systems Section, working on telecom analysis, ground system implementation, and flight operations for deep-space flight projects. In 2005, he published an operations handbook for Electra, the next-generation proximity radio for communicating between the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars rovers and landers on the surface. He has published telecommunications-analysis articles for several flight projects in JPL's Interplanetary Network Progress Reports, and he was the founding telecommunications member of JPL's Spaceflight Significant Events Group, now called Lessons Learned. Jim has received NASA and JPL awards for exceptional technical excellence for his work on Galileo, DS1, MER, and DI telecommunications. He received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2000 and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2006.

Author or co-author of the following articles of the DESCANSO Design & Performance Summary Series - Telecommunications: