Alumna Spotlight: Ali Guarneros Luna

Current Positionali guarneros luna

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Program Manager, Safety and Mission Assurance Division at NASA Ames Research Center


M.S. Aerospace Engineering, SJSU


Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I got an internship at NASA Ames with the Office of the Chief Technologist where I led and helped develop education and outreach programs for SJSU. The first program was called System of Networked Autonomous Positioning Satellites (SNAPS) and was a test bed for guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) capabilities to enable probes to navigate without human interference or the need for external control.

As a contractor, I led various projects affiliated with the ISS, and was the Mission Manager for TechEdSat-1, where I had managerial oversight on all technical and programmatic aspects of the NASA Ames-SJSU project. I also developed and engineered the Auxiliary Lateral Inhibit (ALI) Switch for safety deployment from the ISS.  I co-authored technical papers for the TechEdSat structure and payload including the project plan and Safety Data Package, among others.  I worked on five TechEdSat missions in total, in various engineering capacities.

Eventually I became a Civil Servant and led programs to develop and mature technologies for missions to Mars and planetary discoveries.  I was the deputy project manager, liaison and lead for ISS requirements for the Network and Operation Demonstration Satellites (Nodes) mission, which consists of two 1.5- unit (1.5U- 10X10X15 cm) nanosatellites derived from the hardware and software developed for the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission, a swarm of eight spacecraft, each with scientific instruments that will collect data on the radiation environment at an altitude of 400 kilometers (km) above Earth.

I now manage, give guidance and build hardware for Missions to ISS, Mars and technology development.

Hard work pays off.  In 2014 I received the ISS Space Award for my contributions to SPHERES, Modular Rapidly Manufactured Small Satellite (MRMSS), Nodes and TechEdSat Series Projects.  In October 2015 I was awarded the NASA Honor Award - Equal Employment Opportunity Medal.

What do you do at work?

Currently I am working with the SOAREX Series team. SOAREX serves as a test bed for a variety of re-entry and supporting technologies for use in automous sample return and other applications. Within the SOAREX team, I have had multiple engineering roles from designing, building and serving as a testing engineer.  I am also the deputy project manager and co-investigator for SOAREX 9 and SOAREX 10 missions.

Additionally, I support the Orion Thermal Protection System (TPS) as a S&MA lead for the Heat Shield (HS) sensor and oversee the quality and safety of the design, build and testing for the sensor that will be installed in the HS for the 2018 flight.

What are you most passionate about in your work? Why? 

I like being able to build new things that can change our perspective or view of the universe, discover new things, and maybe even change the way we live.

How has your SJSU AE experience helped shape your success?

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend and get my degree from SJSU. The reason I have this job is because of my education.

How are you making a positive impact in the world?

I always try to help the people around me and give back to my community.

I am an advocate for and actively promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.  I am registered with the NASA Ames Speakers Bureau and am an active participant of this program. I also supports yearly programs like, Girls Scouts Go Tech, SWE Get Set, Soles Science Extravaganza, Society of Women Engineers (SWE)'s “WOW that is Engineering”, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)'s “Noche de Ciencia” by providing hands-on activities and tours of the labs at SJSU.

In 2011 I was a member of the Plug-n-Play Mission Operations (PPMO) Workshop organizational committee at NASA Ames and helped organize the workshop held at SJSU. In 2013, I was on the student committee for the 10th International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW-10), which was held at SJSU the week of June 17th 2013.

In 2012, I hosted a 6-week workshop at SJSU for the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California (UABC), a Mexican university. I taught UABC students to build and launch an armature rocket. The success of this project was heavily broadcast in Mexico and as a result the Agencia Espacial Mexican (AEM) is interested in organizing a similar program with the involvement of even more universities.

I'm really committed to encouraging young people to pursue science, technology and engineering careers. I was awarded the Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) as one of the 2013 Luminary Honorees.

What advice do you have for aspiring AEs?

Do not let the adversity you face define you. You define your future.