Employee Profile - Dr. Paul Lightsey

Paul Lightsey

Paul Lightsey loves his work. For him, science and engineering problems are inherently interesting, but what truly motivates him is a creative and collaborative work environment.

Lightsey has been at the center of two of NASA’s most ambitious missions—the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. He has been a major contributor in the design and development of instruments for both.

This scientist-turned-engineer relishes the opportunity to work with science teams to develop instruments that answer some of the most fundamental questions about our universe.

Lightsey currently serves as the mission systems engineer for the optical system on the James Webb Space Telescope. He has been involved with the telescope since its inception and has played a vital role in developing the overall architecture for the telescope and in identifying and maturing needed technologies.

“In the early phases of the program we identified various enabling technologies. Those are technologies required to make desired science measurements,” said Lightsey. “As a company we were able to develop and mature technologies that were necessary for the James Webb Space Telescope mission such as very lightweight cryogenic mirrors.”

Lightsey previously served as the systems engineer and systems analyst for two of the Hubble Space Telescope instruments. He developed a system optical performance model for design analysis of Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR), the corrective optics for the Hubble. The model includes the effects of structural dynamics and thermal effects on the imaging performance and was also used for the design of Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.

“Being involved with COSTAR and having the opportunity to recover the full capabilities of an asset like Hubble – it was very meaningful work,” said Lightsey.

In 2007, NASA honored Lightsey with a Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest honor given to a nongovernmental employee. To receive the honor, the contribution must be so extraordinary that other forms of recognition would be inadequate.

“Knowing that I helped contribute to these missions is a real thrill,” said Lightsey. “As a scientist myself I appreciate working in an environment that is sensitive to the needs of science. The size of our company and its culture really lends itself to this type of work.”

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