Dr. Kimberly Ennico Smith

Detectors * Optics * Spectrometers * Telescopes * Mission Concepts *

Integration & Test * Science Communication



  • P.h.D. Astronomy, 1998, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England
  • B.A., Physics, 1994, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Selected Professional Activities

  • Member Science and Technology Definition Team, Far Infrared Surveyor (Origins Space Telescope) (2016-)
  • Deputy Project Scientist (2011-2016), Co-Investigator (2014-2017), NASA’s New Horizons Mission
  • PI, Ames Center Innovation Fund, Configurable Aperture Space Telescope (2014-15)
  • PI, Ames Center Innovation Fund, Collapsible Space Telescope for Small Satellites (2013-14)
  • Project Scientist (acting), CORSAIR Comet Sample Return Mission Concept (2013-present)
  • Instrument Scientist, Lunar RESOLVE payload, Near-Infrared Spectrometer (2011-14)
  • NASA Mid-Level Leadership Program (2010-11), selected graduation speaker
  • Instrument Scientist, SOFIA FORCAST Grisms (2009-13)
  • Instrument Scientist, SOFIA Echelon-Cross -Echelle Spectrograph (2009-11)
  • Project Scientist, SMEX Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Concept, Phase A (2008-09)
  • Member NASA HQ Astrophysics Subcommittee (2008-10)
  • Payload Scientist and I&T Manager, ESMD LCROSS Kinetic Impactor Mission (2006-10)
  • PI, Enabling Astrobiology on SOFIA (Grisms on FORCAST), ASTID award (2005-08)
  • Co-I, Infrared Spectrometer for the AstroBiology Explorer, ASTID award (2005-08)
  • Co-I, ASPIRE Origins Probe Mission Concept (2004-06)
  • Co-I & Payload Scientist, MIDEX AstroBiology Explorer Concept, incl. Phase A (2001-03)
  • PI, Ames Director’s Discretionary Fund, ABE Beamsplitter Design & Performance (2004-06)
  • Instrument Scientist, MIPS Instrument, Spitzer (SIRTF) Space Telescope (1998-2000)

Recent Work Positions

Astrophysicist (Civil Service), NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA (2000-present)

  • Developed a new method to irradiate and monitor the degradation of candidate space-flight infrared sensors with a novel cryostat design (2000-2004).
  • Designed, tested, and calibrated new types of infrared grisms and large beamsplitters. (2003-2013).
  • Led the design, development, fabrication, testing and commissioning of the grisms for SOFIA’s mid-infrared FORCAST instrument (PI T. Herter, Cornell) (2005-2013).
  • Created a new space-qualification program for modified COTS payloads and successfully demonstrated it with LCROSS. All nine instruments performed successfully during the 112-day space mission (2006-2009).
  • Designed an infrared spectrometer and camera system to prospect for lunar volatiles for the RESOLVE payload on the Resource Prospector mission concept (2010-2014).
  • Designed, tested, and flight-prepared three payloads for commercial suborbital providers (2010-2013).
  • Led the calibration activities for NASA’s New Horizons Pluto flyby mission (2012-2016).
  • Developed space mission concepts to study the astrobiologically-important molecules in our local universe (ABE, ASPIRE, DEX) (2000-2013), to ascertain the properties of near-earth asteroids, to detect planets around the nearest stars (TESS) (2006-2008), and to characterize exoplanet atmospheres (BEAST-balloon) (2012-2013).
  • Developing new instrument concepts (e.g., polarimeters with no moving parts, deployable interferometric optics, miniature spectrometers with immersion gratings).
  • Leading the development of new space telescope concepts involving small satellites.

Postdoctoral Researcher, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (1998-2000)

  • Led conceptual design study for NGST (now JWST) Integrated Science Instrument Module, performed optical design work, led trade-study investigations and designed multi-object spectroscopy simulations.
  • As instrument scientist for the Multiband Imaging Photometer for SIRTF (now Spitzer) (MIPS), performed the integration, testing, calibration and delivery of the MIPS instrument.


Microgravity Flight Training. Field operations RESOLVE lunar rover (analog). Space Payload Operations (LCROSS, New Horizons). Airborne (SOFIA) Payload Operations (FORCAST).

Lab prototype concept development, electrical wiring, optical build, alignment, calibration, mechanical design, cryogenic handling, data analysis.

IDL, C/C++, XML, HTML, Unix-sh, LabVIEW, CGI, Basic, Forth, Python, Assembly code, IRAF, Matlab, Mathematica; proficient in PC/Mac/Linux workstations, Office applications, many instrument operations/analysis software.

Public speaker (via NASA Speakers Bureau), volunteer for Outreach events (over 50 career fairs, astronomy nights, girl scouts, science fair judge), NASA peer review, panel member, technical and science publications author (over 150 written publications, over 70 invited oral talks), 100+ person workshop organizer (Ames Instrumentation Workshops 2005, 2010), blogger for NASA.

Selected Honors and Awards

2010    NASA Mid-Level Leadership Program (Agency-level)

2009    NASA Ames Honor Award, LCROSS Science & Payload Team

2008    NASA Ames Accomplishment Award, TESS Explorer Phase A Study

2007    NASA Ames Superior Accomplishment Award for excellent work towards a successful CDR as a team member of Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite Team

2005    NASA Ames Superior Accomplishment Award for success in bringing new business to NASA Ames in organizing Ames Instrumentation Workshop 2005

2004    NASA Ames Superior Accomplishment Award for innovative development of a new data-collection and data analysis system for large format infrared detector arrays

2003    NASA Ames Superior Accomplishment Award for developing new means to analyze data during extended proton-irradiation tests of NIR detectors for JWST

2002    NASA Ames Spotlight Award for NGST proton testing of IR detectors

1999    JPL Certification of Appreciation: Successful Completion of the First High Performance Large Format Far Infrared Arrays for SIRTF

1997    British Federation of Women Graduates Fellowship, Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship, AAUW Dissertation Fellowship, Isaac Newton Studentship

1996    Isaac Newton Studentship, Honorary Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholar

1994    Donald E. Kerr Medal for Excellence in Physics

1993    British Marshall Scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa, Society of Physics Students Scholarship