USF Graduate's Career Rockets Forward

Francy Sinatra, who has three degrees from USF's College of Engineering, was part of a small team at Draper Laboratory that built instrumentation for NASA's LADEE moon mission. Aimee Blodgett | USF News

Francy Sinatra part of the Draper Laboratory team that built instruments on current NASA mission

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 24, 2013) – A University of South Florida engineering graduate's first project as a full-time employee for university partner Draper Laboratories has a special distinction: It is headed to the moon.


Francy Sinatra was one of a four-person team who handled quality management on instrumentation for NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer – also known as LADEE. The project features an Ultraviolet and Visible Light Spectrometer built by Draper.


The instrumentation – which will allow scientists to study the composition of the lunar atmosphere by analyzing the light signature of materials it finds – was launched earlier this month aboard a Minotaur V rocket. It's scheduled to arrive in the moon's orbit in October.


For Sinatra, being a part of the historic project was a big milestone in her still young career at Draper. Holding three degrees from USF, Sinatra participated in a combined five-year BS/MS program in mechanical engineering, graduating in December 2010. She additionally earned a master's degree in biomedical engineering in May 2011.


An intern for Draper when the laboratory opened its Tampa operations at USF Connect in 2009, Sinatra became a full-time Draper employee in January 2011. Draper has a long history as part of NASA space missions having played a prominent role in developing technology for the Apollo lunar landings, the International Space Station and the space shuttle programs.

   NASA artist rendering of LADEE at work over the moon.

Sinatra handled quality management on the LADEE instrumentation, making sure that Draper's procedures met NASA's specifications; helped with the final details in the mechanical design, helped with assembly and inspection of mechanical and electronic components. She also conducted thermal, vibration and stress analysis on the electronics boards to make sure that they met NASA's specification for surviving space travel and operations in space. 

“Working with NASA was a great experience,” Sinatra said. “It was really satisfying to know that something I worked on left Earth's   atmosphere. It was also great to work with NASA, understand the requirements they have, and how that compares to other projects like the biomedical programs that we have in the Tampa office.”


The instruments will allow scientists to analyze samples of any lunar dust particles in the tenuous atmosphere, NASA said, and help address a long standing question of whether lunar dust, electrically charged by solar ultraviolet light, is responsible for the pre-sunrise horizon glow that the Apollo astronauts saw.


Sinatra was present when LADEE launched on the Minotaur Rocket from Virginia in early September. The 100-day science phase of the mission is planned to end with a controlled crash of the spacecraft onto the moon's surface.


Click here for more information about NASA's LADEE mission, and here for more information on Draper Laboratory.


Vickie Chachere can be reached at (813) 974-6251.